As part of the icare in Action Program – formerly the Excellence in Action program – the MGH Office of Patient Experience seeks to recognize and reward staff members and/or teams who have been featured in patient letters, emails and notes of commendation delivered to the MGH and MGPO presidents, senior leadership, the Office of Patient Experience and the Office of Patient Advocacy.

The following letter was recently shared by Andrea Saltzman:

I’m back at MGH, but this time on White 9, where my 97-year-old mom is a patient. She’s sleeping now, and near the end of her life. While she rests, I want to tell you about the care she received here. I’ll start with the ER.

It was a long wait there, so I had lots of time to observe. The staff did their utmost to keep us comfortable and begin her treatment. They were patient and kind. Someone even had the wisdom to request a consult from geriatric Palliative Care. Janet Rico, NP, spoke with us at length and reassured me that it was a reasonable plan for us to admit my mother to treat her anemia and a painful skin cancer on her ankle. This was a comfort, as my siblings and I were worried that we were doing too much. She spoke gently to my mom and complimented her on the size and success of her family. Both my mother and I were very touched.

When my mom’s PCP called me in the ER to check on us, our nurse Christopher Vaudo, PA-C, talked for quite a while with the PCP, despite a very busy night.

Next, I got a call from Luis Ramos Burgos, MD, while still in the ER. Dr. Burgos introduced himself as her new doctor on White 9. He took a very detailed history by phone and answered every question I had. He patiently listened as I spelled out every medication from her med list. I met him when he greeted us on the floor. The admission was smooth, efficient, and calm, despite the late hour.

I later met Jamie Brett, MD, PhD, who carefully explained the plan of care, which all made good sense. Unfortunately, early the following morning, Dr. Brett called me again. My mother had become septic overnight, and I needed to come in to discuss next steps. When I arrived, she carefully took me through the course of events, and why she was recommending comfort measures only from that point. Then she explained the whole thing again by phone to my sister in Chicago. Remarkably, she then went through it a third time with my sister in Seattle. She never showed even a hint of annoyance or impatience despite how long all of this took, and our many questions.

So now we are on comfort measures. I update my family frequently, and my Chicago sister (a nurse) remarked on how nice it was that the hospital had moved us to a private room. I reminded her that we are at the MGH, where things are done properly, and that we had not been moved. My mom’s roommate was moved. My mom has been peacefully resting without any additional transfers. We’ve been blasting songs from the 40s and enjoying the sun coming through her large window.

Her nursing care has been extraordinary. I would like you to know that Shahrzad Bakhshalizadeh, RN, Madison Thomson, RN, Ariana Alves, RN, and Heather Evoniuk, RN, have gone above and beyond, every single day and night. Cynthia Cooper, MD, has stopped by to check on us twice, both times with incredible grace.

This morning, for the first time in a long time, my mother woke up, lucid and engaged. I guess it was a final surge at the end of her life. She had a cup of hot, black coffee, which she enjoyed tremendously. She spoke by phone to two of my siblings. One of the nurses offered to walk to Whole Foods and buy some strawberries which my mom thoroughly enjoyed.

My family and I are grateful beyond words for the care she received. It surpassed our expectations by miles.

icare in Action Program Seeks to Recognize, Celebrate Staff

icare in Action wants to recognize those individuals and teams who go above and beyond from the patient perspective in exemplifying components of the icare model: communications, advocacy, respect and empathy. Selected recipients will be recognized by senior leaders, including David F.M. Brown, MD, MGH president, Marcela del Carmen, MD, MGPO president, and Inga Lennes, MD, senior vice president of Ambulatory Care and Patient Experience. Recipients will receive personalized recognition and tokens of appreciation.

Please send submissions to Cindy Sprogis at