Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Dorchester story

Our community health center on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester is a neighborhood gem, providing clinical care to the neighborhood and also offering a source of comfort and support to families in troubled times. Our staff there are totally dedicated to their mission of public service, but sometimes they have to act in ways that go well beyond their job descriptions. Here's an email on which I was copied that was sent to the center's director by one of its doctors:

This past week was a heart wrenching experience for the community center with the violence of gun shots ringing out just down the street. I would like to acknowledge the act of courage of one of our staff during this event. She [name omitted] was having lunch in the local takeout restaurant across from the shooting incident. When two shooters appeared across the street from the restaurant and shot at their intended victim, without regard for her own safety she gathered up three young girls who were drawn to looking out the front window, as the action unfolded. She ushered and shielded them into a protected area.

Although later she confessed how dangerous and frightened she was, she thought only at the time of the young fragile lives needing protection.

I hope, by writing this memo, that others will read this and feel a same sense of pride that I have for the Bowdoin Street Community Center staff.

Afterwards a number of us wrote to this staff member and offered our thoughts and support, and, in characteristic fashion, she thoughtfully responded:

Thank you very much for your kind thoughts and support. It truly means a great deal to me that colleagues from the medical center take time to understand and acknowledge the challenges we face in providing care in this neighborhood. These kind of dramatic incidents do draw our attention, but the reality is that our staff deals with the impact of violence every day while caring for patients. I find that the cumulative secondary trauma has a greater impact than the single dramatic incidents. Your continued support and presence over the past several month means a great deal, thank you.

When I asked her if I could use this material on the blog, she further responded modestly, as I would have expected:

Good Morning Paul-
Well, my first thought is that I'm a little uncomfortable with the attention, although I'd like you to use the excerpts if you feel that placing this on your blog will increase awareness about the work we do and the challenges that are faced at the health center. Perhaps you could reference a social worker at BSHC and not include my name.

I do appreciate your support in helping us facilitate the changes that are within our control. Your commitment means a lot.

And then she added,

Although what would really help me get over this traumatic event would be to sit behind home plate at Friday's [Red Sox-Indians] game....just joking.

Well, here's the problem. I already allocated our tickets to an employee raffle -- the proceeds of which, by coincidence, will go to purchase a new passenger van to transport patients to and from this very health center -- but I tried to make up for that by buying her a bunch of raffle tickets. It will be super if she wins!


Anonymous said...

If I win she can have mine -

Thank you to all the entire BSHC staff for their committment and loyality to the community and the Medical Center.

Keep your fingers crossed - for all of us.

Anonymous said...

There is so much heroism in the practice of health care. It can get obscured by the every-day political, operational, and financial forces. Thank you for sharing the story of this brave woman.