Media Coverage

Welcome to Hallmark Health System's (HHS) Media Coverage section. This section is designed to assist patients and journalists seeking information about our current news and to introduce our healthcare experts. We are also available to assist you by providing information about HHS and its members, including Lawrence Memorial of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospitals.

To arrange an interview or photo shoot, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Communications Specialist for Public and Media relations, at (781) 338-7243. We also maintain a 24-hour media on-call system. If you are on deadline after normal business hours, call the HHS operator at (781) 979-3000 and ask them to page the marketing/communications team member on-call.

Hallmark Health urges education of colon cancer

Medford Transcript

March 19, 2014

By Matthew Reid

March isn’t just a month for St. Patrick’s Day parties and college basketball games — it’s also a month to learn more about the dangers of colon cancer, and how it can be prevented.

In February 2000, President Clinton officially dedicated March as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time for people to become more educated about the disease and learn how they can be properly screened for it.

One fact that may alarm some people is the high frequency of the disease, but many may also be surprised to know just how avoidable it is.

"It’s a highly preventable cancer," said Wanda Blanton, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist who joined Hallmark Health System last year. "If we could get Americans to comply with the screening guidelines we could cut the number of colon cancer deaths in half."

Blanton, who performs procedures at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and who also has offices in Stoneham, feels many people are not aware of how prevalent colon cancer is, as well as how just one screening test can go a long way.

"People need to understand the positive health impact that screenings have and how early detection is possible," she said. "People talk about heart disease and how something like smoking directly relates to lung cancer, but it isn’t well known just how many colon cancer deaths there are each year for both men and women."

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer — or more specifically colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) — is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

It is estimated that nearly 143,000 people were diagnosed in 2013 and that more than 50,000 died from colon cancer in the U.S.

In 1997 the American Cancer Society teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to form the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, which just last year announced the "80 by 2018" pledge aimed at increasing screening in the United States.

The pledge pushes for a shared goal of reaching 80 percent of Americans 50 years old or older to get screened for colorectal cancer by the year 2018.

The pledge can be downloaded off the group’s website, signed and returned as a way to show one’s commitment to working toward increasing the number of people screened for the cancer and eliminating it as a major public health problem.

"We have screening technologies that work, the national capacity to apply these technologies, and effective local models for delivering the continuum of care in a more organized fashion," the pledge states. "Our organizations will work to empower communities, patients, providers, community health centers and health systems to embrace these models and develop the partnerships needed to deliver coordinated, quality colorectal cancer screening and follow-up care."

Colon cancer typically develops through precancerous growths called polyps, and over time if these growths are not removed they can turn into cancer.

"That is why the screening is so important, and how education about the disease can really be empowering to patients," Blanton said. "Not knowing the specifics of a colonoscopy and being misled as to what the procedure entails can be a real barrier, and we are trying to change that."

Blanton said that one out of three Americans aged 50 or more — or roughly 23 million people — have failed to be properly screened.

"People have heard that the preparation for a colonoscopy is difficult or intrusive, and they have heard that the procedure itself maybe uncomfortable or painful," she said. "Usually patients are sedated so they do not feel any pain or discomfort, and it is our goal to make the screening as easy for them as possible."

One such individual was Marc Heard, a Stoneham resident who was living in Somerville when he was in his early to mid 50s. Despite all the facts surrounding colon health, he was reluctant to get screened and waited for several years to do so.

"I think there is definitely a stigma about colonoscopies, and it’s something people are likely to make a joke about and not take seriously," Heard said. "Here I was, living in the middle of one of the best parts of the world for medical care, and I did nothing. I was almost 60 when I got screened and it’s a good thing I did."

Heard said doctors found several polyps that needed to be removed, and if it weren’t for pressure from family members he may never have been tested.

"Doctors were able to remove the growths before anything became too serious, but had I given it a few more years who knows what would have happened," he said.

Blanton said if a patient objects to an intrusive procedure such as a colonoscopy, there are alternatives such as a stool test or a sigmoidoscopy. She said getting screening one way or another is key, due in part to the asymptomatic nature of the disease.

"One of the most important things to realize about colon cancer screenings is that some people have no symptoms at all, which is why we have the screening program in the first place," Blanton said. "Patients need to be aware that they may not have abnormal bowel habits or abdominal pain or bleeding, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get tested."

Steps to take
Blanton explains the screening process at Hallmark Health is made to be a fluid and open process.

She said the first step is usually for a patient to talk to their primary care doctor, who would then determine if the patient needed to be referred for a colonoscopy procedure. Hallmark would then schedule the procedure for the patient and provide instructions on how to prepare for the test and what to expect.

Patients would then come in for the outpatient procedure and receive a full report of what was found that day and the report would go to the doctor.

"After it is over the patient will know exactly what the recommendation is moving forward," Blanton said. "They may be told that their next interval for screening is 10 years, but if polyps are found their surveillance interval depends on the number and the type of polyps that were found."

Hallmark Health is showing its commitment to colon cancer awareness by holding a free informational seminar and panel discussion on the subject this week.

Blanton, who will be featured at the event, said she hopes people attend so they can get the facts on the disease and realize how critical proper screening is.

"The main goal is to educate patients who are there and answer any questions they may have so they can better understand what their screening options are," she said. "The focus is on the fact that this is not a screening test to fear or one that will cause them pain."

— Information from the American Cancer Society was used in this report.

If you go
The free colon cancer informational seminar and panel discussion will be held Thursday, March 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital’s Perkins Auditorium. Some of the topics that will be discussed are "from polyps to colon cancer," "colorectal cancer: risk factors" and "protective factors and the role colonoscopies play in colon cancer."

There will also be a question and answer panel discussion based on questions raised by those in attendance.

Registration is required. To register online, visit www.hallmarkhealth.org and select "Events Calendar" or call 781-224-5804.

Boston Bruins visit newborns at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital

Melrose Free Press

Dec. 5, 2013

By Christopher Hurley

Under normal circumstances hockey players want to avoid making a trip to the hospital. But Boston Bruins hockey players Matt Bartkowski and Reilly Smith made a special exception, Monday afternoon.

The two Bruins headed to Melrose-Wakefield Hospital Dec.2, for a special visit of the Maternal-Newborn Service Unit. The pair met with more than a half dozen newborn babies and their parents, presenting them with black and gold onesies and stockings.
It was a refreshing change of pace for the hockey heroes.
“It was fun going to the maternity ward and seeing the newborn babies,” said Smith.

“They’re so little. It’s crazy. It’s great coming to a place like this, seeing fans and it’s amazing how many sports fans and Boston Bruins fans there are in the city. It’s good to be able to connect with people.”

Bartkowski agreed.

“This was enjoyable,” said Bartkowski.  “Having a newborn, I’m sure it’s tough to get to a game, even within that first year, so it’s good to be able to come meet people and help them smile.”

In addition to meeting the next wave of Bruins fans, the pair also got to shadow a transport worker, picking up a patient and bringing them to their room. They also met several members of the staff and other patients in different wards along their one-hour trek.

For the Bruins, making these kinds of trips has almost become almost second nature.

“I like doing hospital visits, meeting sick people and patients with cancer that haven’t been given a fair shake in life,” said Bartkowski. “It’s good to be able to help them out. Today was pretty cool. We brought [the babies] some gifts; hopefully, they can wear the onesies and grow up Bruins fans.”

For the new parents, meeting the Bruins was a pleasant surprise.

“I love that these guys came by,” said Chris Valle, of Woburn, whose wife Kerry gave birth to son, Ryder, three days earlier. “I think its awesome and the fact that [Ryder] slept through it, he’s going to be kicking himself when he gets older. But they’re definitely making some new fans.”
Other new dads agreed.
“This is awesome,” said Hai Tran, of Saugus, whose wife gave birth to son Eli, at 3:30 a.m. that morning. “It’s a lifetime opportunity especially for a newborn. We’re very excited and proud that we had a chance to take a picture with these hockey superstars.”
“This is great,” said Fajoba Banji, of Melrose, while holding his daughter, Tammy. “I wish she was awake so she could see them, but it’s a great treat for her. Who knows, she might become a hockey player. You never know.”

Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, joined forces with the hockey stars in 2010, as the official Healthcare Partner of the Boston Bruins.

The partnership is a natural fit for both Hallmark Health and the team. The local healthcare provider’s orthopedic surgeons and premier Bone and Joint Program provide advanced care, treating orthopedic injuries and disease in people of all ages, including those suffering from sports-related injuries.

A 6-foot, 185-pound right wing, Smith, 22, was one of the team’s newest acquisitions during the off-season, coming to Boston as part of the Tyler Seguin/Loui Ericksson trade. He has since earned his keep on the Bruins checking line, currently ranking third on the team in scoring with five goals 12 assists and 17 points in 27 games.

A 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman, Bartkowski, 25, is entering his fourth year with the Bruins organization. The slick-skating defenseman has picked up six assists in 13 games this season, while continuing to push for more playing time on a highly talented, but crowded Bruins blueline.

Monday’s visit was the latest chapter in a Bruins partnership with Hallmark Health.

“It’s tremendous to have the Bruins come in,” said Alan MacDonald, vice president of business strategy and external affairs at Hallmark. “It’s so cheery to have newborns, in this case, get their pictures taken with the Bruins and get the Bruins booties. The parents love it.

“It’s been a great partnership with the Bruins,” MacDonald added. “So much of what we do here is about the health and the orthopedics, and the Bruins have been a great example of just what good health and good conditioning mean to the patients that we have. They are awful good to spend some time here.”

For these Bruins, it’s the least they can do.

Both players understand giving back to the community is an integral part of being a professional athlete in Boston.

“It’s huge,” said Smith. “Without our fans and the community, we wouldn’t have a job, so its great giving back and showing them support, because they support us so much.

Everyone enjoys these kinds of events because when you see the smiles of the people and how much they light up; it gives you a good feeling about yourself.

“When we can give back to the community, I think it’s good for the city and good for the team,” he added. “It was just a fun day.”

Treatment on target: Research, technology offers personalized cancer treatment

Medford Transcript

Oct. 3, 2013

By Nicholas lovino & Sue Scheible

As cutting edge research steers doctors toward a more individualized approach to cancer treatment, one local health care provider has added a new tool in its arsenal to better target and kill cancer cells in the body.

Last April, Hallmark Health started treating patients with Elekta Infinity, a new radiation treatment system that reduces the time patients must undergo radiotherapy, thanks to a more sophisticated targeting mechanism.

"The biggest advance with this is better imaging capability to allow us to be more accurate, and it delivers the radiation faster so their overall time is reduced," said Glenn Davis, manager of oncology services for Hallmark Health System, which operates Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, among other local facilities.

Davis said enhanced targeting allows doctors to reduce side eiTects that often accompany radiation therapy as well, such as fatigue and skin irritation.

That improved targeting is made possible by an agility head with ISO leaves that alter position based on where the cancer cells are physically located in each patient.

"We installed a brand new lGO-slice oncology specific CAT scan in our department," said Davis. "That allows us to do better 3-D imaging of the breast to better target the area of concern and avoid the normal, healthy surrounding tissues to prevent side effects."

Davis said about half the patients treated at Hallmark Health's CHEM Center for Radiation Oncology on Montvale Avenue in Stoneham suffer from breast cancer.

A team of doctors at Hallmark Health's Comprehensive Breast Center examines a wide array of factors to determine the best combination of treatment for each patient. Treatments vary from surgery to radiation therapy to chemotherapy, a treatment in which medication given to the patient targets cancer cells. A combination of various treatments is often recommended.

"It's very case-specific," said Davis. "It's a high percentage of breast cancer diagnosed patients that receive radiation treatment.

He added the average cancer patient receives about 25 to 33 radiation therapy treatments over the course of six to seven weeks. Patients are exposed to the radiation beam for about 10 minutes, down from about 15 minutes before new technology made targeting more accurate.

Davis said the biggest advantage for his patients is attaining the same level of care with the latest technology without having to drive into Boston to seek treatment at large teaching hospitals.

The Hallmark Health CHEM Center has been caring for area patients for more than 20 years and was the first freestanding radiation oncology site in Massachusetts.

New research

Meanwhile, cutting-edge research in breast cancer is taking place in a rapidly expanding variety of fields, from molecular to medical to surgical oncology. It can be hard to get a handle on it all.

The result: women facing a diagnosis today face a much more personalized or individual approach with testing and treatment options tailored to their own biology, type and subtype of cancer, stage of growth and family history.

"With time, I am certain this new approach will positively affect survival rates, but already we are minimizing the need for chemotherapy following initial surgical treatment," said Dr. Katherina Zabicki Calvillo, associate director of the Breast Center, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital in Weymouth.

The latest clinical trials are only a click on a web site away: clinicaltrials.gov is recommended by advocates and physicians as the best-centralized source, maintained by the National Institutes of Health. And the web sites of many community hospitals have links to clinical trials they are participating in.

"Physicians in the community have point people in the academic centers, and we go out to attend tumor boards at the community level," Cavillo said. "People can always come into Boston for second opinions and then go back out to their community for ongoing clinical work."

Dr. Eric P. Winer, director of the Breast Oncology Program at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, also traced significant changes over the past 12 years.

"We no longer think of breast cancer as one disease, but as a family of four or five distinct types of diseases, each with a different personality," he said. "We can have a much more detailed understanding of the underlying biology. Our ability7 to apply that knowledge to the clinical trials we have underway has advanced incredibly."

Oncologists are also learning more about why the same types of cancer act so much more or less aggressively in different people.

A range of factors, Winer said, are thought to influence why one woman will deal better, from a biological standpoint, with a cancer and its response to treatment - why her disease does not recur or is not as aggressive if it does recur, after the initial treatment.

That has sparked renewed interest in the immune system.

"Some of this is very new," he said. "Something in our immune system has allowed us to create the cancer (the unregulated growth of cells) and something allows some people, with treatment, to enhance their ability to contain that cancer."

The new genetic code information is helping doctors target which types of cancer will respond to which chemotherapy.

"The problem with drugs that are thought to prevent cancer can be you end up having a lot of people taking a drug to prevent something that never does develop anyway," Winer said.

A steady source

A steady source of research funding for Massachusetts medical centers and other institutions has been Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Ronni Colien-Boyar, executive director of Komen MA and a breast cancer survivor, said that this year, $4.7 million in new funding will go to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School to research on environmental factors that influence breast cancer development.

Other Komen research giants in Massachusetts are looking at gene mutations, treatments and preventing recurrence.

"The most exciting work going on now is the move towards personalized treatment - getting at the root cause of each individual tumor, what is causing it to occur, why some tumors are receptive and some resistant, to chemotherapy, who needs treatment, at what point, when we are over treating versus when we can get to the early stages," she said.

The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition recently announced a new video series, MBCC Research Updates, designed to present the facts about environmental health and breast cancer prevention. Each short video features an interview with a researcher, medical professional, university professor, breast cancer activist, or other prominent figure in the field.

Bruins visit Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Medford Transcript

Oct. 9, 2013

By Christopher Hurley

A pair of Bruins checked into the hospital on Tuesday.
But don’t worry Bruins fans; it was purely a social call.

Fresh off the ice following a morning practice session in Wilmington, Boston Bruin hockey players Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug headed to the Lawrence-Memorial Hospital in Medford, Oct. 8. The pair had a guided tour of the hospital, meeting several members of the staff, while also visiting a dozen patients in different wards.

For the Bruins, making these kinds of trips has almost become second nature.

“We’re just visiting a few of the patients and trying to brighten a few days,” said McQuaid. “For some reason, there’s the odd person that gets excited to see us. It maybe takes people’s minds off what they’re going through. So for us, it’s just nice to be able to do something like that for them.”

McQuaid is no stranger to Lawrence Memorial. The big defenseman first paid a visit in 2012 for a special meet and greet, along with teammate Jordan Caron. This time around he came with Krug in tow.

A rookie defenseman, Krug certainly got a kick out of lifting the patient’s spirits.

“It is kind of funny to walk into a room and for whatever reason get to make people smile,” said Krug, 22  “We’re in a unique position to do that. It’s nice to be able to take advantage of that, just to come out and show our faces and it’s what we’re trying to do today.”

Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, joined forces with the hockey stars in 2010, as the official Healthcare Partner of the Boston Bruins.

The partnership is a natural fit for both Hallmark Health and the team. The local healthcare provider’s orthopedic surgeons and premier Bone and Joint Program provide advanced care, treating orthopedic injuries and disease in people of all ages, including those suffering from sports-related injuries.

A bruising defenseman, McQuaid, 26, is currently in his fifth season with the Bruins, helping lead the team to the Stanley Cup during his rookie year in 2011. The 6-foot-5, 209-pound blueliner plays a highly physical brand of hockey that has made him an instant fan favorite.

Krug, 22, gained instant notoriety during the last year’s Stanley Cup Playoff run. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound blueliner become the first rookie defenseman in NHL history to score four goals in his first five postseason games.
Tuesday’s hour long visit began with a special tour as the players got to meet a dozen patients on several floors, while also greeting the medical staff in the urgent care center, emergency department, radiology and imaging center.

For patients like Michael Howard, of Dracut, meeting the Bruins was a pleasant surprise.

“I liked it,” said Howard. “It was awesome, really cool. They made my day.”
Howard got to meet both Bruins, who signed autographs and posed with pictures with him and his family.

The players also got to talk some hockey with several elderly patients, many of whom still have vivid memories about the team’s glory years, including the Stanley Cup championship teams of 1970 and 1972.

“I’ve been a Bruins fan since the early, early 60s,” said James Findlay. “I go way back, past Bobby Orr. I was a kid when I first went to see them when I was about 14-15.”

The longtime Bs fan was really impressed with how the players carried themselves.

“It was nice,” said Findlay. “They’re good kids. It’s nice they come here to see people.They didn’t have too, but its good they came.”

William Doherty, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Hallmark Heath System, said the players visit always has a positive effect.

“The patients really love it,” said Doherty. “Some get very emotional about it. It really lifts their spirits a lot. It’s great. Sometimes people get forgotten about when they’re in the hospital, so it’s been terrific that these guys take the time to visit.  It’s been a great experience.”

For these Bruins, it’s the least they can do.

“It’s obviously nice to be able to do something like that,” McQuaid said. “It’s definitely nice to be able to try to get people’s minds off of what they’re going through. There are a lot of Bruins fans. We’re very lucky we have a lot of support and its nice to be able to support people in their times of need in situations like this.”

Both players understand that giving back to the community is an integral part of being a professional athlete in Boston.

“It’s very important to us,” said Krug. “We get a lot of support from everyone in the city and it’s a big country full of Bruins fans from all over, so for us to get out and show our faces is important. It’s nice to be able to connect with the fans and people in these situations. It’s nice to help brighten their day if that is the case.”

Mission accomplished.

Melrose-Wakefield Hospital opens new diabetes center

Melrose Free Press

July 18, 2013

By Jessica Sacco

There’s a new Joslin Diabetes Affiliate Center at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital — Hallmark Health System’s second location to open in the area.

Joslin Diabetes Center is considered the world’s top diabetes research and clinical care organization. It’s dedicated to ensuring people with diabetes have long, healthy lives while working toward finding a cure.

“Hallmark really wanted to do something to provide the best quality of care, [so] we went to the best,” said Melissa Roberto, Hallmark Health’s director of ambulatory services, of partnering with Joslin.

The new center opened at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in April, with a ribbon-cutting event on June 28.

It offers the latest advances for treating diabetes as well as patient education and support services for adults 18 and older.

These include diabetes screenings, care and management, prevention and treatment, nutritional counseling, medication management and more.

A board-certified endocrinologist, diabetes nurse educators, registered dietitians and other medical professionals are readily available at the center for patients in need of their services.

This is the second diabetes center location for Hallmark Health. They opened their first Joslin affiliate at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford in 2011.

Roberto said the organization wanted to partner with Joslin Diabetes given the number of people affected by Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

She told the Free Press that in Hallmark Health’s service area alone, there are an estimated 20,000-plus people with diabetes. That doesn’t take into account those who are living with the disease but haven’t been diagnosed.

“It truly is an epidemic,” Roberto said.

 She added that since opening the diabetes center in Medford, the hospital has seen a significant increase in the number of patients staff are able to treat.

“We’ve been growing and we realized we needed to have a second location with additional physicians,” Roberto said.

Hallmark Health’s Dr. Sunita Schurgin said having this diabetes center at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital will give patients access to other resources — like a kidney specialist, cardiologist and educators.

The affiliate provides these services at a single nearby location, for a one-stop shopping experience.

“Because it is a chronic disease that requires repeated visits, it’s hard for patients to go into [Boston],” Schurgin said. “Even though it’s not far by miles, it’s a hassle. By being in the community, people feel much more comfortable coming out and having their regular checks. So, that’s a huge advantage that we’re local.”

Roberto added that this team-like approach to treatment is essential in assisting diabetes patients in their journey with the disease.

“When someone is diagnosed with diabetes it’s life-altering,” she said. “It’s a lot of behavioral changes. They not only need medical support, they need education, emotional support. Diabetes and Joslin go hand-in-hand, and you don’t have to go to Boston anymore.”

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