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., Director, Media Relations and Social Media, at 781-338-7234. 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 media relations team member on-call.

How to deal with the heat next time around

Medford Transcript

July 28, 2011

By Nicholas Iovino

A relentless wave of heat and humidity, which caused more than 30 deaths as it moseyed its way through the Midwest and Northeast of the country last week, finally broke for North Shore residents over the weekend.

Temperatures dipped nearly 20 degrees between Friday, July 22, and Sunday, July 24. But the summer isn’t over yet, and it’s imperative that people recognize heat-related illness symptoms and how to prevent such ailments from occurring for the remainder of the summer, say experts.
Despite the break in high temperatures, Hallmark Health Hospitals in Medford and Melrose reported seeing about 15 more patients than usual suffering from dehydration and heat related illnesses last weekend.

“There are all different stages of a response for people who are having a bad reaction to the heat,” said Steven Sbardella, MD, chairman of emergency medicine for Hallmark Health System, which includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. “They’re almost all related to some degree of dehydration.”

Sbardella said symptoms can range from vague indicators like nausea, headaches, light-headedness and vomiting to the far extreme of unresponsiveness, comas and, at worst, death.

Seniors are the highest at-risk group for heat-related illnesses. Sbardella said the increased risk often results because many elderly people take certain medications that can make the body more susceptible to heat and dehydration. A lack of awareness or sensitivity to the minor symptoms that would typically trigger most people to address the situation also adds to the increased risk for seniors.

Sbardella recommends older citizens move slower, stay cool and drink a lot more than they’re used to when dealing with extreme heat.  Taking breaks and putting off projects is sometimes necessary to ensure safety in sweltering conditions.

“If you’re feeling the effects of the heat, then you’re already behind the eight-ball,” Sbardella said. “You’ve got to pretty much call it a day.”

Another class of patients Sbardella often sees in the Emergency Department on hot days consists of younger people overexerting themselves in the heat and not properly hydrating.
“The ideal situation is if you know you’re going to go outside on a day like today, you start hydrating the day before,” Sbardella said.

In order to beat the heat, the doctor suggests multiplying the amount you would usually drink by 1.5 and avoiding diuretics like coffee and alcohol. Getting to a cool place is also crucial because the body won’t get ride of heat unless the temperature outside is cooler than one’s own body temperature.

“If you start to feel the effects, stop, slow down, and get yourself to a cool place,” Sbardella warned.

If the effects of heat and dehydration persist more than several hours, the doctor insists people come to the Emergency Room where patients can be rapidly rehydrated intravenously.

Hallmark holds speed-dating style events for primary care seekers

Medford Transcript

June 16, 2011

By Rob Barry

Area residents enjoyed bruschetta, fried ravioli and one-on-one chats with Hallmark Health physicians at Pizzeria Regina last month when the company hosted its third Match.doc event, a service designed to allow those seeking a new primary care doctor to meet a few local physicians in a relaxed, conversational manner.

With three doctors in attendance, people came with questions and several left with appointments already set up.

The more conventional method of seeking primary care often involves much trial and error, said Dr. Albert Fine, MD, a physician with Hallmark Health.

“You have no idea in advance as to how you’re going to relate to the practitioner as a patient,” said Fine. “This kind of event gives a patient an opportunity to meet with multiple personality types and find a match.”

The Match.doc event creates a relaxed atmosphere for potential patients, said Fine, which takes the edge off what can otherwise be a less comfortable process.

“You can find a doctor online, but you don’t get to interact with them before an appointment,” said Tom Anderson, Hallmark Health physician liaison and event organizer. “Match.doc is a kind of speed dating approach to finding a doctor.”

It can also be difficult to find primary care doctors that accept Mass Health insurance, which tends to offer lower reimbursements for physicians.

After the first two events in Somerville and Malden, more than 20 patients were matched to doctors, said Jesse Kawa, a communications specialist with Hallmark Health.

The idea for Match.doc came about when one of the committee members saw a similar event held by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), said Kawa. Hallmark quickly pursued the idea with great enthusiasm.

“We want to do these every couple of months in different communities,” said Kawa.

Home visiting program assists teen parents in ‘getting off to a healthy start’

Malden Observer

May 6, 2011

By Kristin Ereckson

While teen pregnancy is on the rise in the U.S., a local home visiting program for young mothers is working to keep the numbers down in Malden and its surrounding communities.

A part of the Healthy Families America initiative, Healthy Families Massachusetts is a statewide home visiting program for first-time parents age 20 and under, funded by the Children’s Trust Fund. Based at Hallmark Health System and located on Commercial Street in Malden, Healthy Families Melrose/Wakefield is the local Healthy Families program that serves Malden and surrounding communities.

According to Healthy Families Program Director Beth Chockley, the goal of the program is to help young families in Malden, Everett, Melrose, Medford, Stoneham, Wakefield, Reading and North Reading to “get off to a healthy start.” Program staff make weekly visits to families’ homes to provide them with a wide range of support, from prenatal education to first aid training to child development education to helping mothers to set personal goals. Participants are allowed to partake in Healthy Families until the child turns 3 years old.

Currently, approximately 50 families are enrolled in the program, with 25 percent residing in Malden, Chockley said.

“Teen pregnancy has been a significant issue in Malden and other local communities,” said Chockley, noting that teen pregnancy affects families of all cultures, across all socio-economic groups. “One of our main goals is to help young parents avoid a second pregnancy. Through education and support, we help them to make responsible choices. We provide them with hope for the future.”

And it seems to be working: only 11 percent of Healthy Families participants have had a second child in the two years since the first birth, compared to the statewide average of 16.6 percent and a national annual rate of 35 percent, Chockley said.

Malden resident Nicole Graffam knows firsthand about what kind of hope Healthy Families can provide. Now 22, she voluntary enrolled in the program at age 18, when she was pregnant with her first child, Nathaniel. She recently graduated from the initiative.

“I was a new mom and didn’t know what I was doing,” Graffam said.

When she first entered the program, Graffam endured many hardships — she lived in a homeless shelter temporarily and struggled to put food on the table. Not only did the Healthy Families program provide her with gift cards to buy groceries, but it also encouraged her to create a list of goals, which included securing her own apartment, going back to school and finding a job.
Graffam felt most relieved to have Healthy Families on hand when she noticed her son consistently banging his head on the floor.

“I thought he had some type of issue, and I didn’t have access to the Internet to do my own research,” Graffam said. “My Healthy Families worker did research for me and reassured me that it’s normal. Eventually, he stopped doing it.”

Three years later, Graffam is in a drastically different place than when she first joined the program — she is living on her own with her son, heading back to Bunker Hill Community College in the fall and working as a youth and teen specialist and administrative assistant for the Joint Committee for Children’s Health Care in Everett.

“The Healthy Families program provides a relationship unlike any other,” Graffam said. “It’s not like a friendship or a relationship with a boyfriend. But it is a relationship where they actually listen and care about you and want to help.”

Billie Ann Senopoulos, a senior home visitor with Healthy Families, has been with the program for 12 years and values all of the relationships she has made with her participants. Her favorite part of her job: bringing a mother and child together.

“When I go to a home, often times the teen has no idea what to do with the infant,” Senopoulos said. “The infant is not being touched. But I teach them how to kiss the baby, how to love the baby. I’m hopefully getting these teens off to a better start in life.”

While the Healthy Families program is aiming to keep teen pregnancy rates low in local communities, national teen pregnancy rates are not so encouraging. For the first time in more than a decade, the nation’s teen pregnancy rates rose 3 percent in 2006, reflecting increases in teen birth and abortion rates of 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively, according to a Guttmacher Institute survey released in January 2010.

“…It is clearly time to redouble our efforts to make sure our young people have the information, interpersonal skills and health services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to become sexually healthy adults,” said Lawrence Finer, Guttmacher’s director of domestic research, in a statement. 

Healthy Families is chipping away at providing those such services and, for the most part, has achieved much success: 88 percent of Healthy Families parents have not abused or neglected their children. In addition, 83 percent of Healthy Families participants are continuing their education or have graduated from school, compared to the national level of 53 percent of teen mothers, Chockley said.

“It’s important to influence families as they are starting out, to get them out on the right foot as they are learning their skills and starting their families before patterns are ingrained,” added Chockley. “The first three years of life are most critical.”

— To learn more about the Healthy Families program, call 781-338-7550 or contact Healthy Families Program Director Beth Chockley directly at 781-338-7541.

Hallmark Health, Joslin join forces to open new Medford affiliate location

Medford Transcript

March, 17, 2011

By Nell Escobar Coakley

In 2010, nearly 19 million people over the age of 20 were newly diagnosed with diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly seven million more went undiagnosed in the same year.

Those numbers, say health officials, are staggering. And, they add, the epidemic is spreading.

“There is a greater awareness of the problem because it’s being reported more,” said Dr. Sunita Schurgin, chief of endocrinology at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. “The numbers are definitely up from what they were even 20 or 30 years go.”

That’s why Hallmark Health has joined forces with Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston to become one of the world-renowned organization’s 42 affiliate locations in the United States. On March 23, Hallmark will cut the ribbon on its new location at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford.

“We’ve had a certified program for 10 years,” said Terry Giove, Hallmark’s vice president of ambulatory services. “The program has been growing and growing and we still knew that we had not tapped all of the community’s needs.”

Giove said Hallmark ended up purchasing a portion of a private practice that was getting ready to give up its endocrinology and diabetes specialties. The organization then turned the practice into a diabetes center, which it opened last year.

Then six months ago, she added, someone met someone else at a function and soon everyone was talking about the possibility of Joslin and Hallmark joining forces on the diabetes front.

“It was basically a win-win for everyone,” Giove said. “Over the past several months, Joslin has met with us and our physicians. They gave a presentation to the Medical Executive Committee. There was a vote before it went to the Board of Trustees. Everyone voted on it.”

Schurgin said everyone is very excited about the affiliation because it opens so many avenues for not only the patients, but also doctors looking to be on the cutting edge of diabetes research.

“It’s a field that’s constantly changing, as far as treatment options,” she said. “We have brand new medications that seem to be coming out every six months with good results for our patients.”

And it doesn’t hurt to have the Joslin name either.

“I sometimes find that my patients are not listening,” said Dr. Sybil Kramer, another Hallmark endocrinologist who practices mainly at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. “This might help add a little more respect to my title and maybe having the Joslin name behind me will give me a little more clout.”

Kramer added being affiliated with Joslin also allows her to meet other doctors nationwide and see what they’re doing.

“And they have great materials,” she said. “I am incorporating the material into what Hallmark Health already has.”

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading contributor of heart disease, stroke, limb amputation, kidney failure and new cases of blindness. Because of this, both Kramer and Schurgin say it’s important for patients to be involved in their own care.

“Patients need to change their psychology,” Kramer said. “They’re used to going to get pills and being told what to do. They need to take charge and be responsible for their disease because it’s within their power to change the course of their lives.”

Kramer blamed the explosion of the disease not only on the sedentary lifestyle many people lead these days, but the refusal of many to cut back on the junk food and get out of the house.

“Diabetes actually starts about 10 years before you start to see some of the effects,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to catch it early before it becomes serious.”

Schurgin agreed.

“One of the things we like to do is have our patients see a diabetes educator, someone who is accredited in providing that sort of information,” she said. “[Patients] often have another whole world open up to them. Often times, they come in with a chip on their shoulder, but after meeting with the educator, they often feel better. They have a magical way of dealing with patients.”

Schurgin said patients often feel as if someone is preaching at them, but meeting with a diabetes educator helps them see their disease in a very real way.

“The educators have a way to get down to the day-to-day struggles they have,” she said. “There’s an overwhelming sense of too many choices out there and an educator really helps them get down to the reality of their lives.”

Schurgin added there are many pitfalls diabetes patients face on a daily basis, and that’s why it’s important for them to receive not only education, but access to information. The Joslin affiliation does just that.

“Sometimes people have very mild symptoms, like feeing draggy or having a dry mouth, and sometimes those are not even very noticeable,” she said. “But we always recommend they receive a screening, especially if there is any family history, because your chances [grow exponentially] depending on if it’s a parent or sibling.”

It’s also not the end of your world if you are diagnosed with the disease, Schurgin added, because there are so many treatment options.

“People often imagine diabetes as something their grandmother had, and that isn’t the case,” she said. “There are things our patients can do to avoid complications and change the course of their own disease.”

From a physician’s standpoint, Schurgin and Kramer said there are both oral and injectable medications far beyond just insulin. For example, one drug that’s injected and is not insulin is GLP1 agonist.

“It’s revolutionized the way we manage diabetes,” Schurgin said. “The benefit is that it helps with weight loss and still reduces blood sugar. There are people who really try to lose weight, but sometimes the medication they’re on actually contributes to their weight gain. We want to give them every big of help we can because even losing a few pounds can help them tremendously with their diabetes.”

Although Hallmark Health currently has its diabetes center in operation, the Joslin name will soon help the organization re-brand and re-launch itself.

Giove said this opportunity has really helped the hospital stand out in that Hallmark is the only provider north of Boston that provides Joslin-level services. That means no more trips to Boston for patients tired of fighting traffic and finding parking.

“It definitely gives us some cache,” Giove said with a laugh. “But we now can give our patients the same level of care they’d receive at Joslin with easy access. We’re always exploring new affiliations that will enhance the quality of care for our patients. There are still a lot of opportunities out there.”
And, doctors add, there’s no real downside to these affiliations, especially with organizations like Joslin behind them.

“I don’t see any,” said Kramer. “Sometimes our patients have been confused because of the Joslin name, but we’ve explained that they can still come here and know they are receiving the same care by their Hallmark physician, but that it will be augmented by the Joslin affiliation.”

Let Hallmark Health help you find your ‘Match'

Malden Observer

Dec. 16, 2010

By Natalie Miller

Whether it’s out of curiosity or in hopes of finding a soul mate, people have been using speed dating to meet potential love interests for decades. But what about sitting across the table from a potential new primary care physician?

Hallmark Health System is putting a medical spin on classic speed dating by hosting Match.doc events for local residents looking for a new primary care physician. The first, held in Somerville last October, was so successful Hallmark decided to hold the next event in Malden.

On Wednesday, Dec. 8, five local doctors and one nurse practitioner sat down at Exchange Street Bistro in Malden to speak with local residents. Of the 15 participants that walked through, six left with appointments booked with their new physician.

Jesse Kawa, communications specialist for Hallmark Health Systems — which includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital — said the events are convenient for people looking for a new physician since they can meet with a number of providers, ask questions and then walk out with an appointment that same day.

Kawa said the idea for the Match.doc events came from a staff member in the Community Services department, who read about similar events at other doctor’s offices in an AARP newsletter.

“We formed a committee,” said Kawa. “It’s a unique idea… and a fun way to match up with a primary care physician.”

In Malden, the doctors that participated included Karyn Entrop, MD and Vivian Ionescu-Tiba, MD, of Hallmark Health Medical Associates at Malden Family Health Center, Albert Fine, MD and Mohammed Hakim, MD of Hallmark Health Medical Associates at 101 Main St. in Medford, Hoai-Nu Vo, MD, whose office is in Melrose, and nurse practitioner Pamela Schwedler, who is located in Malden and specializes in OB/GYN.

Dr. Entrop, who is a member of Hallmark Health Medical Associates, Inc., Hallmark Health’s employed physicians group, said the event was fun.

“It really does feel like a date,” she said, adding that the atmosphere is relaxed, and it gives the doctors a chance to talk about themselves and their practice as well as about their services.
She said most of the questions asked were about the offices specially, such as, how many doctors are available, and how easy it is to get an appointment.

Availability and insurance seemed to be the most important things, said Dr. Entrop, saying that the participants asked about weekend and off-hour care as well as whether Mass Health and Medicare are accepted.

“I enjoyed it,” she said of the process, which offers potential patients a chance to see which physician’s personality fit with them instead of just picking a doctor off an Internet list.
Having a conversation with the participants was also beneficial, she said, as getting to know patients before they come in to the office breaks the ice.

“Then when they come into the office we’ve already met,” she said.
Unlike traditional speed dating events, the length of time each participant was able to spend with the doctors varied.

There was no bell, said Kawa, adding that some spent five minutes, while others took up to 15 minutes to meet with physicians.

She added that Hallmark Health is planning on hosting more Match.doc events in other communities.

Also, in an effort to appeal to a wider scope of potential patients, many languages were spoken at the event in Malden on Wednesday, including Romanian, Vietnamese, Bengali, Hini and Urdu.

The events are free and open to anyone, said Kawa, of any age and health status.

For more information, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information about Hallmark Health, visit or follow on Twitter at

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