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.

Hallmark meeting the rise in diabetes in Medford area

Medford Transcript

Nov. 5, 2010

By Rob Barry

Diabetes is on the rise in Massachusetts and one Medford hospital has devoted a lot of resources to meeting the rise in demands for care. The most recent state Department of Public Health statistics say 7.4 percent of adults in the state were told they had diabetes in 2007, up from 4.3 percent only a decade earlier.

In February last year, Hallmark Health opened a Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford. Dr. Sunita Schurgin, chief of endocrinology at LMH, said more than 8,000 people have participated in programs at the center in the past year.

“It was clear for several years that there was a local community that needed local access to good diabetes care,” said Schurgin. “It’s safe to say [diabetes] is on the rise.”

She added the increase could be due — in large part — to a rise in obesity because many people are living an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and not exercising. Schurgin said part of the increase might be attributed to the standards of what is considered diabetes getting stricter.

“I saw a recent study that said 30 minutes of exercise a day could prevent 52 percent of Type 2 diabetes cases,” said Alice Dicenzo, a diabetes nurse and educator who works at the center. “We’ve technologied ourselves right into trouble. You don’t even need to get out of the car to get a cup of coffee anymore.”

Schugin said diabetes requires a specialized level of care and unlike many medical conditions that are simply treated with the appropriate medication, diabetes is easiest to control when patients are very well educated about their condition.

At LMH’s center, patients with Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes receive treatment in three forms: education, support and management. In addition to receiving medication, patients at LMH attend support meetings and learn about quality-of-life changes that might help their condition.

Medford itself is not terribly high above the state average when it comes to diabetes cases. The DPH said Medford’s diabetes hospitalization rate was 7.7 percent higher than the state’s in 2008. Considering the city has a higher than average senior citizen population, however, the state acknowledged this was not unusual.

But while Medford is a bit above the state standard, Massachusetts itself is below the country’s overall rate of 7.8 percent. But there still is an undeniable rise in the disease over the past decade.

“The factors contributing to the increase are hard to tease out, since it could be due to a true increase in the number of cases reflect an increase in the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes getting diagnosed,” said Terri Mendoza, director of the DPH’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program. “It could also reflect better care, as more people with diabetes are living with their condition.”

Those who are statistically most at risk for Type 2 diabetes include: people with low glucose tolerance, those over age 45, people with a family history of diabetes, the overweight and people with low HDL cholesterol or high blood pressure.

In addition, the DPH has found higher numbers of diabetes cases among certain ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“Type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed in high-risk individuals by lifestyle changes, including modest weight loss and regular physical activity,” said Mendoza. “In addition, people over the age of 45 should be tested for diabetes, as should people under the age of 45 who are overweight and who have one or more of the other risk factors listed above.”

Melrose-Wakefield Hospital gets visit from Boston Bruins

Melrose Free Press

By Christopher Hurley

Nov. 4, 2010

Under normal circumstances, a trip to the hospital is not an excursion Andrew Ference and Brad Marchand would enjoy.

But the Boston Bruins hockey players were more than ready to make a special exception Monday afternoon.

Fresh off a morning practice at the TD Garden, the players took time out of their busy schedule to visit Melrose-Wakefield Hospital Nov. 1. The pair had a guided tour, meeting several members of the staff as well as visiting a number of patients.

“The Boston-area has always been great going out into the community,” Ference said. “Everybody here loves hockey. Everybody has a story about hockey, whether they played it or grew up watching it when the Bruins were winning their Stanley Cups. It’s just a fun place to come out, because everybody really loves hockey and are always excited about the Bruins.”

Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, recently joined forces with the hockey stars 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.

“Obviously we’re well supported in the community with corporate sponsorships and at hospitals, so it’s nice to make a few trips here and visit the doctors and some of the patients and help give back as much as we can,” Ference said. “I think it’s important as players and as an organization. We realize how much hospitals like Melrose-Wakefield and Hallmark Health are helping our team out.”

A 13-year NHL veteran, Ference is entering his fifth season with the Bruins, after coming over in a multi-player trade from Calgary in 2007. The 5-foot-11, 189-pound defenseman has battled his fair share of injuries over the course of his career and knows how important it is to maintain a healthy outlook.

Off the ice, Ference has a deep interest in environmental issues. He recently spearheaded the NHLPA Carbon Neutral Challenge, with players offsetting carbon emissions produced through their hockey-related travel with Gold Standard Credits, which puts money back in renewable energy products. He also served as spokesman for the MBTA in encouraging the use of public transportation.

Marchand is entering his third pro campaign and is looking to play his first full NHL season in Boston. The 5-foot-9, 183-pound rookie winger has added plenty of grit to the Bruins fourth line, adding an agitating presence to the lineup.

Despite their tenacious nature on the ice, however, the two Bruins were nothing but cordial to their hometown fans during their hospital visit. The pair signed autographs for over an hour and a half.

There’s been plenty of buzz surrounding this year’s Bruins squad, which has gotten off to an impressive 6-2 start to open the season. Ference and his squad have continued to gain a tremendous groundswell of support from their hometown fans.

“A lot of that excitement and some of those old memories are being stoked again with the way the team is playing,” Ference said. “It definitely makes it more fun.”

And judging by the players’ warm reception, it’s evident the expectations for the team are high. That buzz hasn’t been lost on the players.

“Everybody knows that there is an opportunity to have a real successful year,” Ference said. “Every team always has hope, but when you really have a team that has a little extra  something’s there. I think everybody can feel it and have seen it develop over the last couple of years.

“People are excited about us trying to emulate our counterparts in baseball, basketball and football,” he added. “It’s kind of like, ‘All right, it’s you’re turn, boys. Get on it.’”

Ference and the Bruins appear more than willing to oblige.

Feeling better by looking good

Melrose Free Press

By Carol Brooks Ball

Oct. 21, 2010

Women undergoing treatment for breast or other types of cancer typically face a cruel conundrum: The very therapies that may be saving their lives are taking a toll on their skin and overall appearance.

But thanks to an American Cancer Society program offered regularly at Hallmark Health’s Cancer Center in Stoneham, women have an ally. The “Look Good Feel Better” program offers women key skin care and make-up techniques that counter the damage chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be taking a toll on their overall looks — and their self-esteem.

According to, the program was founded and developed in 1989 by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation (PCPCF), the charitable arm of the trade association representing the cosmetic and personal care products industry.

Today the program is a collaboration between the PCPCF, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the National Cosmetology Association (NCA), which includes cosmetologists, wig experts, estheticians, makeup artists, and nail technicians, all of whom are specially trained and then volunteer their time for the program.

At Hallmark Health, the local face of Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is Kathi Whittier, MSA, LICSW, who has been running cancer support groups there for more than 20 years and the LGFB program for the past eight years.

“In my meetings with women, I provide counseling and support as they’re beginning the various stages of their treatment,” Whittier said, “and I provide encouragement and opportunity for them to attend the [LGFB] group.

“The program helps women at a very vulnerable time in their lives,” Whittier continued. “It’s about the inner self as well — self-confidence and self-image. It’s about nurturing one another, accepting one another.”

Women who take the 2-hour LGFB program must be undergoing treatment for their cancer or just about to begin treatment.

The most recent class, which took place this week, was held this month, Whittier said, in honor of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Whittier offers the LGFB program at Hallmark Health four times a year, and she’ll another LGFB class in three to four months, though the program is also offered at numerous other local and city hospitals and cancer centers.

Taking care of a woman’s skin

“The majority of women who attend are coming with breast cancer,” Whittier said, though lung cancer is becoming more and more prominent, she said.

The biggest issues women undergoing cancer treatment struggle with are dry skin and the loss of their hair, Whittier explained.

For skin care, tips are offered and demonstrated by Donna Lombardo, a licensed esthetician and makeup artist who took special training for the LGFB program and volunteers her time teaching the classes.

“Skin becomes very dry because of chemotherapy and radiation,” Lombardo explained. “Skin also becomes very sensitive to products; too much alcohol in a product, for example, can really irritate the skin [of women undergoing cancer treatment].”

While Lombardo said she is prohibited from endorsing specific products, she explained that she tells women that a “sensitive skin” care line typically doesn’t have fragrance or chemicals, and is likely a safe bet.

“I also tell them it’s very important to hydrate their skin — moisturize all the time — and to use a dry washcloth and buff their skin gently to remove dead skin cells,” Lombardo said, adding that women should stay away from skin toners since they contain alcohol.

Cancer treatments also make skin more susceptible to sun damage, so Lombardo tells women to always use a sunscreen with SPF 30, “even when they are in the car.”

The challenges of hair loss

The other main issue faced by women undergoing cancer treatment — and an extremely emotional one for most women — is losing their hair.

“A challenge for women is the idea of the loss of their hair,” Whittier said. “It’s a very emotionally upsetting concept for a lot of women, and it’s another loss for them. It’s losing their own self-image, as they know it.”

To that end, LGFB provides a “nurturing safe place for women,” Whittier said, and a place “to talk about the experience of losing their hair. They also support and nurture one another as they go through their treatment.”

Since most women lose not only the hair on their head but also their eyebrows and eyelashes, Lombardo instructs them in “creating” new hair in those areas, by using eyeliner and eye pencils to “draw” them.

Women are also instructed in choosing and finding a wig, and, alternatively, fashioning a turban out of a T-shirt.

“I find that a lot of women go and try to get a wig for themselves, even if their insurance won’t pay for it,” Whittier said. “However, after they’ve lost their hair, a lot of women come to a place where they just want to get well — and since they’ve seen that the people around them still care about them [even without their hair] — the loss of their hair isn’t as important. They know that the chemo and the radiation therapy is attacking the cells and getting the cancer. For other women, however, [it’s important to them that] they continue to wear their wigs.

“[The women] lose their hair because the hair cells are temporarily stunted by the chemotherapy and/or radiation,” Whittier explained. “Then, when [the treatments finish], their hair starts to grow back and it’s usually very healthy and baby fine, and new and fresh. Sometimes it even comes back a different color, and if they’ve had straight hair, some women’s hair may come back with curls.”

When women come to the LGFB group, Whittier said since they’re all at different stages of their cancer treatments, their degree of hair loss is different as well.

“It’s a variety of where they are in their treatment — some women haven’t lost their hair as they’ve just begun treatment; others are completely bald.

“I’ve never seen anybody look or seem outwardly disturbed by another’s experience,” Whittier continued. “They tend to compliment and comfort one another though the process. Women really are there for another. Every time I have one of the [LGFB] programs, I feel very moved and touched by the compassion that we [women] have for one another. And how we can support each other as women.”

Using make-up to create ‘a glow’

Women who participate in a LGFB class are given a treat — a make-up gift bag filled with cosmetic make-up and skin care samples from some of the world’s largest cosmetic companies, including Prescriptives, Avon, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Elizabeth Arden, Chanel, Revlon, and Estee Lauder.

“The kits are worth about $400,” Whittier said, adding that each women gets a kit specially matched to her coloring.  “Then, Donna [Lombardo] shows them how to use the make-up to create a healthy glow.”

Lombardo shows each woman how to use the foundation, blush, eye make-up and lip products that are in their kit.

“I also instruct them that they should not share their makeup with any family members because of cross-contamination,” Lombardo said. And when it comes to mascara, Lombardo said “[cancer] patients can be prone to eye infections, so they should use disposable mascara wands, which can be purchased at beauty supply stores — they can even be washed — since a tube of mascara is a breeding ground for bacteria. Every time the same wand goes in and out, it’s adding more bacteria; a fresh disposable wand isn’t.”

In the make-up process, Lombardo has women apply liquid foundation first. Only then, she said, does she have them apply concealer.

“I have them put the foundation on first and then they get to see what areas need concealing,” Lombardo said. “Plus, applying it after the foundation helps the concealer stays in place. Concealer can be used to help reddened cheeks or red skin around the nose area. People think that it [concealer] is just for under the yes, but it can conceal anything — birthmarks, redness, puffiness under the eyes, etc.”

Next, comes blush. “I tell them to use whatever they prefer, pressed powder or moist stick blush,” Lombardo said. “Then I show them how to place eye makeup, and since many women undergoing chemo or radiation lose their eyebrows, I go into creating eyebrows by penciling them in.”

The final step is caring for and making up the lips, which should begin with a moisturizing regime, Lombardo said.

“I tell [the women] that Vitamin E is very good for the lips. They can buy capsules at a health food store, pop a capsule with a pin, and apply that right on their lips. They could do this at night. Then, in the morning, they can apply lip liner and lip-gloss or lipstick, whichever they prefer, which we also go over in the LGFB class.”

Women leave with confidence … and sometimes, new friends

For Lombardo, who travels anywhere from Melrose to Lexington to volunteer her skills at LGFB classes, she is the one who has benefitted — and in a very personal way.

“I really do enjoy it and I look forward to it,” Lombardo said. “And then, three years after doing this, it hit close to home when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“The chemotherapy is horrible,” she continued. “The side effects are just horrible. She did chemo for three years and now she’s taking chemo pills. I brought her to one of my LGFB programs and she really enjoyed herself.”

As for the women, “I think they really enjoy the program,” she said. “They have a feeling that they’re not alone; there are other women in the room who are undergoing the same process of chemo. Some of the women even make friends.

“At the end [of the class], they always say how much fun they had. I end it by saying that ‘I hope everyone has a date tonight!’”

While Lombardo is there as a volunteer — she is the former owner of Skin Sensations in Saugus, and is looking to relocate her business to Melrose — she said that if women approach her at the end of a LGFB class for additional skin care and make-up counseling, she will work with them privately.

Whittier, who said next month she’s beginning a new breast cancer support group for women who are newly diagnosed (see sidebar for more information), explained that she knows the LGFB program helps women during a very difficult time in their lives.

“At the end of the session, I see women with a twinkle in their eye,” she said. “They’re happy, and for a minute they have a reprieve from worrying about their treatment and their cancer. The aloneness has decreased in their lives.”

Health care professionals are trying dating-style methods to connect with underserved patients

Globe North

By Taryn Plumb

Oct. 14, 2010

The 27-year-old knew exactly what he was looking for: Someone with a laid-back personality, someone who shared his values, someone he could talk to.

So in a dusky restaurant murmuring with soft rock and soft chatter, Sean Musselman of Somerville came searching for that special connection.

Orbiting around candlelit tables-for-two, he and several other young men and women sat down with potential matches; they laughed and conversed, asked each other about their backgrounds and interests, shook hands, exchanged business cards — then, after a few minutes, moved down a seat to the next prospect.

The growing cost of healthcare: A conversation with the head of Melrose-Wakefield Hospital

Melrose Free Press

By Nell Escobar Coakley

Oct. 9, 2010

It’s no secret costs are growing out of control, and even with the passage of federal reform legislation earlier this year, the future of healthcare in the America is still uncertain.

“Today’s current issues have been in development for decades,” said Hallmark Health CEO Michael Sack of the reform. “They’re not going to be changed overnight. We need to move forward, but it’s going to be a process.”

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