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.

Melrose Free Press

Jan. 31, 2012

By Jessica Sacco

February is officially in full swing and with New Year’s resolutions made more than a month ago, many people are reevaluating their progress on those midnight promises.

For those who pledged to eat healthier, lose weight or join a gym, and are now questioning why the thought ever seemed liked a good idea, help is here.

Three experts from the Hallmark Health System — Liz Dias, licensed dietitian nutritionist, Jen Sturtevant, licensed and certified athletic trainer and Dr. Parra Tomkins, a primary care physician — offered some simple ways get over the resolution hump and stay on track. (Click here to read about the increase in post-New Year's gym enrollment.)

To start off, Dias, Sturtevant and Tomkins all recommend setting realistic goals when making a New Year’s resolution. This means making little changes to one’s lifestyle, so the process becomes less overwhelming and more manageable.

“Those little changes start to increase as you get used to them, they become your daily routine,” said Sturtevant.

When people approach Dias for assistance, she asks her clients to think about a change they can do forever and recommends avoiding the “all or nothing” mentality, like swearing off sweets or a certain food group through fad diets.

“You don’t want to make an unrealistic change, because then you tend to follow it for a little while [but] as soon as you go off it, it takes you awhile to get back on it,” she said.

According to Tomkins, it takes 30 days to make something a habit. Instead of constantly looking toward the future when setting resolutions, Tomkins said to stay in the present, which will help keep incentive up.

“When we focus on the future, it’s too far away of a goal to keep you motivated,” she said. “Rather than taking a weight loss goal, I have people think in the short term, what you can do right now and not the actual weight loss as a measure of success. If people use weight as the only form of success, they lose motivation quickly.”

A round of applause goes out to those who can wake up at 6 a.m. every day to hit the gym, exercise at home or run 10 miles before work.

For those who want to sleep in, hate running and the gym, but still want to keep up with their healthier living resolution, these simple alternatives are for you.

Tomkins said for a healthy, long life, people should exercise between 30 to 45 minutes three to four days a week. She said by doing this, you’ll feel better about yourself, you’ll have more energy and will even sleep better at night.

Now, here comes the tricky part. How can people achieve that goal on top of everything else in their (probably busy) schedule?

Sturtevant said keeping up with exercise is about making changes to one’s daily routine. Some obvious ones include parking far away from your building and, if there is an elevator, taking the stairs instead.

Becoming more active can also be accomplished by breaking up your day into small increments, the experts said. Take a 10- to 15-minute walk when you have the time or do sit-ups on the floor during TV commercials.

If you have kids, and don’t have the alone time to focus on exercise, she said to incorporate them into the exercise. Take them on a walk or play outside — anything that involves being active together.
These small changes, Sturtevant said, can be just as beneficial as doing a half hour straight of exercise.

For those who started going to the gym on a regular basis, Dias, Sturtevant and Tomkins again stressed the importance of not setting unrealistic goals.
Dias said it takes time and effort to lose weight. Many people have impractical expectations, so when a goal is not met, oftentimes they give up.

“People need to be satisfied with smaller changes,” she said. “It takes a lot of time and effort to lose weight. It’s not going to happen overnight, you have to stick with it.”

Also, Sturtevant said mixing up the type of exercise one does will help keep people motivated, and also give the body a good workout every time.

“If you join a class, or are going to the gym, changing up your workout from day to day or week to week will keep you entertained,” she said.

Sturtevant added that the body responds better to varied workouts, which will keep weight loss up, instead of tapering off. Doing different exercises or extending the period of time working out helps one’s body work harder and in turn, receive a better workout.

“Your body will respond better if you change it up. People get to a point where they’re not losing weight and they get frustrated with that,” she said.

There are some known tricks when trying to eat healthy. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated (at least 64 ounces, according to Sturtevant) stay on the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping, as that’s where the healthiest items lie, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables … the list goes on.

However, sometimes you can’t help wanting a piece of chocolate cake after a long day at work. So, how do you have the sweet and stay on track?

The simple answer is, if you don’t want to give up your after-dinner desert, don’t. Dias said instead of eliminating something you love, try cutting the portion size in half.

“It’s not as drastic, so it’s something you can stick with,” Dias said.

Also, if you eat something unhealthy during the day, don’t skip a meal to try and counteract the “damage.”

Sturtevant said eating one to two meals a day slows down the metabolism because the body goes into starvation, or hibernation mode. This means when a person does intake food, the body absorbs not only the nutritious elements, but also the unhealthy ones.

“It absorbs all the bad stuff instead of weeding it out and getting rid of it because the body is tricked into thinking it’s not going to get more ‘food’ anytime soon,” she said.
Instead of cutting out meals, she recommended eating smaller ones throughout the day, as it is more beneficial to the body.

If you hate water and are trying to stay on a budget while shopping, Tomkins recommended some alternatives that can help.

Try squeezing an orange or lemon into water to add a little flavor and make it more interesting.
Frozen foods are also a good replacement for fresh fruits, which are often pricey at the store. However, if you don’t want to go frozen, Tompkins said try to buy seasonal (right now, it’s oranges and grapefruit) as you can purchase more for less.

“Rather than sticking with a fruit you love, that is wildly expensive, learn to morph to fruits that are in season, because they’re cheap in bulk,” she said.

Another trick Dias recommended is keeping a food journal to track your daily food intake. Whether on padded paper or through one of the many smart phone applications, Dias said this is an effective and easy way to monitor your day-to-day progress.

“You can see the pitfalls you get into,” she said. “It helps you know yourself.”

Melrose Free Press

Jan. 2, 2011

By Christopher Hurley

Three Boston Bruin hockey players rang in the New Year with a trip to the hospital.

But don’t fret Bruins fans, this was purely a social call.

Fresh off the ice following a morning practice session in Wilmington, Bruin players Johnny Boychuk, Benoit Pouliot and Zach Hamill, dropped by the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, Jan. 2.  The trio had a guided tour of the hospital, meeting members of the staff, as well as visiting a number of patients in different wards, before signing autographs for roughly 300 fans.

For players like Boychuk, giving back to the community has become second nature.

“I’m having fun,” Boychuk said. “We’re visiting some people who need their spirits lifted. We’re more than happy to do it, especially when you see their smiles and how much it means to them, just to stop in for a couple minutes to talk to them.”

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

Monday’s two-hour visit began with a special trip to the maternity ward. The players got to meet several future Bruins, before greeting a half dozen patients on several other floors.

“It’s a nice thing to do and we enjoy it a lot,” Pouliot said. “Just seeing the kids and the older people, it’s always nice to talk to them. It makes their day and it makes our day.”

Hamill agreed.

“It’s good,” Hamill said. “We always have time to do this kind of stuff, and we do as much as we can to give back.”

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.

They were happy to continue that championship legacy.

“Sometimes you don’t realize what kind of following you have, because you don’t get to meet every Bruins fan that watches the game, and notice how knowledgeable they are about the game,” Boychuk said. “But it’s nice to see that they know about the sport and every player too.”

Pouliot concurred

“It’s (a tribute to) that era,” Pouliot said. “You always hear about them, especially Bobby Orr, John Bucyk, and all those guys. Their legends and everyone really followed them back in the day. It’s nice that they acknowledge them. They’re still watching us and I’m pretty sure they know who we are too.”

A five-year NHL veteran, Boychuk is entering his fourth season with the Bruins, after coming over in a trade with Colorado in 2008. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound defenseman was a key cog in the team’s Stanley Cup run last season, chipping in nine playoff points, including a goal in the decisive gave seven against the Montreal Canadiens in the Conference Quarterfinals.

One of the team’s big off-season free agent signings, Pouliot has proven to be a steady contributor as of late on the team’s checking line. The 6-foot-3, 199-pound winger is no stranger to playing in hockey hotbeds, with stints in Minnesota and Montreal.

He’s been enjoying his new hockey home.

“It’s been nice, I can’t complain at all. Everything’s been so positive. We’re winning a lot of games and obviously there’s some difference from up there [in Montreal] than down here [in Boston], but it’s much better here.”

One of the Bruins young guns, Hamill is starting to show the skills that made him a first round draft pick in 2007. The 5-foot-11, 173-pound winger is looking to increase his playing time with the parent club, after getting recalled from the AHL team in Providence last month.

He's done the job so far and plans to stick around.

“Obviously hockey is such a huge sport up here,” Hamill said. “The fans are very knowledgeable. It’s a big sports town and hockey’s a big part of it. I’m glad to be part of it also.”

Melrose Free Press

Dec 3, 2011

By Jessica Sacco

There may be a new type of medicine out there, and it’s known as man’s best friend.

Standing at about a foot tall, covered in long, fluffy, golden hair is Cooper, a 2-and-a half-year-old terrier mix that visits Melrose-Wakefield Hospital every week
as part of a new pet therapy program.

The hospital works with the Pets and People Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1985 that brings pet-assisted therapy to patients in facilities such as nursing homes, halfway houses and hospitals in eastern Massachusetts.

According to Jodi Dwyer, a medical social worker for Hallmark Health, studies have shown that pet therapy can decrease anxiety and blood pressure in patients along with improving their mood.

“Overall it’s a morale builder,” she said. “[When Cooper is here] families come out of their rooms, nurses come over [and] it’s nice to be able to walk down the hall and see everyone’s smiling faces.”

Dwyer began developing an animal-assisted therapy program for Melrose-Wakefield Hospital last fall, after hearing about its success at other hospitals in the area.

Cooper and his owner, Annette Bush, a teacher at Wilmington Middle School, got involved with Pets and People in September after Bush learned about the organization at a dog festival in Somerville.

“I’ve always wanted to do some volunteer work,” she said. “And I love animals, so this was a perfect match.”

Before the duo became official volunteers with Pets and People, an experienced dog trainer from the foundation screened Cooper to see if he would be suitable for the program (including looking at health certificates and testing overall friendliness and ability to interact with others). Bush shadowed an experienced volunteer to get an idea of what the program entails.

Cooper is also trained in basic obedience skills and has a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate, which the American Kennel Club awards to dogs for good manners and behavior after a 10-step test.

“Most therapy organizations want you to have [a CGC certificate] because not every dog can pass it,” said Bush.

Thursday, Dec. 8, will mark Cooper’s fifth visit to the fifth floor of the hospital. Once there, he and his owner stay for about an hour and visit with three to five patients.

Last week, Alfred Martello saw Cooper walking down the hallway and asked if the dog could spend time with his wife, Claire Martello, a Melrose resident who was a patient at the time of Cooper’s visit. 

Cooper quickly made himself comfortable, hopping up next to Claire Martello and resting while she petted him and chatted with Bush.

“I think he’s adorable,” said Claire Martello.

The couple’s son, Vincent Martello, said he thinks pet therapy is a great way to liven up everyone’s day in the hospital and is something his mother definitely enjoyed.

“She loves it,” he said. “Look at her, she’s got the dog on the bed and she doesn’t even like dogs,” he joked while pointing to his mother and Cooper.

Dorothy Halloran, from Malden, met with Cooper for the second time last week. Cooper sat in a chair next to Halloran’s bed, excitedly barking at his company.
Those occasional barks are Halloran’s favorite part about his visit — she considers the noise as an example of his happiness.

“He likes to do marvelous things,” she said. “Cooper is the greatest animal God put on earth other than a human being. If I could have [a dog] that’s the baby I would have.”

After a visit with Cooper, patients fill out a survey, indicating whether they felt relaxed and comforted by Cooper and if they would recommend the experience to others.

So far, Dwyer said the program has received positive responses from those who participated. Feedback will be given to the hospital administration to show the effectiveness of the program and the need for it to continue.

“There is plenty of research out there showing pet therapy works but it’s nice to do it on a smaller level in our community to see the impact it can have on our patients,” said Dwyer.

Patients are not the only ones who enjoy Cooper’s visits, as the staff looks forward to Thursday evening every week, according to Nicole Bates, a clinical leader for medical 5 (floor five).

“For nurses on the floor, this profession is very stressful and [seeing Cooper] relieves [that] stress,” said Bates, a Melrose resident.

Even if they are busy working, Bates said the staff members congregate around Cooper to pet and talk to him for a few moments.

“We don’t stop for too many things so that’s a special moment in the day,” Bates said.

Bush said that she and Cooper will to continue volunteering, as they both enjoy the experience.

“[Cooper] is getting more and more comfortable,” she said. “Every time we come his tail is wagging and he’s looking at people. Hopefully [the program] will get popular enough that they’ll want another dog.”

Melrose Free Press

Oct. 25, 2011

By Jessica Sacco

Monday marked a day full of pink for the Halo Studio in downtown Melrose. Pink balloons, ribbons and streamers decorated various surfaces inside the salon. Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting sat on the waiting room table. Hairdressers, dressed in pink aprons, busied themselves with clients.

The customers were at Halo Studio to donate their hair to Pink Heart Funds, a non-profit that provides prosthetic hairpieces to people who have lost their hair to illness or chemotherapy treatment.

Jodi Dwyer, a medical social worker for Hallmark Health, began to plan the hair donation event over the summer when she decided she wanted to donate her own hair to a good cause. She brought the idea for “Cutting for a Cure” to Halo Studio owner Jennifer Malenchini, who immediately showed interest.

“I think it’s such a great thing to do as a hairdresser,” said Malenchini. “We always say ‘when we look good we feel good,’ and if we can help someone feel better, that’s something I feel very strongly about.”

The two soon began collaborating and planned the event to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“We always had October in mind,” said Dwyer.

Pink Heart Funds has supplied hundreds of wigs free of charge to those in need, including children and adults, since its launch in 2005. But, as the organization’s name suggests, many of the recipients are breast cancer patients. Pink Heart Funds provides other services as well, such as supplying women with free breast prosthetics after cancer surgery.

Twenty women from Melrose and surrounding communities made their way to the salon on Monday, ready to make the cut. Participants donated at least eight inches of their hair, the minimum amount needed to contribute to the fund. Halo Studio provided a free cut, style and blow-dry afterward to complete each woman’s new look.

Melrose resident Tina Thomas Smith fell in love with her short ’do. As a breast cancer survivor, she knew immediately she wanted to be a part of the event. She said that after everything she went through with her diagnosis, she found donating her hair to be a very peaceful experience.

“This is a kind of way to give back and show gratitude for my good fortune,” she said.

A veteran to the cause, Joana Amaral-Cuevas of Malden, completed her fifth hair donation shortly after 10 a.m., cutting off nearly a foot of her brown wavy locks.

Although Amaral-Cuevas does not personally know anyone affected by breast cancer, she said she donates her hair every year because she thinks it’s a good cause.

“[Breast cancer] is a disease that just keeps growing,” she said. “The more you can donate, the better.”

Dwyer, while organizing and promoting the event, also spent her time recruiting members of the surrounding hospitals to get involved.

Kathleen Uzdanovich from the Intensive Care Unit at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital donated about 10 inches to the cause.

Uzdanovich said “Cutting for a Cure” is a great idea and was happy to see the collaboration between the hospital, Halo Studio and local residents.

“It’s nice that the hospital has such a strong connection with the community,” she said. “Then to partner with a local business, it speaks volumes of the community, that everyone is connected.”

Dwyer herself contributed to Pink Heart Funds, saying, “I think it’s an easy thing to do. Hair grows back.”

Overall, Malenchini said the day went well and the participants were excited to be involved.

“Some might have been a little scared,” she said, “but everyone left loving their hair.”

Both Dwyer and Malenchini hope to continue with the cause and are already planning to organize “Cutting for a Cure” again next year.

Melrose Free Press

Oct. 13, 2011

By Jessica Sacco

“Meet, Mingle, Mammogram” is an opportunity for women who are due for their first mammogram to attend an event that aims to give them a pleasant and relaxing first-time experience.

“There are an awful lot of woman who have a fear of having a mammogram,” said Judy Sadacca, outreach manager for Imaging and Cardiac-Endovascular services at Hallmark Health. “We wanted to have a spa kind of evening so they feel comfortable and schedule an annual for the following year.”

Sponsored by Hallmark Health and the Massachusetts Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the program was developed to eliminate the fear associated with having a mammogram. Women are treated to a spa-like evening, with chair and hand massages, makeup demonstrations and manicures. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres are served and guests walk away with a free “swag bag” filled with goodies like soaps, skin products a first aid kit and more.

Mammographers and breast health educators are also present at the event to provide the opportunity for woman to ask questions about the procedure and learn about breast exams, nutrition and exercise.

Who is eligible to participate?
Women who wish to attend must be ages 40 or older and never had a mammogram (or never had one through Hallmark Health, which operates Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford, among other facilities).

Who needs screening?
The American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society recommend annual screening mammograms for all women 40 years and older.

John Seccareccio, operations manager of Imagining Services at Hallmark Health, said early detection is the key for breast cancer. The longer one waits, the lower the percentage becomes for early detection.

“Early detection is the best protection,” added Sadacca.

According to Hallmark Health, annual mammograms are covered by insurance if scheduled 12 full months and one day apart. No referral or physician order is necessary.

Building the program
As part of a $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Hallmark Health has planned four “Meet, Mingle, Mammogram” events.

Last year, the organization put on its first event in May, with 21 women attending. Both Sadacca and Seccareccio were pleased with the outcome and reactions from the women.

“The feedback has been really fabulous,” said Seccareccio. “The whole atmosphere just took away from the exam and helped [the woman] with the experience.”

This year, Hallmark Health officials decided to aim their efforts at specific groups within the community.

“We’re targeting diverse populations because they tend to have a harder time connecting with a caregiver,” said Sadacca.

In August, the first of these targeted sessions was held, focused on connecting with Portuguese woman. Hallmark Health partnered with the YWCA of Malden and the Mass Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) and the 19 ladies who attended were treated to Portuguese cuisine and music.

Although Hallmark health is reaching out to specific populations for some of the sessions, they are all open to all women.

What’s next?
In November, Hallmark Health and Susan G. Komen for the Cure will offer a session aimed at Spanish speakers, and there will be sessions this winter focusing on Haitian and Asian woman. Although Hallmark health is reaching out to specific populations for some of the sessions, they are all open to all women.

All “Meet, Mingle, Mammogram” sessions will take place at a mammography site on 101 Main St. in Medford.

For more information, call 800-540-9191 or check back at the calendar at to see when the next session is announced.

News & Events

Hallmark Health has named Michael Connelly chief financial officer and executive vice president....


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