Author Archives: Karen Weintraub

Colleagues Mourn Surgeon Fatally Shot At The Brigham

Staff at Brigham and Women’s hospital Wednesday were mourning the surgeon who was shot and killed Tuesday by the son of a former patient. As WBUR’s Fred Bever reports, Dr. Michael Davidson was remembered both for his skills as a surgeon and his rich personal life. Listen to his full report above.

Related:

Worcester Telegram: Alleged Brigham Shooter Had Complained About Past Medical Bills

Flowers are left outside the Brigham in honor of the slain Dr. Michael Davidson. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Flowers are left outside the Brigham in honor of the slain Dr. Michael Davidson. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Stephen Pasceri, the 55-year-old Millbury man who police say shot and killed Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon Michael Davidson and then himself, had complained in the past about medical bills, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports here.

It writes today:

Mr. Pasceri, in 2012, told Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson that he was frustrated with an $8,100 bill that his mother received after his father died from a heart attack. He sent copies of the bills to then-Sen. John F. Kerry and U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, he said, because he believed Medicare was being overcharged by hospitals. His mother, who said in 2012 that she was making payments to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, died in November.

The Boston Globe reports that Pasceri “‘had some issue’ with prior medical treatment of his mother at [Brigham and Women’s], said Superintendent Robert Merner, head of the Bureau of Investigative Services. Marguerite E. Pasceri died Nov. 15.”

The Globe also reports that Pasceri’s brother, Gregory, believes “something snapped” when Pasceri got new information recently about their mother’s death. She developed complications after surgery at the Brigham, he told the Globe.

That 2012 Telegram column by Dianne Williamson was headlined, “A Beloved Dad Passes, A Bill Lingers,” and includes this:

Some of the charges in the itemized bill from UMass include $1,928 for the emergency room; $645 for an echocardiogram; $1,462 for CPR; $454 for the doctor’s visit; and $2,149 for the ambulance ride up Belmont Street. As part of its Prompt Pay Discount Program, UMass offered to shave 20 percent from the bill if she paid it immediately, but Mrs. Pasceri lives off Social Security and was unable to take advantage of the offer. Continue reading

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A Look At Dr. Michael Davidson, The Surgeon Fatally Shot At The Brigham

A flag is lowered to half staff outside of Brigham and Women's Hospital Wednesday, a day after a cardiac surgeon there was fatally shot. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

A flag is lowered to half staff outside of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Wednesday, a day after a cardiac surgeon there was fatally shot. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Dr. Michael Davidson died late Tuesday after being shot two times inside Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The alleged shooter was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and has been identified by Boston police as Stephen Pasceri, 55, of Millbury.

As the investigation into the shooting continues, here’s a look at what we know about the surgeon: Continue reading

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Welcome, Attorney General Healey. What Are You Going To Do About Partners?

It’s swearing in day for Maura Healey, Attorney General. (Steven Senne/AP)

It’s swearing in day for Maura Healey, Attorney General. (Steven Senne/AP)

Maura Healey will inherit several thorny issues Wednesday as she becomes the next state attorney general. Near the top of her list: the agreement that would let Partners HealthCare acquire at least three more hospitals in exchange for some limits on price and staff increases.

During the campaign, Healey raised questions about whether the deal was enough, both in scope and in duration.

So now that she’s in charge, will she urge Judge Janet Sanders to approve the agreement, suggest changes, or start over? In an interview before her swearing-in, WBUR’s Bob Oakes put these questions to Healey. Here’s the sum total of her response:

This is a matter that I’m reviewing and being briefed on now. The perspective I come from, as attorney general, is to drive down health care costs. So I’m considering my options. Right now, the matter is before the court, as you say. There was a proposed consent judgement filed, and we’ll just have to see on that.

In short, stay tuned.

Sanders suggested back in November, at the last hearing on the Partners deal, that she’d like to speak to Healey before issuing a ruling. She may also be waiting for Partners to name a new CEO, a decision some sources expect in the next four or five weeks. Sanders could call the parties in for a status conference at any time. Healey and Partners have that option as well.

Who will make the next move? Any bets?

You can hear all of Bob’s conversation with the new AG here.

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In Wake Of Brigham And Women’s Shooting, A Look At Area Hospitals’ Safety Protocols

Police outside the Shapiro building at Brigham and Women's Hospital after Tuesday's shooting. (Steven Senne/AP)

Police outside the Shapiro building at Brigham and Women’s Hospital after Tuesday’s shooting. (Steven Senne/AP)

Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said it’ll review its safety measures and protocols Wednesday after the fatal shooting of a doctor there Tuesday. The doctor, Michael Davidson, 44, was pronounced dead late Tuesday.

Investigators say the gunman, identified by police as 55-year-old Stephen Pasceri, of Millbury, deliberately targeted Davidson. Police say Pasceri died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It’s the type of situation the hospital’s chief operating officer, Dr. Ron Walls, says all hospital staff have been carefully trained to address.

“There is no amount of preparation anyone can do that completely eliminates the prospect of this kind of tragic event happening,” Walls said. “But we do believe we have a responsibility, and we’re working hard to meet that responsibility to have all of our people completely prepared in the best way we can so that when something like this happens — if it happens, and whatever happens– our staff is able to respond.”

John Erwin, the executive director of the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, joins Morning Edition to discuss safety measures at area hospitals.

To hear the full interview with Erwin, click on the audio player above.

Related:

Doctor Shot At Brigham & Women’s Hospital Has Died

This post has been updated.

WBUR reports that the doctor shot at Brigham & Women’s Hospital yesterday has died:

A cardiac surgeon was shot inside Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital Tuesday and later succumbed to his injuries, police said, and the suspected shooter was found dead in an examination room from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Dr. Michael Davidson (Courtesy of Brigham and Women's Hospital)

“This evening, Dr. Michael J. Davidson, director of Endovascular Cardiac Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has tragically died as a result of the gunshot wounds he sustained this morning during the shooting event at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center,” the hospital said in a statement late Tuesday.

The 44-year-old from Wellesley was shot twice, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said in a midday news conference, before Davidson died.

“Dr. Davidson was a wonderful and inspiring cardiac surgeon who devoted his career to saving lives and improving the quality of life of every patient he cared for,” the hospital statement added. “It is truly devastating that his own life was taken in this horrible manner.”

A former Brigham & Women’s cardiologist who worked with Davidson often called him “a dynamic and energetic thought leader in cardiovascular medicine.”

Police are seen outside the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston Tuesday, where one person was shot. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Police are seen outside the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston Tuesday, where one person was shot. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Hospital employees had been well-drilled for this disturbing eventuality.

In November 2013 we reported that about 1,200 Brigham doctors, nurses and other staff viewed the hospital’s new “Active Shooter Preparedness Training” video, which offers a step-by-step guide on how to handle a hospital shooter, which in some cases is called a “Code Silver.” Continue reading

Appreciating The Nature In Your Medicine Cabinet

By James Morris
Guest contributor

One of the the most exciting aspects of the recent discovery of the new antibiotic teixobactic was the way scientists discovered it — and where.

The antibiotic comes from a bacterium that was found in a sample of soil from Maine. To uncover it, scientists used a new technique that allowed them to screen bacteria for antibiotics without growing them in culture, opening the door to finding newer, more potent and less resistant antibiotics in the future.

It’s worth noting that teixobactic is not the only antibiotic that comes from a bacterium. In fact, many of our antibiotics come from bacteria and other microbes, and many of our medicines come from nature. It’s one of the benefits of biodiversity.

Recently, I was teaching a class on biodiversity to college students. To get them thinking about how we benefit from species richness, I asked the class to name a couple of medicines that derive from nature.

I thought this would be an easy question. To my surprise, the class (of 250 students) was silent. This was unusual — I usually have more trouble keeping them quiet. Finally, after maybe 20 seconds (a long time in a large lecture hall), a hand shot up. “Marijuana!” one student proudly exclaimed.

I was taken aback. Not because weed was mentioned in a college classroom. And not because the student was incorrect — she was of course correct. Marijuana comes from the plant Cannabis and it has some useful medicinal properties, for example to treat nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy, and fatigue, appetite loss and pain associated with AIDS. There is continued debate over its use, but that’s not the point.

The point is that while the class was hard-pressed to come up with more than one medicine derived from nature, the reality is just the opposite: It’s difficult to think of a medicine that doesn’t ultimately come from nature.

If apples and carrots are nature’s toothbrush, grapes are nature’s jellybeans, and raisins are nature’s candy, then certainly plants, animals, fungi, and microbes are nature’s medicine cabinet.

Perhaps the most famous example is penicillin. Continue reading

That Extra Slice: Study Finds When Kids Eat Pizza, They Eat More Calories

Pizza birthday party (Flickr Creative Commons)

Pizza birthday party (Flickr Creative Commons)

By Alvin Tran
Guest contributor

Parents, if you want to prevent your kids from eating too many extra calories, you might want to think twice about letting them have that “just one more” slice of chewy dough, tangy tomato sauce and glistening melted cheese.

In a new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that pizza contributed to children and adolescents consuming more calories, saturated fat, and sodium in their usual diet.

“They’re taking in substantially more nutrients we really want to be thinking about limiting,” said Lisa Powell, PhD, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor of health policy and administration and the study’s lead author.

Powell’s study, which analyzed 24-hour dietary recalls of more than 12,000 kids over a 7-year period, found that children between the ages of 2 and 11 consumed an extra 84 calories on the days they ate pizza, while adolescents consumed an extra 230 calories.

It’s not a good idea to eat pizza as a snack.
– Lisa Powell, PhD

They also consumed significantly more sodium and saturated fat, which nutrition and health experts often dub the “bad fat.”

There is a silver lining, however. Children’s overall caloric intake from pizza declined by 25 percent over the course of the study. The study’s adolescent population, which ranged from ages 12 and 19, also demonstrated similar trends: its caloric intake from pizza fell by 22 percent.

But while the number of calories that adolescents consumed dropped, their overall consumption, on average, did not significantly change over the course of the study. According to Powell and her co-authors, this may be due to a slight increase in pizza consumption.

“The average adolescent takes in 620 calories of pizza. By showing that they consume this extra 230 calories, that means that on days they consume pizza, they’re not adequately adjusting the caloric intake and other things they take in that day,” Powell said. “They may be eating pizza but they’re having this additional 230 calories that they’re taking in.”


Overall, pizza consumption remained highly prevalent across both groups. In 2009 to 2010, 20 percent of children and 23 percent of adolescents consumed pizza on a given day.

Powell and her colleagues also found that consuming pizza as a snack or from fast-food restaurants were the two greatest culprits influencing both children and adolescents’ overall daily calorie intake.

“It’s not a good idea to eat pizza as a snack. That’s one thing that teens and parents should keep in mind,” Powell said. Continue reading

White Coats For Black Lives: Toward Racial Equality In Health Care

Kaitlyn Veto/flickr

Kaitlyn Veto/flickr

Acknowledging the public health impact of racism and deep disparities in the quality and accessibility of medical care for patients of color, a national organization, White Coats for Black Lives, says it’s launching a new effort today, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dorothy Charles, one of the group’s organizers and a first year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, offers some context in an email:

Racism profoundly impacts people of color: the black-white mortality gap in 2002, for example, accounted for 83,570 excess deaths. As future physicians, we are responsible for addressing the perpetuation of racism by medical institutions and seek policy change to eliminate disparities in outcomes.

Here’s a statement from the White Coats for Black Lives National Steering Committee:

Upon matriculating in medical school, students recite the Hippocratic Oath, declaring their commitment to promoting the health and well-being of their communities. On December 10, 2014, students from over 80 medical schools across the United States acted in the spirit of that oath as we participated in a “die in” to protest racism and police brutality. In our action, we called attention to grim facts about the public health consequences of racism, acknowledged the complicity of the medical profession in sustaining racial inequality, and challenged a system of medical care that denies necessary treatment to patients unable to pay for it, disproportionately patients of color.

Today, in celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we announce the founding of a national medical student organization, White Coats for Black Lives. This organization brings together medical students from across the country to pursue three primary goals:


1. To eliminate racism as a public health hazard

Racism has a devastating impact on the health and well-being of people of color. Tremendous disparities in housing, education, and job opportunities cut short the average Black life by four years. Physicians, physician organizations, and medical institutions must therefore publicly recognize and fight against the significant adverse effects of racism on public health. We additionally advocate for increased funding and promotion of research on the health effects of racism.

2. To end racial discrimination in medical care

We recognize that insurance status serves in our healthcare system as a “colorblind” means of racial discrimination. While it is illegal to turn patients away from a hospital or practice because of their race, patients across the country are frequently denied care because they have public insurance or lack health insurance. We support the creation of a single payer national health insurance system that would give all Americans equal access to the healthcare they need. Such a system would create a payment structure that reflects the fact that “Black lives matter.” Moreover, ample evidence suggests that patients of color receive inferior care even when they are able to see a doctor or nurse; we therefore advocate for the allocation of funding for research on unconscious bias and racism in the delivery of medical care. Continue reading

Trying To Turn Up Heat On Health Cost Control In Mass.

Updated Jan. 17, 2015, 4:15 p.m.

BOSTON — In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to set a goal to cut health care spending.

In 2013, the state beat the goal. Spending grew 2.3 percent, well below the gross state product (GSP), 3.6 percent.

Now, at the start of 2015, the state’s largest employer group says good, time to set a more aggressive goal.

We should “congratulate ourselves for being successful in year one,” says Rick Lord, president and CEO at Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and “set a target that’s more aggressive.”

AIM is backing legislation filed by House Minority Leader Brad Jones that would lower the benchmark from straight GSP to GSP minus 2 points starting next year and continuing through 2022. After that, the cap would go back to even with GSP.

Continue reading