Maggie Sheehy, MD, MSc, doesn’t have much free time to train for the 2018 Boston Marathon.
Her schedule as an emergency physician and a Global Health Innovations and Leadership Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital keeps her busy. Dr. Sheehy alternates clinical work in the Mass General Emergency Department with coursework toward a master’s degree in public health at Harvard University. On top of that, she travels the globe for sustainable development projects, including a recent trip to Puerto Rico to help victims of Hurricane Maria.
Still, despite the constant pace of work keeping her from logging sufficient training miles, Dr. Sheehy can’t wait to run as a member of Mass General’s Emergency Response Marathon Team. The team raises money to support the hospital’s emergency care and disaster relief and preparedness efforts. Dr. Sheehy can attest to the value of those services.
Preparing for Disaster
“At Mass General, we take emergency planning very seriously,” Dr. Sheehy says. “Preparing for the next disaster takes much training and practice.” Because such training is not covered by insurance, donors’ financial support helps Dr. Sheehy and other emergency response team members stay fully prepared for the next disaster.
Dr. Sheehy, 32, envisions a career in medical education, with the aim of furthering global emergency medicine and response.
She saw the rewards of helping a calamity-stricken populace when she and 25 other Mass General medical professionals flew to Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria. In all, more than 50 disaster response professionals from Mass General and Partners HealthCare provided assistance to residents of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas after the series of hurricanes that struck the U.S. and its territories in 2017.
Puerto Rico Response
Dr. Sheehy and her fellow responders worked at a medical shelter in Ponce, a coastal city in south Puerto Rico. They assumed responsibility for 22 displaced senior citizens who needed basic care. The senior citizens couldn’t yet return home, and lacked the financial means to seek refuge on the U.S. mainland, as many residents did.
“I’m proud to be able to give back to a hospital that has given so much to me.”
“They were people kind of in the middle,” Dr. Sheehy recalls. “They didn’t have to be in a hospital or nursing home, but all the resources they depend on – groceries, gas, some medicine – were gone. Our job was to connect them with resources in the community and get them home.”
For 16 days, the Mass General responders took care of the displaced while working closely with non-governmental organizations to find them places to live. The responders had to ensure the seniors would return to clean homes with working appliances, as well as have money to purchase the gasoline needed to run power generators. Ultimately, most of the displaced went back to restored homes.
“It was a good reminder that, after a disaster, it’s not just the acute injuries and devastation that need attention. It’s also an ongoing disaster for the most vulnerable residents who don’t have help,” Dr. Sheehy says. “What we really found was we could provide what they needed and bring them as much as joy and dignity as possible.”
Running Before Heading Home
A year into her fellowship at Mass General, Dr. Sheehy is impressed by the professionalism and skills of the Emergency Department’s doctors, nurses and staffers. She’s equally amazed by the hospital’s deep well of resources, including its social workers and addiction counselors. Everyone works together to provide acute care and help patients with long-term issues like drug and alcohol addiction, she says.
When her fellowship ends this year, Dr. Sheehy, her husband and their one-year-old daughter will return to their home state of Nebraska. She will work there as an emergency physician.
Dr. Sheehy “grew up in what some people would call the middle of nowhere,” she says of her hometown, Hastings. The land is flat, and she hasn’t consistently run on hills like those found on the Boston Marathon route. Her last marathon was 10 years ago, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Despite only being able to train infrequently for the 2018 Boston Marathon, she says she will be fueled by enthusiasm when the starter’s gun sounds.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to run Boston,” she says. “I’m proud to be able to give back to a hospital that has given so much to me.”
John Hancock-Mass General Marathon Partnership is Powerful Source of Support
For 21 years, John Hancock’s partnership with the Mass General Marathon Program has been a powerful source of support for hospital programs. John Hancock provides Mass General runners with invitational entries for the race.
Mass General’s Pediatric Oncology Team has raised more than $13.4 million since it was formed in 1998. Funds from this team’s runners support research and child life activities for children with cancer. In 2014, the Boston Athletic Association awarded Mass General additional entries to create the Emergency Response Team. Today, thanks to John Hancock, Mass General maintains 40 entries for runners on our Emergency Response Team. This effort honored the lifesaving response of hospital personnel following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Since its launch, that team has raised more than $1.4 million for the hospital’s emergency preparedness and disaster training.
In addition to these teams, runners who obtained their own entries for the Boston Marathon will run for the Run for MGH team, which raises funds for Mass General programs close to their hearts. Programs being represented by 2018 runners include The Cancer Center, Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome, The Lurie Center and the Mootha Lab.
To learn more about the Mass General Boston Marathon Program, please visit our website.