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Donor Story

Dedicating This One to the Nurses

Hematology-oncology physician, Gaby Hobbs, MD, is running the 2021 Boston Marathon to raise money for a nurse-led organization that lifted patients’ spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dedicating This One to the Nurses

Gaby Hobbs, MD, clinical director of the Leukemia Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, is running the 125th BAA Boston Marathon® on Oct. 11, 2021 to honor the nurses who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

To show her admiration and gratitude, Dr. Hobbs is raising money for Caring For A Cure, a program founded by nurses in Adult Hematology/Oncology and in the Bone Marrow Transplant program at Mass General. Caring For A Cure helps improve the journey of patients and families with cancer through research, resources and awareness. From filling empty fridges and bridging gaps in rent, to providing an emotional boost and celebrating special occasions, Caring For A Cure nurses help patients and families navigate a difficult time in their lives.

A Friend at the Bedside

In March 2020, Mass General and hospitals across the United States restricted visitors in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Hobbs saw how tough it was for patients living with cancer to be hospitalized alone, without their loved ones at their bedsides.

“It was really difficult to witness that degree of suffering,” Dr. Hobbs says, adding that some leukemia patients spent a month in the hospital with no visitors. “But I was humbled and impressed by the nurses and their ability to stay committed and take care of everyone.”

As a physician who speaks Spanish, during the pandemic, Dr. Hobbs became involved with Mass General’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion to help relieve demands placed on the hospital’s interpreter service.

During the pandemic, nurses became even more important to their patients. They arrived to their shifts smiling and encouraging both patients and colleagues, Dr. Hobbs says. Caring For A Cure continued to provide financial support for groceries, transportation and bills. And the nurses had new, comfy blankets for patients, a welcome luxury when away from home.

Mass General’s primary nursing model also helped ease some of the loneliness and suffering; the model ensures that the same two or three nurses care for a patient every time the patient comes to the hospital.

Patients get to know their nurses well, which helps with morale, Dr. Hobbs explains. The nurses are advocates for patients and communicate with physicians when their patients need medical attention or a different type of relief, such as an outdoor walk or music or art therapy.

And throughout the pandemic the nurses also never failed to also check in on Dr. Hobbs to see how she was adjusting to working the night shifts and caring for COVID-19 patients.

Supporting Colleagues

As a physician who speaks Spanish, during the pandemic, Dr. Hobbs became involved with Mass General’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion to help relieve demands placed on the hospital’s interpreter service.

“I am really feeling excited to be able to run in person … running has become such an important part of my existence.”

Dr. Hobbs would visit COVID-19 patients in the ICU who only spoke Spanish. She would explain consent forms for bloodwork and why doctors needed to insert a tube into their throat to help with breathing. “In Spanish — a language that the patient found comfort in — I could say, ‘I hear you. I understand you. I’m going to answer your questions, and I need to talk to your family members to make sure that they also know what’s going on.’ For me, that was a powerful way to help in heartbreaking situations.”

Going the Distance

Growing up, Dr. Hobbs ran hurdles in track and field. Recently, she has found solace in longer distances.

In 2020, Dr. Hobbs began running on weekends with Amy Comander, MD, a veteran marathon runner and co-director of the Mass General Cancer Center in Waltham, and another physician friend. All three women have young children and demanding schedules, and running “became like a sanity time for us,” Dr. Hobbs says.

After running the virtual marathon last year, Dr. Hobbs plans to be at the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, in person on Oct. 11. Her husband, Brian, and children, Lily, 6, and Daniel, 4, will cheer her on.

Her fundraising goal of $10,000 was supported by Incyte, a biopharmaceutical company which contributed through Mass General’s charitable giving program. Incyte developed the first drug approved for myelofibrosis, a rare chronic leukemia that Dr. Hobbs treats and researches. Dr. Hobbs’ patients, colleagues and friends have also donated to her effort.

“I am really feeling excited to be able to run in person,” she says, adding, “I don’t have a goal time. I want to feel good doing it and be healthy afterwards — because, hopefully, I’ll be able to run in the next marathon, too. Running has become such an important part of my existence.”

Click here to donate to Dr. Hobb’s marathon fundraising effort in support of Caring For A Cure.

Gaby Hobbs, MD (pictured left) has spent weekends training for the marathon with her friend Amy Comander, MD. Photo by Andrew Yee, MD.

by
Jennifer Nejman Bohonak
October 6, 2021