The name “Blum” is familiar to many Massachusetts General Hospital patients and families, thanks to sisters Betty Ann Blum and Marjorie Blum, who have made gifts in memory of their parents to name spaces throughout campus: the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center, Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room and the Maxwell and Eleanor Blum Floors in the Lunder and Yawkey Buildings. Continuing that tradition, the Blums recently made a gift to support multiple hospital priorities, including within the new Phillip and Susan Ragon Building, naming the prominent Maxwell and Eleanor Blum Grand Stair in the ground-floor arcade, which will serve as the foyer to the new front door of Mass General’s campus. Betty Ann Blum shares more about the inspiration for this latest gift.
My parents taught me everything I know about philanthropy, and this gift was motivated by a desire to honor them and the contributions they made to the Mass General community.
Early in my career in the fashion industry, I was living overseas. My whole life was work at that point. When I called home and spoke to my parents, I slowly noticed that they were getting more and more involved at Mass General. A big part of that was the relationships they were building with their caregivers, particularly their primary care doctor, Christopher Coley, MD. My father was self-made and had a deep appreciation for people and the work they do. He treated his doctors like friends, and I think they appreciated that. Whenever I took him to an appointment, I’d see how they lit up when he entered the room.
In 1998, my parents founded the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center. A year later, I came home for the first anniversary, and saw first-hand the impact it was having. To that point, philanthropy meant buying a table at an event. But this was so much more, and I started to see how we could make a difference on a larger scale.
From there, I started looking closely at Mass General and what it was trying to accomplish — and time and time again, I was blown away at what I learned. I was blown away when I heard Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH, speak about the difference that the Division of Palliative Care was having for patients and families. I was blown away when I heard Debbie Burke, RN, DNP, MBA, NEA-BC, speak about the power of Nursing and Patient Care Services. I was blown away when I heard Dr. Coley speak about the importance of rural health.
My father died suddenly in 2003. Afterward, my mother and sister and I started doing things in his name, as a way of saying thank you. In Judaism, we have a phrase ‘tikkun olam’ which means ‘repairing the world.’ It’s the idea that we all have a responsibility to give back, to try to do something good, even if it hurts. And my parents believed strongly in that, and my sister and I try to live by it as well.
I’m a dreamer. In the fashion industry, we were always coming up with new ideas, new solutions, new possibilities for the next season. Sometimes the ideas worked, and sometimes they didn’t, and sometimes we needed help to make those dreams come true. That’s how I see this latest gift — we’re helping Mass General realize a dream. We are proud to be a part of this new building, the excitement, what it will mean for the neighborhood — and having our parents’ names featured in such a public way will mean so much.