Miriam Hospital Women’s Association looks back – and forward – at annual meeting

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SEEKONK, Mass. – The Miriam Hospital Women’s Association’s 124th Annual Meeting, Installation and 36th Annual Recognition Award presentation took place at Ledgemont Country Club on June 2. The hybrid event was designed to meet everyone’s comfort level: Seating was offered inside or outdoors, and there was a virtual option too.

President Barbara Horovitz Brown began the business portion of the meeting by calling for a vote on the revised bylaws, which passed unanimously. Although the bylaws committee updated many provisions, The Miriam Hospital Women’s Association’s purpose remains essentially the same. The association was formed and operates for philanthropic purposes that promote:

  • The physical and psychological well-being of patients
  • The safety, efficiency and convenience of the medical staff and employees
  • Community outreach, education and public interest in The Miriam Hospital and its relationship with the community
  • Participation in volunteer activities and contributions that sustain and encourage improvement in the quality health-care services that The Miriam offers its patients and the community.

Brown then thanked all who attended, whether virtually or in person, including The Miriam’s president, Maria Ducharme.

In reviewing this past year, Brown noted the extraordinary efforts required to present not only the usual two programs, but three programs during the pandemic. The first program featured political analyst Wendy Schiller speaking about the 2020 election; the second featured Dr. Ernestine Jennings and Dr. Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, both from the Center for Behavioral and Preventative Medicine at the hospital, and focused on mental health, stress and anxiety during the pandemic; and the third featured Lifespan dermatologists Dr. Lynn Iler, Dr. Paula Moskowitz and Dr. Julia Baltz speaking on “Skin Care Myths and Realities.”

The annual Equipped for Exceptional Care event focused exclusively on COVID-19, due to the compelling need. The association’s board also voted to approve up to $25,000 for the hospital to purchase electrostatic sprayers and air scrubber/HEPA filtration systems, and donated to the Emergency Preparedness Fund and the Arthur Sampson Endowed Fund.

After a vote, the following officers were installed: president, Barbara Horovitz Brown; vice president program development, Robin Kaufmann; co-vice presidents of membership, Marilyn Myrow and Judy Siegel; co-vice presidents Equipped for Exceptional Care, Barbara Kahn and Nancy Riffle; treasurer, Marianne Litwin; corresponding secretary, Sue Enzer; and recording secretary, Mary Gagnon.

Presidential Appointees for 2021 are Lisa Sack, Jill Smith and Karen Wargo. Newly elected Board members for 2021-2023 are Jessica Brier, Paula Cofone, Lori Elias, Barbara Mer, Judith Monzack, Cynthia Schwartz, Amy Simmons, Karen Trinkle and Debra Zuckerman.

Board members serving until May 2022 include Robin Ansell, Dr. Marlene Cuititar, Mary Ferreira, Cory Fink, Caryl Freedman, Roxanne Gordon, Rosemary Khosrovani, Robin Halpren-Ruder, Rosina Volpicella and Bobbie Wallick.

Sarah Mack, senior rabbi at Temple Beth-El, in Providence, gave a talk about the week’s parashah, which tells how representatives from each of the 12 tribes were chosen to scout out the land of Canaan.

The scouts returned after 40 days to report that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, but that the inhabitants were powerful and the cities were fortified. The majority of the spies offered a report that distorted the details (aka “fake news”), making it sound scary and frightening the Israelites. Only Joshua and Caleb reported the details honestly, and told the Israelites not to fear, that God was with them.

One rabbi pointed out that Moses had encouraged them to investigate Canaan, and to trust that they could overcome the challenges. But instead, the majority of the emissaries, overwhelmed by distrust and panic, saw only the lowly, limited perspective.

We have the same choice, Mack said. We can take the long view, knowing that the future is bright with possibility, or we can choose to be bogged down in the suspicion and despair that comes from seeing only what is in front of us in the moment.

Rabbi Mack, in honoring and celebrating the leaders who will guide the association in the year to come, encouraged participants to choose the perspective of Joshua and Caleb: envisioning possibilities, rather than limitations, taking The Miriam Hospital Women’s Association from strength to strength.

The association then honored Judy Siegel with the 36th annual Recognition Award, for her  volunteer work, first at Hasbro Children’s Hospital (taking over her mother’s position at the welcome desk there) and then at the Fain Surgical Center at The Miriam, where she continued to offer a sense of security and calm to incoming patients.

Ducharme, The Miriam’s president, Then spoke of the challenges that the hospital faced starting on Feb. 29, 2020, when the first COVID-19 patient was admitted.

As virus patients grew to occupy nearly a third of The Miriam’s total capacity, elective  procedures were canceled, having a large impact on the hospital’s finances. Fortunately, both state and federal relief funds helped mitigate the financial distress, Ducharme said.

But even during the global crisis, The Miriam garnered awards, including its sixth Magnet designation.

The Miriam continues to move ahead with renovations, including expanding the emergency room and the retail pharmacy (which will take the space of the gift shop). The gift shop remains closed for now.

“Rebuilding will be critical to our future,” Ducharme said. “I don’t mean rebuilding our buildings alone, but rather rebuilding our people to remain resilient and find the deep and rewarding meaning in their work. … The Miriam’s uniqueness stems from its people, but also its history and its traditions.”

Ducharme thanked the association for being an enormous part of that history and the traditions, and for its unwavering support of the hospital and its staff.

The association’s first program in the fall, on Oct. 27, will feature writer Ann Hood and her husband, Michael Rhulman, speaking in person about “Food, Life and Love.”

The association welcomes new members. For information or to join, contact Vickie Scott at 401-793-2520.

BARBARA BROWN is the president of The Miriam Hospital Women’s Association.