McLean Volunteers Receive HMS Dean’s Community Service Award

May 24, 2022

The McLean Hospital collaboration with the Outreach Program with Indian Health Service, and with the mental health providers who volunteered their services at the Northern Navajo Medical Center (NNMC) in Shiprock, New Mexico during the peak of the pandemic, were awarded the 2022 Harvard Medical School Dean’s Community Service Award.

McLean’s Shelly F. Greenfield, MD, MPH, and Christopher M. Palmer, MD, accepted the honor on behalf of the team on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

“I can’t say enough about the remarkable people who work at NNMC. The opportunity to provide support and contribute in this way to this community is truly a privilege,” Greenfield said.

With strong commitment from McLean leadership, this group of providers donated their time and expertise during an onslaught of COVID-related illnesses and deaths that threatened to emotionally overwhelm the caregivers and frontline and support staffs of the Navajo Nation in rural New Mexico. In addition, several volunteers were able to support peers in the Chinle Comprehensive Healthcare Facility in Chile, Arizona, on-site and virtually.

“It was an honor for me to nominate this group of dedicated, skilled and compassionate professionals for this year’s Community Service Award,” said Ellen Bell, MBA, MPH, senior project manager for the Outreach Program with Indian Health Service. “These volunteers truly made a difference in the lives of the Shiprock community.”

Family practices social distancing outside

Compounding COVID-19’s devastating impact on this small and tightknit Native American community was a severe lack of mental health supports.

“The McLean volunteers were extremely flexible and willing to create a mental health support program from scratch, arriving ready to hit the ground running with immense empathy, extraordinary skill sets, and willingness to help,” said Bell. “Their unquestioning eagerness to do whatever was asked of them was an important factor to the success of the program.”

Over 10 months, the team provided comprehensive mental health services to their colleagues, including over 365 individual support sessions, 130 separate training sessions for disciplines such as nursing and medicine, more than 100 group debriefs and counseling to frontline and support staff, 13 continuing education Grand Rounds lectures, group meditation and expressive therapy sessions, and group sessions for Navajo Nation emergency medical services (EMS) teams who experienced significant trauma and loss.

The McLean volunteers also organized provider wellness teams to work on capacity building for future caregiver wellness activities.

The HMS Dean’s 2022 Community Service Award recognizes McLean Hospital and the following employees and staff members who contributed to this effort in 2021:

Volunteers not named here have continued this peer support in 2022.

The volunteer opportunities for McLean providers to support Navajo nation colleagues is ongoing. McLean employees interested in learning how to apply to volunteer, please contact Dr. Chris Palmer.

Learn more about McLean’s peer support program at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in the wake of COVID-19. Watch Now!

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