Dr. Lindsey Grossman likes happy endings. And as a pediatrician, she’s thankful that she’s been able to experience more of them every year.
“When I was in training, the majority of pediatric care was done in the hospital, for serious illness. Many children died with cancer, with premature births, with serious infectious diseases,” said Grossman, the new chair of Pediatrics at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
“For example, in the 1970s, in a unit like the one at Baystate, there was rarely a day when a child wasn’t admitted with bacterial meningitis — and many of those children died, and of those who didn’t most went on to have serious disabilities. Now, bacterial meningitis is almost gone because of immunizations.”
It’s the same for heart disorders, cancer, renal failure, and any number of other issues that affect children: in almost all cases, children with chronic illnesses are surviving into adulthood — often with complications, but very much alive.
“That’s wonderful, and it’s even more rewarding to get positive results when you don’t expect them,” said Grossman. “Kids have an enormous resiliency that we lose when we get to adulthood, in all kinds of ways — physically, psychologically, and emotionally. I can’t imagine doing what adult doctors do; to me, this is so much fun — challenging, but so much more rewarding.”
In this special pediatric section of The Healthcare News, Grossman tells why she came to Baystate more than three decades after seeking a job there, and just what her wide-ranging role entails.
Grossman is no stranger to Massachusetts, having earned her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine before completing a residency in pediatrics at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, where she spent the past five years in various pediatric leadership roles.
At Baystate, she succeeds Dr. Edward Reiter, who served as Baystate’s pediatric chair for more than 25 years before stepping down to devote more time to his pediatric endocrinology practice in the Children’s Hospital.
Reiter was a familiar name to Grossman, who has long kept tabs on Baystate, a hospital she had admired since first applying for a job there about 35 years ago. “At that time, there wasn’t a position for both myself and my husband,” she told The Healthcare News. “But we were both intrigued with the place. When I saw this position open here, I said, ‘what the heck?’
“The more I learned about the marvelous work here under the direction of Dr. Reiter and his people, the more sure I felt about coming here. At this point, I just feel very fortunate to be a part of this place.”
Grossman’s job encompasses leading the Children’s Hospital, coordinating pediatric clinical care at Baystate, and speaking for children and children’s issue on a vice-presidential level for the institution, as well as teaching medical students and residents about pediatric care and research.
But her role extends well beyond the main Baystate campus. The health system also provides pediatric services at its 3300 Main Street medical complex and the neighboring D’Amour Center for Cancer Care, as well as the High Street Health Center, all in Springfield.
Baystate pediatricians also work in practices around Western Mass. and in locations such as schools and even the prison system, treating adolescents who are incarcerated, she said. “The Children’s Hospital isn’t limited to one building on Chestnut Street, that’s for sure.”
The University of Maryland Hospital, like Baystate, houses a specialized children’s hospital within the main institution, but Grossman said it isn’t as well-organized, well-conceived, or well-developed as the Springfield program.
“We have something at Baystate called the ‘Spirit of the Child,’ which sets out some guiding principles of a children’s hospital that allow us to view it as a dynamic mix of things rather than just a single place,” she said.
That emphasis has included soliciting input from children and families about what the patient experience should be like, and creating the position of ‘experience guide’ to help patients and parents navigate their stay in the hospital — typically a high-anxiety time for everyone.
“It’s defined by our view of families being central in the care of children and our role in assisting them in caring for their kids,” she said.
That speaks to another major shift in pediatric care, and that’s where children are treated for diseases, with more recovery occurring at home than in past generations.
“Most of it is outpatient,” Grossman said. “We don’t believe it’s good for children to be in hospitals all the time; they belong in the community, with families caring for them. But these are very serious things for families to face, so we have to coordinate that care. Pediatricians have to be really involved and keep their eye on the ball, looking at what’s best for the kids.”
Living and Breathing
Grossman’s experiences have been broad to say the least; at the University of Maryland Hospital, she also served as associate chair for Community and Government Affairs, director of Ambulatory Programs, chief of the Subspecialty Consortium, founder and director of the Children with Special Needs Program, and assistant residency program director in the Department of Pediatrics.
“More importantly, I ran the program for children with chronic health conditions, helping families to coordinate their cases,” she said. “I got to do some rather diverse things.”
Prior to that, she served in pediatric leadership roles with the Medical College of Virginia of Virginia Commonwealth University and the Ohio State University College of Medicine.
And through it all, she has continued to promote the idea, as pediatricians like to say, that children are not little adults.
“The care of a child is different, even with the same diagnosis,” Grossman said. “The disease may have the same name, but it often tends to look very different in adults than children. And with children, you have the added challenge of treating a disease while maintaining normal growth and development.”
Meeting that challenge has brought her much satisfaction, however, especially as those aforementioned long-term survival rates of children with serious diseases have dramatically improved throughout her career.
“It’s rare that we’re not able to save the life of a child, and now the challenge is to improve their life so they can achieve as much as they possibly can,” she said — a task she’s happy to take on for the young people of Greater Springfield.
“Western Mass. is extremely fortunate to have this resource for children,” Grossman said. “I feel very fortunate to do what I do. Working in this environment with the marvelous people I work with is just terrific.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in the community,” she added. “Kids are our most important asset, and any little bit of time or few dollars put into caring for a child is worth it many, many times over further down the road.”