John B. Chessare, MD, MPH
and Heidi Kenny-Berman, Esq.
It is our privilege to share with you GBMC HealthCare Philanthropy’s 2021 Annual Report. In these pages, we hope you will learn more about a healthcare system that is innovative, resilient, and committed to serving the health and wellness needs of everyone in our community.
As we approach the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reflect on a year full of progress and great hope as vaccinations led us out of the worst days of the pandemic. Despite a new surge and hospitalization numbers that have stretched the limits of our facilities and our staff, we have persevered with innovative thinking and effective messaging to serve the community. Through weekly COVID updates, webinars, town hall sessions, and social media alerts, GBMC has continued to share the latest information and answer your important questions. We are particularly proud to have prioritized our work at GBMC Health Partners Primary Care — Jonestown to bolster vaccine administration and COVID-19 testing for Baltimore City residents, in addition to creating a dedicated COVID-19 testing site on our main Towson campus.
Extending our important work in Baltimore City, we celebrated the grand opening of Gilchrist Center Baltimore in September. This tremendous milestone continues Gilchrist’s 30 years of service at the Joseph Richey House, providing compassionate end- of-life care to children, adults, and underserved Baltimore City residents.
September brought another significant milestone as we officially broke ground on The Promise Project. The quiet phase of fundraising concluded with 80% of our $50 million goal attained, bringing us to the public phase of fundraising for the new Inpatient Facility and the Sandra R. Berman Pavilion. It was a profoundly meaningful occasion for us to thank you, our generous donors, for your incredible support and to celebrate the historic transformation that lies ahead for GBMC.
Despite many challenges in the past year, we have been tremendously grateful to our dedicated employees and wonderful volunteers for their daily work to deliver the care we would want for our own loved ones. Honoring the sacrifices of our entire workforce, our community has remained steady in its outstanding support of the HealthCare Workers Fund. These generous gifts have been used to directly support GBMC staff during trying times, and we could not be more thankful.
To everyone listed in these pages – and to so many others who contribute to GBMC’s future in countless ways – thank you. Our promise to the community is more important than ever, and you make our success possible through your generosity and support.
As an avid philanthropic supporter of many GBMC programs as well as a
leader who has served on GBMC’s Board of Directors for more than 10 years, Sandy Berman is invested ingrowing the vision of GBMC – to care for patients as if they were our own loved ones.
Because for her, it is her loved ones.
In early 2021, GBMC announced a transformational lead gift Sandy and her husband, Malcolm, made to
GBMC as part of The Promise Project. The Sandra R. Berman Pavilion, a two-story, 70,000-square foot building will provide a
more convenient experience for cancer patients at GBMC, allowing them to see all their providers in one place.
But the breadth of the Bermans’ commitment does not end there. In December 2021, they made a second transformational gift to another cornerstone program for GBMC: advanced primary care.
The Sandra R. Berman Medical Office Building will house a newly remodeled Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) in Owings Mills. The GBMC Health Partners Owings Mills practice will expand services to thousands of new patients, drawing from not only Owings Mills
but also Pikesville, Randallstown, Reisterstown, and Westminster where there is a lack of quality primary care.
Advanced primary care is a fundamental building block of the GBMC HealthCare System, and GBMC is grateful the Bermans embraced the strategic vision to expand the PCMH model and invest in keeping their community well.
Advanced primary care makes a commitment to be accountable for a patient’s health with them. Through an innovative, team-based approach in GBMC Health Partners practices aimed at keeping the community well, it’s not about the number of visits. It’s about relationships.
For many, that means knowing there is a physician who understands their unique needs and history. GBMC Health Partners is committed to reflecting the diversity of its surrounding communities with a diverse medical staff. For the Owings Mills practice, that includes providers who are African-American, Indian, and of the Jewish faith, all of whom can provide cultural understanding and a level of comfort for patients of similar backgrounds.
“Malcolm and I, as well as our family, have been the recipients of excellent, personalized, and attentive care at GBMC,” Sandy said. “We wanted to make sure everyone in the community where we live has the same opportunity to experience that kind of healthcare as well.”
“The Bermans have taken an incredible interest in the world of keeping people well,” Elie N. Miller, MD, Family Medicine, GBMC Health Partners Owings Mills, said. “As medicine becomes more complex, having a single doctor who knows you well, whom you can trust to guide your healthcare, becomes more important every day.”
Sandy Berman knows all too well the importance of having a trusted doctor and medical team who can see patients and families through health challenges. In watching numerous friends and family members go through a cancer journey at GBMC, her respect for the team, gratitude for positive outcomes, and support of services only grew stronger with time. Except there was one thing that wouldn’t leave her mind.
“I wanted all of the oncology programs to be housed in one building,” Sandy said. “This was my goal. I just found it too difficult for somebody who has cancer and is going through that journey to walk from one building to another.”
Sandy’s thoughtfulness and foresight redesigns a space to support all aspects of a patient’s journey with cancer and gives members of the care team the opportunity to advance their vision of providing the most effective and coordinated multidisciplinary cancer care.
“I cannot give enough words of gratitude to Sandy Berman, Malcolm Berman and the entire Berman family. Their support has been long and deep,” said Paul Celano, MD, FACP, FASCO, Herman and Walter Samuelson Medical Director of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute. “It really was Sandy Berman’s determination and steadfastness to see this building to fruition. She remained undeterred and completely committed.”
Sandy’s insight and determination are truly redesigning spaces to provide the care she wants for her loved ones and the kind of care
she feels others in the community deserve. Oncology and advanced primary care are hallmark programs at GBMC with incredible talent and care on the medical teams. The Bermans’ robust and gracious gifts elevate that care for the community for years to come.
Don and Ingrid Obrecht Extend Gratitude
for Dr. Ari Elman’s Exceptional Care
When people talk about philanthropy, they often refer to it with the phrase “giving back.” This particular phrasing would assume a person is giving to an organization because they felt they received something first. And while that’s not always true, for Donald F. Obrecht Jr. (Don), it absolutely is.
“If that Emergency Room doctor had not referred me to Dr. Elman, I don’t know where I would be right now,” Don said.
Dr. Ari Elman, a medical oncologist in the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, has been treating Don for chronic leukemia since 2018. In 2021, Don and his wife, Ingrid, made a donation to the Berman Cancer Institute through his family foundation, The Carolyn S. and Donald F. Obrecht Foundation, in gratitude for the genuine, skilled, and personable care he continues to receive from Dr. Elman.
Ingrid was born and raised in Riderwood, a stone’s throw from GBMC’s campus, and both of Don’s parents have a long family history in Baltimore. His grandfather on his father’s side manufactured cigars and sold them wholesale, while his father, Donald F. Sr., established a successful career as a builder and developer in partnership with James and Joe Keelty.
Don’s mother, Carolyn, is the great-granddaughter of the German-born founders of the Schmidt Baking Co. She was known to collect antiques, including Faberge eggs, and, in 1970, her crab imperial recipe was featured by The New York Times food critic, Craig Claiborne. Over the years, the Obrecht Foundation has given more than $100,000 to Gilchrist and GBMC.
“My parents were not very open and forthright about their philanthropic priorities,” Don said. “In the back of my head, I always knew there was a relationship with GBMC, but it wasn’t until I got to experience and develop my relationship with Dr. Elman that GBMC became a home for me.
“When my mother passed away five years ago, she and my late father who predeceased her in 2000 left us the gift of philanthropy, the family foundation, which allows us to make a difference in the areas that are important to us. For Ingrid and I, the first thing that came to our thoughts was to do something for Dr. Elman.”
In December 2018, Don wasn’t feeling well, and after a few hours, he and Ingrid decided it was time to pay GBMC a visit. In the Emergency Department, the medical team was able to eliminate a heart issue as the cause but did identify a cancer.
“In the short amount of time we had to digest the diagnosis to the time we saw Dr. Elman, it was hell,” Don recalled. “Being in his office and hearing him say, ‘You have cancer but it’s manageable’ just took the stress and brought it back down to earth, and it’s been that way ever since.”
Don worked in education his entire career. First, in Chattanooga, TN, for 30 years before moving back to Baltimore in 2008 to care for his aging mother. After returning to Baltimore, he finished his career as Director of Annual Giving for Boys’ Latin School.
“It wasn’t until then that I really understood the importance of philanthropy,” Don said. “People give to people. In my heart, we made this gift on Ari’s behalf because of the difference he is making in my life. Ingrid and I walk out of those meetings with him, exhale and think, ‘We have something to celebrate.’"
Don has been living with leukemia for three years and will continue to manage it for many years to come. Dr. Elman referred him to Dr. Delia Chiaramonte, the Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at GBMC, who provides integrative nutrition consultations and evidence-supported approaches to the use of supplements in cancer treatment. Don is on a holistic supplement program with Dr. Chiaramonte which, in addition to his work with Dr. Elman, has enabled him to lengthen the gap between his visits with Dr. Elman from three months to six months.
“There are typically three days between blood work and meeting with him, and those are very stressful because you never know what may happen,” Don said. “But when we walk out of there, we feel completely different than when we walked in. Even if the news isn’t great, he just has a way of putting you at ease and saying, ‘We’re going to tackle this together and you got this.’ It’s a feeling I wish I could describe with words, but he has given me a whole new lease on life.”
Driving Support for Breast Cancer in a Bright Pink Van
Chris and Lindsay Saffer understand what it means for an organization to be an intrinsic part of a community because they own one, and they are always looking for ways to partner with others to give back.
As the fourth-generation owner of Saffer Plumbing, Chris is part of the Service Nation Alliance, an organization of plumbing, heating, electrical, and HVAC contractors from across the country that work together to share ideas and resources. And when he heard an idea in a recent meeting, it was a bright pink lightbulb that wouldn’t go away.
“I would love to tell you it was my idea to go with the pink van, but a company elsewhere in the country did something like this for similar reasons – to help folks in their local community who were suffering from breast cancer,” Chris said. “I wanted to express how expensive it is on an individual basis for one person to get treatment.”
Saffer Plumbing makes a monthly $500 donation to the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center at GBMC to cover the cost of one patient’s transportation to and from treatment. The company also transformed one of their working vans to bright pink to bring awareness to breast cancer as well as patients’ need for support.
“For somebody who is suffering from breast cancer and needs this boost to get them to their treatment, what we are doing is important, but this is also a challenge to other businesses,” Chris said. “There is something you can do, something tangible for someone who is in pain.”
The Saffers chose GBMC as their partner and the recipient of these gifts because of their ties both personally and professionally. GBMC is in their neighborhood, their two children were born there, Lindsay’s father is an ophthalmologist there, and she and her brother were born there. And as the owners of a local, family business, they understand the importance of a business being part of the community.
“As medicine becomes more of a conglomerate and hospitals become part of bigger systems, GBMC is still that small, independent hospital,” Lindsay said. “As a patient, I knew that I could trust my doctors, nurses I had never met before, and every person on that team. It’s a hallmark of the community. To give to GBMC is to give local.”
Chris sees the personal interactions and connections patients have with physicians and staff at GBMC as akin to how he runs his own business.
“At GBMC, you know the people you’re working with,” Chris said. “If you needed to talk to someone up the line, you can do it. Saffer is the same way. You can talk to the owner if you need to.”
Which is exactly what Lindsay did in 2007. Her home in Rodgers Forge had a toilet issue one night and the owner happened to be on call.
“The literal story is Chris and I met over a toilet,” Lindsay said. “We brought parts from that toilet over to our current house; we had a Naval Academy-esque plunger salute at our wedding.”
The business and their lives remain intertwined. The Saffers take pride in their business and are involved in every aspect. When Chris came to Lindsay with the pink van idea, they built the plan together. In October 2021, Chris, Lindsay, and the pink van visited the Berman Cancer Institute at Crossroads to offer cupcakes to every patient that visited that day, just another way the Saffers thought to connect with their community and patients.
“My family has been doing plumbing and electric work in the Baltimore community for four generations. We are part of the community,” Chris said. “The people that call us to fix their toilets are the same people who themselves or their family are going to be struck with the horrors of cancer. We want to make life better for our customers and people like our customers.
“There is no expiration date on this van. We are in this for the long haul. This isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we.”