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Why the new chief of staff at GBMC is ‘the right person’

September 13, 2016
Doctors at Greater Baltimore Medical Center are much more than graduates of the nation’s top medical schools. They’re standout graduates of life.

That’s why, after spending any amount of time with Melissa Sparrow, M.D., it’s not hard to figure out why she was recently promoted to chief of staff at GBMC: Not to mention, the first woman to be named GBMC’s chief of staff.

How did she get there?

“I love what I do,” says Dr. Sparrow. “I like to look at the big picture and make it better. I see a problem, and I want to fix it.”

That can-do spirit has served her well throughout her life and career.

Prior to graduating from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1999 and completing her pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2002, Sparrow earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University. She also worked as a fashion model in Paris, a high school English teacher, as well as a writer and editor.

She is fluent in Spanish and French, and the proud mother of two children.

And in the spare time she manages to find, she writes poetry.

Dr. Sparrow joined GBMC 13 years ago as a pediatrician. Since then she has taken on a number of challenges, including helping create and run a groundbreaking pediatric facility that combines emergency and inpatient services, providing seriously ill or injured children with a continuum of quality care until they are well enough to go home. The program has become a national model.

At GBMC, she also has served as a member of the Pediatric Service Excellence Committee, as chair of the Medical Staff Peer Review Committee, and as a member of the Board of Directors, on which she still serves. Prior to her appointment this summer as chief of staff, Dr. Sparrow helped run the hospital as vice chief of staff.

Timothy Doran, M.D., chairman of pediatrics at GBMC, says Dr. Sparrow’s work ethic, professional dedication and willingness to speak up for patients established her as a natural born leader among her peers.

“Melissa has no problem speaking truth to power,” says Dr. Doran, who is Dr. Sparrow’s mentor and supervisor. “She has real passion for patients and tends to really focus on the patient experience and is keenly interested in physician behavior and conduct.”

In her role as chief of staff, Dr. Sparrow takes charge of hundreds of physicians utilizing GBMC, including those directly employed by the center and those affiliated who treat patients there. “The job is a big deal and she’s the right person for it,” Dr. Doran adds.

On a recent afternoon, a doctor treating a child suffering from latent tuberculosis called Dr. Sparrow for help. The condition doesn’t mean the child has contracted the deadly infection, but has been dangerously exposed. The doctor was having a hard time convincing the young patient’s parents that nine months of in-hospital therapy was called for. The parents disagreed and demanded to take their child home, forcing the doctor to face the tough choice of calling in county social services officials — or the police — to protect the best interests of the child.

Dr. Sparrow was able to counsel the doctor on how to handle the conversation with the upset parents and turn their decision around. No cops needed.

“The life of a physician is an ongoing education,” Dr. Sparrow says. “I feel so energized by what I do and honored to have the trust of the people I work for. I feel gratified every day.”

- Daniel Vasquez for Greater Baltimore Medical Center
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