Newsletter of the Rotary Club of Needham for February, 2021
February Meetings Roundup
In the last month, we heard two speakers from our community:
  • Gene Takahashi, the CEO of Therapeutic and Educational Programs at the Walker School and
  • John Fogerty, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Needham.
And, we were addressed by our member:
  • Bill Paulson,  about his work on Rotary's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.
Gene gave us a brief history of the Walker property, brought us up-to-date on its current mission, and suggested ways we could help. In 1891, Dr Thomas Rotch of Boston determined that infant mortality could be reduced by modifying cow's milk to more closely resemble human mothers' milk. George Walker, a Boston businessman, supplied the financing, and the Walker-Gordon Dairy opened at the current Walker School site in 1891. In 1952, after the death of George Walker's wife, their trust (established for the care of children) converted the dairy to a convalescent home for children with long-term illnesses, like polio and rheumatic fever. But, by the late 1950s, the introduction of antibiotics and vaccines reduced the need for long-term hospitalization. In 1961, under the direction of Children's Hospital psychologist, Dr. Albert Trieschman, the Walker Home opened for the treatment of emotionally and behaviorally disturbed boys. The dairy farm buildings were converted to classrooms and housing for an initial class of six boys. Dr. Trieschman served as Walker's director until his death in 1984.
Today, Walker Therapeutic and Educational Programs has a $25mm budget and over 300 employees. Over the years, its mission broadened both programmatically and geographically to help troubled children in public schools and community-based programs. There are campuses in Needham and Watertown and an office serving South Shore school districts. The Needham campus has an elementary and middle school that serves 85 students aged 3-13 with 40 of those housed residentially and 45 day students. The Watertown campus has a middle and high school serving 90 day students. Programs are typically funded by the students' school districts. The pandemic halted all new referrals, and programs were adapted for remote learning. Testing, PPE and hero pay were ramped up to support safety for current staff and students.
To help, Gene suggested attending one of Walker's signature fundraising events, like: "Running for Walker" or "Fore the Children", their 31st annual golf tournament at Dedham Country Club. The date for the tournament will be moved due to the pandemic from May to Fall '21. The annual gala was similarly disrupted. To make a donation, there's a "donate" tab in their website: http://www.walker
Bill told us about why Rotary's Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Task Force is needed: to redress the legacy of systemic racism. He offered examples of the impact of systemic racism:
  • black family wealth (2016) is only 10% of white family wealth 
  • black unemployment is two times that of whites
  • black Americans are dying from Covid19 at a rate 2.3x that of white Americans.
He pointed out that racism exists here in Needham. A special "listening session" of our Select Board was held after local protests, which were responding to videos showing the murder of George Floyd by police. Testimony at the listening session by black Needham residents included a student shaken down for potential shoplifting and a doctor needing to prove that he owned the house he was entering.
Bill asked: "How powerful would it be if Rotary took on racism like it took on polio?" He challenged us to be active anti-racists. He quoted a Florida Rotary club: "When black boys are killed, we need to say something, and -when we don't say something- we say something."
John, who has been CEO of BIDN for 10 years, told us about the impact of the pandemic on the hospital and changes to the hospital during his tenure. First, he pointed out the recent improvement in the pandemic: in February '21, COVID-positive patients made up less than 10% of the inpatient population at BIDN, while -at peak in April '20- COVID-positive patients were 70% of the inpatient population. Three weeks ago they reopened to elective surgery, but there's still no visitation permitted. Three quarters of the staff has been vaccinated. A unique impact last year was the indefinite closure of Norwood Hospital in June due to flooding. It was a 220 bed hospital that included 60 psychiatric beds. The diversion of Norwood's traffic to Needham resulted in a 35% increase in activity levels and a quadrupling of psychiatric emergency visits. 
Last month, the hospital announced a $4.3mm gift -the largest in its history- from the Trotman family. The gift serves two purposes: to endow a behavioral health outreach worker and to add a critical care physician to the Intensive Care Unit, which will enable fewer emergency cases to be diverted from Needham to the tertiary care hospitals in Boston. Both address needs exposed during the stress of the pandemic. The behavioral health worker will educate the public in order to reduce the stigma of psychiatric issues and help families decide when it is appropriate to go to the emergency room for those issues.
Over the last 10 years, patient volume has increased two-fold as $100 million has been invested in physical plant at BID Needham.