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Tulsa shooting stirs fears and memories for staff in Mass. hospitals

Brigham & Women's Hospital (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Brigham & Women's Hospital (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The shooting deaths of four people at a medical building in Tulsa this week have stirred fears for health care workers in Massachusetts.

The incident is also bringing up painful memories at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where a man shot and killed a cardiac surgeon in 2015.

Nurse Trish Powers was on duty at the Brigham the day the gunman — apparently upset about his mother’s surgery — fired at Dr. Michael Davidson.

Powers, who called Davidson a friend, remembers hearing there was an active shooter on campus that day and not knowing what to do.

The Tulsa shooting, she said, “is just so horrible and upsetting and hits home for us.”

The Brigham has recently been the target of anti-vaccine protests, threats and white supremacists. Powers, who leads the nurses’ union at the Brigham, received threatening notes herself. These demonstrations have put hospital workers on edge, she said.

“I am glad that we live in Massachusetts where the gun laws seem to be more restrictive,” she said. “But I also think if someone really wants to do harm, they're going to do it. And I hope that we can find a way that we can feel safer for everyone.”

Emergency physician Dr. Chris Baugh said the Tulsa news was tough for his colleagues in the ER, where patients are sometimes emotional and suffering from mental health crises.

“It’s something that you think about as a caregiver, and when one of these events happens, it brings up fresh memories and — especially for Brigham staff — fresh trauma from the previous shooting,” said Baugh, who is vice chair of clinical affairs in the emergency department.

Brigham officials told WBUR they asked Boston Police to increase patrols around their campus after the recent spate of mass shootings across the country.

They said they’ve also reduced access points to the hospital since 2020 and added security measures to respond to an armed intruder.

Dr. Anne Klibanski, chief executive of the Mass General Brigham health system, said in an email to employees: “This latest shooting hits much too close to home for many of us, who spend our days and nights caring for the sick and the wounded in similar settings to this medical center in Tulsa, devoted to saving lives.”

In Tulsa, a gunman named Michael Louis is reported to have shot and killed his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Preston Phillips. Dr. Stephanie Husen, office worker Amanda Glenn, and patient William Love also died in the shooting at Saint Francis Health System.

Phillips had ties to Boston, graduating from Harvard Medical School and training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the 1990s.

Beth Israel Deaconess officials reminded their employees this week not to let people they don’t know enter through the hospital’s locked doors, and to report any suspicious behavior to public safety officers.

“We are experiencing more incidents of workplace violence and an unfortunate increase in disrespectful behavior from patients, families and visitors that is directed at staff,” hospital leaders said.

“This type of violence,” they said of the Tulsa incident “is deeply  alarming.”

Related:

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Twitter Senior Health Reporter
Priyanka Dayal McCluskey is a senior health reporter for WBUR.

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