Bulfinch Memories

As part of the immersive, 3D virtual tour of the Bulfinch Building, numerous staff members shared videos of their favorite memories, locations they love and architectural details that shouldn’t be missed. View these videos below.

Basement

Sarah Evans: The Fenway Park of medical history

I think the Bulfinch is like the Fenway Park of Medical History in Boston. My favorite architectural detail are these stairs. The first time I walked down them I imagined all of the other people before me who have walked down them. The footprints are here and you can just imagine as you walk down, all of the history this stairwell has seen.  

 

Floor 1

Joseph Betancourt, MD: Equity at the ground floor

It’s been incredible in my time here to be able to spend time in the Bulfinch building. When you walk through here you really feel like you’re taking a walk through history and what’s interesting is as you walk through that history, you’re also walking through the modern administration of one of the greatest hospitals in the country and in the world.

You know, walking through the Bulfinch with the photos and as you go through it, it does in many ways take you back through time and it really grounds you in the mission of what we do – clinical care, research, training and the work that I do in community health and, certainly, equity. 

I think for me it’s so symbolic, given what’s transpired over the last year with Covid and our national reckoning on racism, to have equity at the ground floor of the Bulfinch building. Really the symbolism there is that we are centered, all of our work stands on being equitable. 

It’s a great space, it’s got little quirks and little nooks and crannies that make it really special. If I was offered an office somewhere else, you know, I wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t trade this office for anything in the world, for its symbolism, its meaning and how special it is to me.   

Floor 2

Debbie Burke, RN: Celebrating bravery, compassion and teamwork

I’m standing in the Bulfinch amphitheater at Mass General, also known as the Ether Dome. This is the location where on October 16, 1846, William Morton, a dentist from Hartford, Connecticut carried out the public demonstration of use of ether as an anesthetic. Morton administered ether to a Edward Gilbert Abbot, a patient of Dr. John Collins Warren so that Dr. Warren could remove a tumor from Mr. Abbott’s neck.

This demonstration transformed surgery from a traumatic experience to humane therapy. This was not the use of ether as an aesthetic, however. That took place in 1842 and was carried out by Crawford Long in Atlanta. Long didn’t publish the results until 1849. In contrast, by the December of 1846, use of ether as an aesthetic had already spread to England. Morton’s discovery gave birth to the field on Anesthesiology and forever changed the practice of medicine.

Marcela del Carmen, MD: An emblem of past and future

I think the Bulfinch is probably the crown jewel of the MGH. I think of the building, the architecture, the space as really being not only emblematic of our past but really inspirational as we look to the future.

Inga Lennes, MD: A feat of architecture

My favorite architectural detail in the Bulfinch Building is the cantilevered stone stairs. Whenever I look at them, I marvel at what a fabulous sort of feat of architecture they are. They seem to float in the building and at once they are strong, but they are also ingenious and makes me inspired everyday as I head out into work here and is a great sort of metaphor for MGH in general.  

Ann Prestipino: On the shoulders of giants

As somebody who has been here for over 40 years and has had an opportunity to see the organization change in so many ways – not only from an operational and governance perspective but also a facility perspective – it really is a privilege to be in the building where it all started. In the heat of the moment in any given day it’s easy to forget, but when you have that opportunity to reflect back and realize that it all started here, and to be able to be a part of that by actually having an office in this building, it really is amazing to think about. As people say, the shoulders of the great leaders that we stand upon today, that walked these same halls, that lived in these same spaces. It’s a privilege and humbling. 

Ed Raeke: Recognizing veterans

There is a WWII honor roll there, for all of our members who were part of the service to our country during that time.  Also, too if you look at some of the pictures on the wall, the overflow tents from WWI back in 1919, where they were caring for our service members.  And we are still doing a lot of that today, I mean if you look at at the work at the Home Base Program with PTSD and some of our service members coming back and how helpful they are to those individuals,  it kind of gives me a lot of pride to know, that even though I only served four short years, that you know, it was an important part of my life and being able to connect with that here at Mass General through this service that they provide to our patients today, but historically what they have provided them and knowing too what a wonderful institution this is in recognizing, and thanking them for their service, you know,  I really connect. 

Peter L. Slavin, MD: 200 years of patient care

Since I’ve been associated with the MGH which is now 36 years the management of the hospital, the president’s office has been located in three different places.  

I remember when it was on White 1. then what is now the Lawrence House, and then Dr. Thier, when he was President, quickly moved it from the Lawrence House here to Bulfinch 2.   

This has been by far in my mind the best home for the leadership in the hospital.  It’s hard on a daily basis not to be just reminded of the incredible history of this place by working in this iconic building.  You can almost hear the footsteps of Jackson and Warren here in the building and be reminded of their efforts to create a facility that would provide great care to patients, would help advance that care by educating students in the future, and would also do things in a more equitable manner within our society. 

So this has really been a treat of a place to work and it’s wonderful that we are celebrating its 200th anniversary.  

David Ting, MD: Broom closet turned nerve center

One of the things I love about the Bulfinch Building is that for 200 years it’s been a living, breathing place that’s never stopped caring for patients and caring for the people of our community: from Boston, and New England and even the world. It’s served us through the Civil War, through the Spanish American War, through two world wars, TB epidemics, now the COVID epidemic, and it’s still here. The place that we’re in right now used to be an open ward. Ten years ago when I became the chief medical information officer for our physician’s organization, they asked me would I like to have a nice corner office across the street with glass views. I looked around and I said, well, our CFO is here, our COO and CEO, I’ll stay here in this broom closet, and literally it was a broom closet, that we transformed into a nerve center for digital health and operations throughout the hospital.  

Samuel O. Thier, MD: "Prison Break!"

For almost all of the early years that I was at the MGH, the Charles Street Jail was across the street. In 1966, a year in which the Chief Residency was started in January, I entered the Department of Medicine simulatneously with Alex Leaf, who was coming in to replace Ebert. The former medicine offices were relatively straightforward: you would open the door, you would come in just to the right, and then going forward you would see the secretary, Sophie Detillus, who was without question the most efficient woman I ever worked with. She was a protector of Alex Leaf; no one got in connection with Alex except Sophie.

One of the days that I was coming in, Sophie, she stopped me and said, “Oh my goodness, we have a terrible problem, I don’t know how it’s going to end, I was sitting here and this gentleman came in with a gun and said he wanted to go into the chairman’s office.” In any event, she said, “You can’t go in there, this is the chairman’s office,”  and he said, “Girlie, this is a gun, I can go any place I want to,” and he continued on into the office. Now that was an interesting thing, because if you looked out the office of the chairman, you’d see a ramp where deliveries were delivered. Which meant that he had about a one story drop. He tried to get away, he ended up getting injured, enough that the police caught up with him. They were very happy to take him back to the jail.

Floor 3

John Herman, MD: The Phantom Seventh Floor

Many years ago, there was one clinical unit left in the Bulfinch Building and the clinical units had been sequentially named on either side of the Bulfinch Budling as the floors rose from the ground. And so the last clinical unit on the Bulfinch Building was called Bulfinch 7 – it was on the third floor.

One day, there was a medical emergency on the inpatient psychiatry unit – Bulfinch 7 – and so a code was called. And so the medical code team came rushing to the Bulfinch Building, came rushing up the first floor, to the second floor, to the third floor – and they began to look for the fourth floor, sixth floor, they began to look for the seventh floor of this four floor building.

And so there some hapless medical intern had the crash cart – which probably weighed about 100 pounds – on his back, as they were climbing up the stairs looking for the phantom seventh floor. The next day, Bulfinch 7 was renamed Bulfinch 3.

Maurizio Fava, MD: Cobb’s cunning analysis

Stanley Cobb was the first chair of Psychiatry at Mass General, as you can see from the portrait here. He was recruited to start a hospital-based department of psychiatry through a gift from the Rockefeller family.

Stanley Cobb was kind of known as one of the fathers of biological psychiatry – linking mind to brain, if you wish. But he was also someone very attentive to the importance of psychotherapy and in fact, he brought a lot of psychoanalysts from Europe to work at Mass General at that time. He was also one of the early adopters, he published a paper, on ECT shortly after its discovery. So he was really a pioneer in many ways.

One of the stories about Stanley is that he used to take care of an older woman in Beacon Hill. She was always so grateful for his care, that she would repeatedly mention that she would leave a very generous bequest to the hospital, in particular to his department. When she did pass away, Dr. Cobb found out that the large bequest was the donation of her brain to the department. Without missing a beat, he then proceeded – he was also a neuropathologist – so he proceeded in performing a careful and thoughtful examination of her brain, and then charged the estate for the cost of the analysis. 

Floor 4

Latoya Brewster: An elevator ride up to history

My first memory of the Bulfinch building has to be back in the summer of 2008 when I started as a manager in Eat Street Cafe. 

Every year Nutrition holds the intern graduation here in the Ether Dome. To that point, I had never left the basement.  And I remember following my colleagues to the Bulfinch elevator, you know, and coming out of the basement for really the first time, and just wondering, where are we going?  Coming to the fourth floor and traveling down the hall and entering that secret passageway, and still thinking, where are we going? And emerging here at the top of the stairs and just taking in the history and the grandeur of this space. 

Emery Brown, MD, PhD: Medicine Transformed

I’m standing in the Bulfinch amphitheater at Mass General, also known as the Ether Dome. This is the location where on October 16, 1846, William Morton, a dentist from Hartford, Connecticut carried out the public demonstration of use of ether as an anesthetic. Morton administered ether to a Edward Gilbert Abbot, a patient of Dr. John Collins Warren so that Dr. Warren could remove a tumor from Mr. Abbott’s neck.

This demonstration transformed surgery from a traumatic experience to humane therapy. This was not the use of ether as an aesthetic, however. That took place in 1842 and was carried out by Crawford Long in Atlanta. Long didn’t publish the results until 1849. In contrast, by the December of 1846, use of ether as an aesthetic had already spread to England. Morton’s discovery gave birth to the field on Anesthesiology and forever changed the practice of medicine.

Anne Klibanski, MD: Women at the MGH

Highlighting the history of women in the history of Mass General and in the history of science, discovery and academic medicine, is critically important. When I came to Mass General, there were very few women there. I would say, tying in the Bulfinch Building, endocrinology, the history, the training, it was an opportunity whether it was in that Ether Dome, you’re in those lectures, to really see, and take advantage of, the knowledge and often the uncelebrated history of the women that were there.

So I was able to interact with Nan Forbes, or Janet McArthur, or Anne Barnes, so many of the women who were there, among the very few women who were there, and really understand that there were women who were important, who could be role models, who I could look to to say, yes. There is a history of women here at MGH. It is a small history, but it’s one that needs to be expanded, that needs to be celebrated. I have spent so many years of my own career looking to advance women at Mass General, it is rewarding to think back to those very early days in that Ether Dome, and looking around at who was there, what was being recognized, and the future of what needed to be done.

David Nathan, MD: Four decades in Bulfinch

I’ve been here in the Bulfinch from the very beginning of my career. And I got here more than 40 years ago. As a fellow, where my laboratory and my office are pretty much on this floor where I was…it has changed. Although the Bulfinch on the outside looks the same, the building is now for the most part occupied by credit unions and administrative offices, so our laboratory and office here is really one of the last places that is from the original – at least during my period of time – starting in about the late 70s.

Bulfinch was where I started working also not only in the laboratory and in my small – very small – office, but downstairs on Bulfinch 1 was called Ward 4 for historic reasons. But it was the oldest clinical research center in the country – except for Rockefeller I think – which was maybe a year older. And I did all my early clinical research there – that is now the credit union – but that’s where I started. Bulfinch has been my home at the Mass General forever and it’s been a very welcoming one.   

Anne Klibanski, MD: A Decade on Each Floor

Much of my training actually occured at the top floor of the Bulfinch Building. So as a trainee, we were in the historic Bulfinch 4, which was the really the epicenter of endocrinology. At that point, after training at the top of the Bulfinch Building, my lab was established at the bottom of the Bulfinch building, which was the Bulfinch basement. There too were incredible things going on in research.

I think the interesting thing for me is how things have come full circle, from starting at Bulfinch 4 as a trainee, going to the Bulfinch basement as a new investigator starting a lab, and then moving up back to Bulfinch 4 to actually fully embrace all of research, patient care and teaching, which is what I spent so many years doing at Mass General. It was, as I like to say, a decade for every floor.