Worker kills doctor and herself at MGH

By Douglas Belkin and Francie Latour, Globe Staff, 4/9/2003

A woman who worked with a prominent cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital fatally shot the doctor and then killed herself yesterday in his office near the hospitalís main lobby, police said.

Police and hospital officials said Dr. Brian A. McGovern, 47, of Boxford, was inside his small first-floor office when the shooting occurred about 10 a.m.

Police last night identified the woman who shot McGovern as 51-year-old Colleen P. Mitchell, who lived on Beacon Hill.

Boston police spokeswoman Mariellen Burns said that a handgun was recovered inside the office and that McGovern and Mitchell were the only people in the office when the shots were fired. Police offered no motive.

A woman who identified herself as Mitchellís younger sister said she could not make sense of the news that Mitchell could have killed a co-worker and turned the gun on herself.

"We are so stunned by this," said the Connecticut woman, who did not want to be named. "Itís hard to talk right now. We would have never expected her to do anything like this. She didnít have this in her. Itís a terrible tragedy for our family and for the doctorís family. There was nothing like this in her background, and in a million years we never thought she would be capable of something like this."

McGovernís colleagues said Mitchell worked in the lab near McGovernís office for about a year, but that she was not his personal assistant. They said Mitchell had worked for several doctors in the department and performed intake duties for heart patients, as well as secretarial work.

The shooting unfolded at the hospitalís Electrophysiology Laboratory, where McGovern diagnosed disturbances in heart rhythms. His office was near the chapel and gift shop and steps away from a coffee stand crowded with employees and visitors.

A distraught hospital employee yesterday said she saw one person on a gurney covered in blood, as medical personnel furiously performed CPR and wheeled the victim down the lobby corridor towards the emergency room.

"Nobody understands the motive for what happened," said Dr. Dennis Ausiello, the hospitalís physician in chief, who said he knew McGovern well.

"Everyone Iíve talked to here, including the people who worked in his division, is stunned and perplexed. At the moment, itís not clear in any way what happened and why. Everyone is clueless as to why."

Last night, friends gathered in Boxford at the house where McGovern, a native of Ireland, lived with his wife, Dr. Anne Jennings, and two daughters.

"Itís very difficult right now," said a woman who answered the phone.

Jennings, a physician specializing in kidney disease who practices at The Medical Group in Beverly, left work yesterday morning. "I was told that she had some bad news and had to go into Boston," said Dr. David Lebwohl, a colleague.

Lebwohl said Jennings had worked in the practice for 15 years. "This is as much a shock to us as Iím sure it was to her. Sheís a terrific person, a terrific mother, and a wonderful physician."

A woman who worked in 1989 for the couple as a live-in nanny for one of their children, said news of McGovernís murder stunned her.

"How could this have happened?" asked Deborah J. Schandemeier. "They hada strong marriage. They were a strong family unit."

"Brian was awesome," she added. "He was the most intelligent person I have ever heard. He had the best sense of humor."

She said McGovern was an outdoorsman who loved gardening and said she couldnít imagine why anyone would ever want to kill him. "Some people you might say that about maybe, that they might have enemies, but not with Brian. Heís just not that type," Schandemeier said.

Mitchellís sister said that prior to working in the cardiology unit, Mitchell had worked as a pediatric social worker for 20 years.

"She was a wonderful person," she said. "Everyone loved her. We donít know why. We donít know anything. Weíre stunned. Weíre completely sad."

At Mitchellís parentsí home in Virginia, relatives were so devastated they could barely speak into the phone. Mitchell moved to the area about four years ago to help another sister, Maura Mitchell, take care of her two children, according to Sharon L. Smith, who bought Maura Mitchellís Beacon Hill home in 1998. "This is just horrible," Smith said. "She seemed very nice."

Chris McDonough, a friend of Mitchellís from Cranford, N.J., where she lived for more than 10 years, said Mitchell moved to Boston because she wanted a change.

McDonough said he didnít think Mitchell ever married, but that she never seemed lonely.

"She was a beautiful Irish girl, blonde, never looked her age," said McDonough, who visited her in Boston four years ago. "She was probably one of the nicest people I ever met in my own life. She was always out and about, visiting her nieces and her nephews."

Records show her social workerís license expired in New Jersey in 1998.

Dr. G. William Dec, a cardiologist and colleague of McGovernís, said last night that Mitchell had no known problems with any of the cardiology staff. When co-workers saw Mitchell at work the day before the shooting, Dec said, she seemed "completely normal."

"As best as I can tell talking to the people who worked with her every day, thereís really been no evidence that she was unhappy, that she was angry, that there was any major crisis in her life," Dec said. "Nobody had any sense that there was a problem brewing here. Certainly there was no dissatisfaction with her performance as far as the hospital was concerned. So itís a complete mystery."

Dec said he was seeing outpatients in a nearby building yesterday morning when one of his first patients, an emergency technician, arrived for an appointment at 10:10 a.m. Police had been called to the scene at 10:09 a.m.

"He asked me how the people who were shot in the Gray Building were doing, and I said, ĎI donít know what youíre talking about,""Dec said.

Then, a stream of messages came in to his pager from co-workers, offering sketchy details: Trauma units responded to the shots; McGovern and Mitchell were rushed to the emergency room; neither had made it up to surgery.

"I have no idea if she just snapped or if there was something else that was going on for a while," Dec said. "But people are just shaking their heads thinking, ĎWas there any warning sign that we could have seen coming that this was going to happen?""

The shooting caused chaos at the world-renowned hospital, as state and local police cruisers choked the area outside the main entrance. Police soon determined that there were no other suspects and the hospital remained open throughout the day.

Last night, neighbors in the historic Beacon Hill building where Mitchell lived offered fond memories of a woman who smoked Marlboro Lights on the stoop.

"Weíre all kind of in shock about it because she was such a nice person," said one upstairs neighbor on Champney Street who did not want to be identified. "She was quiet and warm, not a bad thing you could say about her."

At a news conference yesterday, Peter Slavin, president of MGH, said, "The MGH community is deeply shocked about the loss of two employees who died earlier today."

David Torchiana, a cardiac surgeon and chairman of the Mass General Physicians Organization, described McGovern as an international authority in his field and an "outgoing and friendly person" who had "a nice Irish brogue and a twinkle in his eye."

"He was a terrific doctor, attentive and caring to his patients, and an international expert in his field," Torchiana said.

Colleagues at Harvard Medical School, where McGovern became an assistant professor in 1989, released a statement yesterday saying they were "deeply saddened by the loss."

"Brian shared his medical expertise with colleagues around the world," the statement said. "Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues."

Inside the tiny chapel down the hall from the flower shop, at least one visitor mourned the two deaths yesterday, logging in an entry in the guest book that read: "Please remember the two souls who lost their lives in this act of aggression in the hospital today."

David Abel, Alice Dembner, Liz Kowalczyk, Michael Rosenwald, and Farah Stockman of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 4/9/2003.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.>>

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There are 2 messages in this issue.

Topics in this digest:

1. Worker kills doctor and self at Mass General Hospital

From: "Kim Wells" <kwells@caepv.org>

2. Hospital touted extensive security

From: "Kim Wells" <kwells@caepv.org>

 

Message: 1

Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 12:11:58 -0500

From: "Kim Wells" <kwells@caepv.org>

Subject: Worker kills doctor and self at Mass General Hospital

Worker kills doctor and herself at MGH

By Douglas Belkin and Francie Latour, Globe Staff, 4/9/2003

A woman who worked with a prominent cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital fatally shot the doctor and then killed herself yesterday in his office near the hospitalís main lobby, police said.

Police and hospital officials said Dr. Brian A. McGovern, 47, of Boxford, was inside his small first-floor office when the shooting occurred about 10 a.m.

Police last night identified the woman who shot McGovern as 51-year-old Colleen P. Mitchell, who lived on Beacon Hill.

Boston police spokeswoman Mariellen Burns said that a handgun was recovered inside the office and that McGovern and Mitchell were the only people in the office when the shots were fired. Police offered no motive.

A woman who identified herself as Mitchellís younger sister said she could not make sense of the news that Mitchell could have killed a co-worker and turned the gun on herself.

"We are so stunned by this," said the Connecticut woman, who did not want to be named. "Itís hard to talk right now. We would have never expected her to do anything like this. She didnít have this in her. Itís a terrible tragedy for our family and for the doctorís family. There was nothing like this in her background, and in a million years we never thought she would be capable of something like this."

McGovernís colleagues said Mitchell worked in the lab near McGovernís office for about a year, but that she was not his personal assistant. They said Mitchell had worked for several doctors in the department and performed intake duties for heart patients, as well as secretarial work.

The shooting unfolded at the hospitalís Electrophysiology Laboratory, where McGovern diagnosed disturbances in heart rhythms. His office was near the chapel and gift shop and steps away from a coffee stand crowded with employees and visitors.

A distraught hospital employee yesterday said she saw one person on a gurney covered in blood, as medical personnel furiously performed CPR and wheeled the victim down the lobby corridor towards the emergency room.

"Nobody understands the motive for what happened," said Dr. Dennis Ausiello, the hospitalís physician in chief, who said he knew McGovern well. "Everyone Iíve talked to here, including the people who worked in his division, is stunned and perplexed. At the moment, itís not clear in any way what happened and why. Everyone is clueless as to why."

Last night, friends gathered in Boxford at the house where McGovern, a native of Ireland, lived with his wife, Dr. Anne Jennings, and two daughters. "Itís very difficult right now," said a woman who answered the phone.

Jennings, a physician specializing in kidney disease who practices at The Medical Group in Beverly, left work yesterday morning. "I was told that she had some bad news and had to go into Boston," said Dr. David Lebwohl, a colleague.

Lebwohl said Jennings had worked in the practice for 15 years. "This is as much a shock to us as Iím sure it was to her. Sheís a terrific person, a terrific mother, and a wonderful physician."

A woman who worked in 1989 for the couple as a live-in nanny for one of their children, said news of McGovernís murder stunned her.

"How could this have happened?" asked Deborah J. Schandemeier. "They had a strong marriage. They were a strong family unit."

"Brian was awesome," she added. "He was the most intelligent person I have ever heard. He had the best sense of humor."

She said McGovern was an outdoorsman who loved gardening and said she couldnít imagine why anyone would ever want to kill him. "Some people you might say that about maybe, that they might have enemies, but not with Brian. Heís just not that type," Schandemeier said.

Mitchellís sister said that prior to working in the cardiology unit, Mitchell had worked as a pediatric social worker for 20 years.

"She was a wonderful person," she said. "Everyone loved her. We donít know why. We donít know anything. Weíre stunned. Weíre completely sad."

At Mitchellís parentsí home in Virginia, relatives were so devastated they could barely speak into the phone. Mitchell moved to the area about four years ago to help another sister, Maura Mitchell, take care of her two children, according to Sharon L. Smith, who bought Maura Mitchellís Beacon Hill home in 1998. "This is just horrible," Smith said. "She seemed very nice."

Chris McDonough, a friend of Mitchellís from Cranford, N.J., where she lived for more than 10 years, said Mitchell moved to Boston because she wanted a change.

McDonough said he didnít think Mitchell ever married, but that she never seemed lonely.

"She was a beautiful Irish girl, blonde, never looked her age," said McDonough, who visited her in Boston four years ago. "She was probably one of the nicest people I ever met in my own life. She was always out and about, visiting her nieces and her nephews."

Records show her social workerís license expired in New Jersey in 1998.

Dr. G. William Dec, a cardiologist and colleague of McGovernís, said last night that Mitchell had no known problems with any of the cardiology staff. When co-workers saw Mitchell at work the day before the shooting, Dec said, she seemed "completely normal."

"As best as I can tell talking to the people who worked with her every day, thereís really been no evidence that she was unhappy, that she was angry, that there was any major crisis in her life," Dec said. "Nobody had any sense that there was a problem brewing here. Certainly there was no dissatisfaction with her performance as far as the hospital was concerned. So itís a complete mystery."

Dec said he was seeing outpatients in a nearby building yesterday morning when one of his first patients, an emergency technician, arrived for an appointment at 10:10 a.m. Police had been called to the scene at 10:09 a.m.

"He asked me how the people who were shot in the Gray Building were doing, and I said, ĎI donít know what youíre talking about,""Dec said.

Then, a stream of messages came in to his pager from co-workers, offering sketchy details: Trauma units responded to the shots; McGovern and Mitchell were rushed to the emergency room; neither had made it up to surgery.

"I have no idea if she just snapped or if there was something else that was going on for a while," Dec said. "But people are just shaking their heads thinking, ĎWas there any warning sign that we could have seen coming that this was going to happen?""

The shooting caused chaos at the world-renowned hospital, as state and local police cruisers choked the area outside the main entrance. Police soon determined that there were no other suspects and the hospital remained open throughout the day.

Last night, neighbors in the historic Beacon Hill building where Mitchell lived offered fond memories of a woman who smoked Marlboro Lights on the stoop.

"Weíre all kind of in shock about it because she was such a nice person," said one upstairs neighbor on Champney Street who did not want to be identified. "She was quiet and warm, not a bad thing you could say about her."

At a news conference yesterday, Peter Slavin, president of MGH, said, "The MGH community is deeply shocked about the loss of two employees who died earlier today."

David Torchiana, a cardiac surgeon and chairman of the Mass General Physicians Organization, described McGovern as an international authority in his field and an "outgoing and friendly person" who had "a nice Irish brogue and a twinkle in his eye."

"He was a terrific doctor, attentive and caring to his patients, and an international expert in his field," Torchiana said.

Colleagues at Harvard Medical School, where McGovern became an assistant professor in 1989, released a statement yesterday saying they were "deeply saddened by the loss."

"Brian shared his medical expertise with colleagues around the world," the statement said. "Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues."

Inside the tiny chapel down the hall from the flower shop, at least one visitor mourned the two deaths yesterday, logging in an entry in the guest book that read: "Please remember the two souls who lost their lives in this act of aggression in the hospital today."

David Abel, Alice Dembner, Liz Kowalczyk, Michael Rosenwald, and Farah Stockman of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 4/9/2003.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

[This message contained attachments]

 

Message: 2

Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 12:17:16 -0500

From: "Kim Wells" <kwells@caepv.org>

Subject: Hospital touted extensive security

Hospital touted extensive security

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 4/9/2003

Massachusetts General Hospitalís website boasts that the facility has "the largest integrated security system" in the country, complete with 770 card readers, 510 panic buttons, control panels capable of controlling over 1,500 doors, and 85 closed-circuit television cameras tied to state-of-the-art digital recorders around the clock.

Yet it wasnít enough to stop yesterdayís apparent murder-suicide in a small office inside the hospital, a crime that left staff and patients shaken and some hospital safety advocates questioning whether Massachusetts hospitals - most of which have tightened security since Sept. 11 - need to do more.

Hospitals have a range of security concerns that go beyond other workplaces, and advocates say the shooting has raised the thorny issue of whether metal detectors - which are being used in hospitals in California and Washington, D.C. - would make hospitals safer. Apparently no Massachusetts hospitals currently use them, but some hospital security specialists say they may be needed to address violence that is common in hospitals, but often unreported.

"We need to look at people entering our hospitals with weapons," said Evie Bain, a leader of the Massachusetts Nurses Associationís task force on workplace violence. "I would feel a lot more secure if I walked through a metal detector."

Groups representing hospitals, however, say the issue of hospital security is complex, and administrators must strike a balance between ensuring that their facilities are safe without turning then into armed camps.

"The standards that our hospitals pay attention to can be summed up in one word: reasonableness," said Paul Wingle, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association. "The decision is really up to the individual hospital, depending on factors like its location and its risk factors.

"But at the same time, hospitals have a special mission," he said. "We do not want to create barriers to care and we donít want to create a threatening or unwelcoming atmosphere to people who need care and attention."

Reports of hospital violence, while sporadic, are frequent, safety advocates say. Exactly one month ago, two people were injured in a stabbing at Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain by a man who brought a knife into the facility. Two weeks ago, a tragedy was narrowly averted in Stony Brook, N.Y., when a man distraught over his auntís care in a local hospitalís burn unit brandished a gun and held police at bay for 45 minutes before he was talked into surrendering.

Some hospitals in California and the District of Columbia have installed metal detectors, generally near emergency rooms, which handle large numbers of gang-related violence cases.

Hospital violence prompted US Representative Martin Meehan to file a bill in each of the last two congressional sessions that would make it a federal crime to possess a handgun within 1,000 feet of a hospital.

"There are obvious dangers that arise when a person carries a gun into a hospital," said Meehan, who said the measure has been blocked by the National Rifle Association. "This is a place where emotions run especially high and chaotic activity is the norm, which only raises the possibility of gun violence. One death in a hospital from gun violence is one too many."

One MGH official said yesterday that the shooting has prompted a review of the facilityís security procedures.

"Weíll be looking at our security measures and seeing if they need to be changed," said David Torchiana, chief executive and chairman of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization.

Yet the head of the stateís largest doctorsí organization - who works at MGH - said yesterday that there havenít been any conclusive studies showing that hospitals are more prone to violence than other workplaces.

"I know of no data to support that," said Dr. Charles A. Welch, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Without such evidence, he said, itís impossible to know whether metal detectors are worth the inconvenience and stress they might cause patients and staff.

This story ran on page A11 of the Boston Globe on 4/9/2003.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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