WHS Alum Jenna Moran- Down to the Very Marrow: Alumni Save Lives with Transplants

From Boston to Bangladesh — by the bedside, in the operating room, and in the halls of the Legislature — Anselmians help people of all ages and walks of life who need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in order to fight a life-threatening type of cancer. They work on many fronts to see that better treatments are developed and that patients receive the procedures that can extend, and hopefully save, their lives. Non-scientific students and alumni do their part by registering as potential donors, and many have successfully completed the procedure. Nursing grads like Jenna Moran ’08 work on patient units. Dr. Kellie Sprague ’86 directs a transplant unit at Tufts Medical Center. Other alumni work on the advocacy front, raising awareness of just how easy it is to become a donor and save a life.

L to R: Jennifer Venuti ’07, Jenna Moran ’08, Dr. Bimalangshu R. Dey, M.D., Ph.D.

From Boston to Bangladesh

The public hospital in Bangladesh is unlike any hospital Jenna Moran has ever worked in. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is big, but not this big. Dhaka Medical College Hospital has 2,200 beds and an occupancy rate of 130 percent. Patients fill the hallways. Every day, 1,500 people crowd its outdoor clinic.

Jenna Moran ’08But on March 6, Moran was thrilled to walk through its gates for the sixth time in 20 months. She was part of a team conducting autologous stem cell transplants in Bangladesh’s first bone marrow transplant unit. She looked forward to seeing Meena, Shabnam and the other nurses there—nurses she trained to provide life-saving care and hope to people like Yeasmin Ali, a mother of two suffering from acute leukemia. Along with other specialists from MGH, Moran has helped launch what one health minister called “a new era of medical care in Bangladesh.”

“I was able to participate in the first autologous bone marrow transplant in the country, which was a really amazing experience,” says the Anselmian nursing grad, an oncology nurse practitioner specializing in leukemia and bone marrow transplants at MGH. Ever since graduating from Saint Anselm, Moran has cared for children and adults with blood cancer. She started as a staff nurse on a hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant floor at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, staying for four years as she studied in Simmons College’s nurse practitioner program. In 2012, she began working at MGH. There, she met attending physician Bimalangshu Dey, who was making his dream of opening a bone marrow transplant unit in his native country a reality.

“I told him of my interest in global oncology and started doing work for this project in spring 2013,” recalls Moran. “By this time he was developing a comprehensive bone marrow transplant unit there.”

Nurses in Bangladesh have a very low-level education and their practice equates to that of a nursing assistant in our country, Moran says. Her role was to help improve their skill set and learn the specialty of hematology oncology/bone marrow transplantation. She developed a one-year curriculum that included English training, nursing fundamentals, oncology/bone marrow knowledge, and clinical practice. She developed lectures, wrote case studies and exams, and ran skills labs to teach IV chemotherapy administration, charting, dressing care, and stem cell infusion.

After training them for a year and a half and keeping in contact through email and Facetime, she considered the 20 nurses colleagues and friends and shared their pride. When the nation’s first bone marrow transplant was successfully completed, the nurse from Massachusetts celebrated along with the Bangladeshi nurses she had mentored.

“On each trip, I was able to see the progress they were making in their practice and the changes in their level of confidence as active members of the medical team,” she says. The cancer center at MGH is world-renowned for its expertise in bone marrow transplantation to treat blood malignancies and disorders such as Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, aplastic anemia, and acute leukemia. About 300 people a year receive bone marrow and stem cell transplants there. MGH doctors provided much of the impetus and expertise for the unit in Bangladesh. The modern bone marrow transplant unit at Dhaka Medical Center is modeled on MGH’s unit on Lunder 10.