Spotlight on Susan Brogna
For 24 years Sue has captured photos of our incredible patients
Susan Brogna has been the medical photographer for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston for 24 years. Born with a cleft lip and palate, Sue was often photographed at hospitals when growing up. This experience, as well as her passion for photography, led Sue to work at Shriners Hospitals for Children. As the hospital’s medical photographer, Sue creates and maintains a comprehensive photo record of all patients. We recently spent some time with Sue to learn more about her experiences at the Boston Shriners Hospital.
Please tell us about your role at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston.
I have been the medical photographer at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston since 1996. I photograph our pediatric patients upon admission and follow their progress on the inpatient unit, through surgeries, skin grafting and other procedures. We also follow and track our outpatients until their treatments are complete. I take photos for the hospital because Shriners Hospitals keeps photographic records, along with written records. I get to follow the kids throughout their whole adolescence, or as long as they are patients. I try to keep it fun because it is not always comfortable for patients to get their pictures taken. I find it to be a meaningful process because I get to see children with severe burns heal and eventually go on to lead incredible lives. Sometimes patients will even visit the hospital once they are all grown up to introduce us to their own children! It is great to see these patients again.
Why did you choose to work for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston?
I went to Endicott College and studied photography. At the time, I wanted to work for a magazine. I never even considered medical photography as a possible career. Then I saw an advertisement for a medical photography internship at Beth Israel. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and was photographed by my hospital all the time growing up. This personal connection drew me to the position. I think writing about my experience being photographed as a child in the application is what secured me the position!
I then went on to work at another hospital in Boston, this time in a lab setting. Do not get me wrong; taking pictures of mice is important, but I wanted the human connection. Then, one day a friend I knew from the Biological Communicators Association who worked at Shriners Hospitals for Children called me and asked if I knew of anyone who would want to work at Shriners Hospitals. I told him that I did — me!
What is the best part about working for the Boston Shriners Hospital?
I wholeheartedly believe in the Shriners Hospitals for Children mission. Whatever you ask for, they will try to provide. For example, when I am in need of equipment, they will always get me what I need to do my job to the best of my ability. This, and the incredible staff, make Shriners Hospitals such an amazing atmosphere to work in. Most Shriners Hospitals staff members stay here a very long time because of the connections they make with other staff and patients.
Of course, the patients are another reason I love working at Shriners Hospitals. The kids we work with are so resilient. Once their operations are over, the kids will play with each other and with the staff. They challenge us to pool, foosball and Nintendo. Some children’s burns result in a loss of fingers, and yet they still beat me in games. It is incredible! Our patients are from all over the world but they all play together. They teach each other about their cultures and native languages. It is great to see them playing because as staff members, we get to know our patients as kids, not just as patients.
What are some of your favorite stories from your time here?
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston is much more than a hospital. It is a family and we like to have fun. The people I have met are so incredible, and before COVID-19 we did a lot together outside of the hospital. For example, for my 40th birthday, I went to a baseball game with about 35 of my co-workers. We were all sitting together in the bleachers and I was featured on the jumbotron. It was awesome!
I also love it when famous athletes come and visit the children. Sometimes people have a difficult time looking at burns, so it is great to see these athletes engage and communicate with the kids. Those are the special moments around here; when our patients are treated like the children they are.
What is something people may not know about your job?
I think people assume that my job is simple. And while we try to make it as easy and fun for our patients as possible, I have to be very careful that I am doing my job correctly. One of my responsibilities is to upload the photos I have taken of patients to their electronic medical records. When I do this, I have to be very quiet, take my time and stay focused because it is not an easy process.
Also, it can be tough taking photos of children who are hurting. However, I am so lucky to work in a place with incredible psychiatrists and a supportive environment, on top of the other doctors, nurses and therapists. I remember one family in particular from when I first started working at the Boston Shriners Hospital. They took the train to the hospital and by the time they arrived, they would be crying because people had been staring at their burns. However, once they walked through the doors at Shriners Hospitals for Children, they were able to relax. This is a safe place for patients.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I have really enjoyed all my years here and I know it is only going to get better!
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