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A Full-circle Journey Back to Boston

Sarah was born with congenital nevus covering the majority of her body; moles that appear at birth and can expand in size over time.

When Sarah’s parents met with physicians in Alabama where they lived, doctors were unsure about the best course of treatment. “When I was born with congenital nevi, there was very little knowledge about how to treat my condition,” Sarah said. With limited information, the family headed to Boston seeking answers.

They visited several hospitals before arriving at Shriners Children’s Boston after a recommendation from a family member. “This entire process took a lot of resilience and a lot of luck,” said Sarah. “My parents’ grit and determination with navigating the U.S. healthcare system, despite English being a second language, is my inspiration. They are my heroes.”

Sarah started treatment when she was 1, traveling with family to Shriners Children’s Boston twice a year for almost two decades. Doctors used reconstructive and plastic surgical techniques to minimize the nevus over time. Branko Bojovic, M.D., chief of plastic, reconstructive and laser surgery at Shriners Children’s Boston, said that many factors are considered before deciding the best course of action for a child with this condition.

The care plan for congenital nevi is based on their size and location. Treatment can involve plastic surgery, laser surgery or steroids. “We look at the nevus and the severity of the involvement, and then decide accordingly,” explained Dr. Bojovic.

He noted that appointments for patients with this condition typically occur up to three times per year, depending on the treatments involved. “This can be a very challenging problem for patients, their families, and members of their treatment teams, particularly surgeons,” Dr. Bojovic explained. “It requires highly-specific and specialized care, and our hospital is in a privileged position to offer such treatment.”

Dr. Bojovic noted that providers take into account form and function, as well as cosmetic outcome and appearance when developing a treatment approach. “We also must plan for how scars may change as patients grow, and when it may be advantageous to perform surgery or other procedures at various stages of their growth and development,” said Dr. Bojovic.

The staff always checked in on my parents and made sure to explain everything in my care plan, as well as ways that my parents could best care for me.
Sarah, former patient at Shriners Children's Boston

Sarah remembers how much the team at Shriners Children’s Boston cared, not just for her, but for her family as well. “The staff always made sure my family was comfortable with and fully informed of my care plan. They also advised my parents so that they could best care for me,” she explained.

Over the years, the hospital began to feel like Sarah’s second home. “I remember feeling very safe and supported by the staff at Shriners during some very scary moments,” she said.

She recalled doing homework with educators, participating in arts and crafts, and going on field trips to the vending machines or the esplanade, as some of her favorite moments. “One memory in particular that sticks with me is when we worked with the staff to hold a talent show where all the patients performed,” said Sarah. “We may or may not have charged admission to fund one of those vending machine trips.”

Sarah credits the staff at Shriners Children’s Boston with serving as role models for her career in healthcare. “The kind, talented and patient caregivers inspired me for years beyond my time at Shriners,” she explained. “I pursued a Bachelor of Science at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and worked for several years in clinical research and consulting.” Sarah went on to earn a master’s degree in public health at Columbia University.

During graduate school, Sarah worked in Myanmar and developed an interest in supporting communities during emergencies, when healthcare resources are needed the most. “I was deeply struck by this experience and began a career in public health preparedness and emergency management at NYC Emergency Management,” she said.

“A particularly formative experience during my time in this role was responding to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing immediate needs across the healthcare sector,” Sarah explained.

Sarah then moved to Boston in summer 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pursue doctoral studies in public health. In 2021, she began working at Mass General Brigham as director of emergency preparedness, where she concurrently conducted her doctoral research. She recently earned a doctorate in public health from Harvard University. Sarah comments: “My entire life, I’ve been fortunate to access and receive specialized, quality, and expert care at Shriner’s Boston, and my career has been devoted to paying that forward. Protecting and supporting access to care is at the core of everything I do in public health.”

When Sarah is not at work, she enjoys her downtime! Since graduating, Sarah has been enjoying catching up on sleep, and loves traveling with her family. “I have really enjoyed exploring New England with my husband and dog – there’s nothing like a Boston summer!” she said. “Passing by familiar landmarks, like Storrow Drive, the Esplanade, Mass General Hospital, or Chinatown has been incredibly nostalgic. It really is a full-circle moment. I am realizing my career achievements in the city where it all began.”

Meet Sarah

She's back working in Boston, a city that made such an impact on her life and career, as a young girl receiving care at Shriners Children's Boston.

Sarah in hospital as a child

Sarah as a young girl while at the hospital

young Sarah surrounded by Christmas decorations

Sarah is all smiles as a child during the holiday season.

Sarah as adult

Sarah working in Boston at Mass General Brigham as director of emergency preparedness


Sarah working at a Boston area hospital

Sarah speaking at conference

Sarah speaking at a professional event

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