Valentine’s Day is all about bringing people together to celebrate love and to care for those around us in ways that show them just how much they mean to us. At Penn Medicine’s new Pavilion, opening later this year on the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) campus, ways to offer the very best care to our patients and families will be knit into every aspect of the building, for delivery every day of the year.
For one of the many talented couples on the Penn Medicine team, preparing to “move in” to the Pavilion—also known as HUP East — is a family affair and an exciting new chapter for professional collaboration. The holiday of hearts and flowers gave us an opportunity to check in with them about what lies ahead for this milestone moment at Penn Medicine.
Benjamin Abella, MD, MPhil, a professor and vice chair for research in the department of Emergency Medicine, as well as director of the Center for Resuscitation Science, and Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Deenie Greitzer and Daniel G. Haller Associate Professor and clinical director of the Penn Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, have been married for almost 20 years. In this Q&A, the duo shares their excitement for moving to HUP East and how their work lives will overlap in this building which stands as a new beacon for exemplary care and for the clinical research lighting up the next generation of treatments and cures.
- What aspects of the Pavilion are you most excited about and how do you see it impacting the care you provide?
Abella: Emergency Medicine services at HUP have grown both in size and complexity. This was the case even before COVID-19 appeared on the horizon. The opening of the Pavilion is an exciting moment for Penn — the new space is thoughtfully designed to meet our needs in the Emergency Department (ED) and beyond, from individual ED exam rooms to state-of-the-art technologies for caregivers and patients. As we learned over the last year, the future can be filled with unknowns, so the fact that the Pavilion was designed to quickly and seamlessly adapt with rapidly changing science, medicine, patient care is just incredible.
Teitelbaum: I’m looking forward to the integrated care, especially having everything closer to my clinic to make it easier to visit patients in the ED and dedicated oncology units. Since each floor is thoughtfully designed for ease of care, you don’t have to run around the hospital to see your inpatients on service or when making outpatient visits. I’m also excited about all the technologic advancements in the patients’ rooms to enhance their communication with the teams and with their loved ones.
- Dr. Teitelbaum, you’ve mentioned that the Pavilion is almost like a “family project.” Can you explain what the Pavilion means to you?
Abella: Ursina and I often feel like we have a little “family business.” I help her think through problems when her patients have an urgent condition, and she helps guide me when I take care of her cancer patients in the ED. Now that the Pavilion is a little closer to her clinic, I suspect it will help us make the connections more easily.
Teitelbaum: Ben’s absolutely right. There is the obvious family friendliness of the design of the Pavilion’s rooms and floors, but it is even more personal for Ben and me since we are like a small family practice within a big institution. With different last names, we are a stealth “HUP-ple.” Ben likes to care for my patients in the ED and then let them know who he is, like a big reveal. Ben also has open access for an oncology “consult” at all hours. By extension, his residents and fellow faculty — his medical “family” — feel very comfortable reaching out to me with any oncology questions. It brings home that Penn is really like a small village where we can personally and warmly deliver the best care. Having the ED and my oncology floors housed in one building, the Pavilion, will make it even easier to integrate my care. It will be easy for me to visit my patients in the ED, easy for Ben to work with oncology teams and nurse navigators, and easier to coordinate cancer patients’ workups and care efficiently.
- How is the Pavilion going to enhance research on time-sensitive illnesses?
Abella: Penn is known for its research, and the Pavilion brings us to a new level of possibilities. Being in an updated, advanced physical space, in addition to having improved monitoring and data collection opportunities, will open up new opportunities to study emergency conditions.
Teitelbaum: The physical space for our research teams is a big benefit that I’m looking forward to. On the Oncology end, nice touchdown workspaces for the research teams to work will enhance enrollment of patients in Oncology trials.
- Your careers and your family have grown at the same time Penn Medicine has continued to grow. Do you feel like your lives mirror the Penn family’s in a certain way?
Teitelbaum: Absolutely. When I started at Penn Medicine, cancer care was in Penn Tower, where the Pavilion now stands. Chemo suites were bays, not individual rooms; charts and orders were on paper, and notes were dictated and hand corrected. Now we have the convenience and power of electronic medical records and a beautiful, dedicated space.
As our children get older and more sophisticated, so too do our work lives: We have to be nimble to cope both with teenagers and the evolving technologies — technologies that aren't always easy, but unquestionably advance patient care.
I did not train here but I have grown to feel a real part of the Penn community and culture. I very much appreciate the collaboration that contributes to the best care. I often joke that I talk to my surgeons, gastroenterologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists as much as I talk to Ben in a week. Our outpatient clinics are all together, which means I collaborate with our specialists in real time. We literally practice side-by-side so every discussion informs treatment decisions in real time. Knowing everyone makes it easy to get expedited expert care, and I now feel like a real Penn lifer. Penn is like Philadelphia — a big place with a small-town feel. Penn has definitely become family.
Abella: Our careers and family life gets better with age — now with teenagers, maybe more complicated, but more rich and meaningful. Penn Medicine is also growing more complex and more impactful — so maybe the health system is just following our example!