Boston Hemophilia Center

Contact the Boston Hemophilia Center 617-355-6101
International +1-617-355-5209
Contact the Boston Hemophilia Center 617-355-6101
International +1-617-355-5209

Virtual Programming

An interview with NEHA leaders


Can you tell us about yourselves and your work at NEHA?

Rich Pezzillo: I have been the executive director of NEHA since 2016. Prior to joining NEHA, I worked in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill, as the press secretary for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and as the communications and marketing director for the Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA). I was also the former co-chair of the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Youth Leadership Institute. Recently, I was given the honor of receiving the Ryan White Meritorious Service Award and the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy and Providence Business News “40 under 40” award. Currently, I reside in Providence, Rhode Island, with my husband.

Sarah Shinkman: I was hired as NEHA’s program director in late March of 2020. Starting a new job during a global pandemic has brought many new experiences, including a crash course on using virtual technology to connect people across the region. Previously, I worked for the Hemophilia Federation of America and recently moved home to my native Maine, where I live with my family.

How and why did you start doing virtual events?

Rich: NEHA started transitioning our 2020 events to virtual platforms in March when the CDC issued guidance for people to stay home due to the spreading coronavirus. Protecting the health of patients in our community is vital, and we will continue doing virtual events until it is safe to be together in person again.



How do you think of virtual events to plan, develop and present?

Sarah: We design virtual events based on the objectives of each in-person program that have been planned prior to COVID-19. In the case of Family Camp, we looked at the mission of camp, reviewed past schedules and solicited feedback from our Camp Committee, as well as the community at large. The information we gathered was instrumental in putting together NEHA’s Virtual Family Camp. We also talked with other bleeding disorders organizations nationwide to find the best and most accessible platforms to use for programming.

What do you think attracts people to virtual events?

Rich: Virtual programming offers an opportunity for continuing education and connection during this time of social distancing. These events also engage a wider audience from across our region, since people don’t have to travel for in-person events.

What are the positives of virtual programming?

Sarah: Virtual programming allows us to continue our mission of educating, supporting and advocating for the New England bleeding disorders community, while protecting the health and safety of our constituents. With people isolated because of the pandemic, virtual programming also offers an outlet to see and hear from others with a shared experience. Maintaining this connection is so important.

What are the negatives about virtual programming?

Rich: Peer support is one of the greatest attributes of bringing community members together for events. With virtual programming, it’s difficult to offer opportunities for relationship building outside of group conversations. We are always looking for ways to improve these connections, but virtual programming is limited. Protecting community members online and creating programming with technology that’s accessible to everyone is another essential component that we look at when designing virtual events. With an ever-changing situation, we do our best to adapt and respond to the needs of our community and appreciate feedback on how we can improve.

Is virtual programming here to stay?

Sarah: There’s definitely a place for more virtually programming in the future. However, we expect people will be very excited to return to in-person events as soon as it’s safe to do so. We’ve learned that virtual programs allow people to participate who may not have had the opportunity to attend previously. Virtual programming will also be a great tool to maintain connection and momentum following in-person events in the future.


Read about a family’s experience at NEHA’s Virtual Camp. Read about a 20-year NEHA-Camp veteran’s experience at Virtual Camp.

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