Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Medical Student Research Capstone

This week 16 Georgetown medical students compete their summer research  internship at MedStar. An earlier post describes the program and lists the students and mentors. It was a proud event to see each student present a poster of their research study and preliminary rests. Students will continue to work with their mentors throughout the year to complete their research and write up the results for publication.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fitbit Fun

Since the last post was about wellness, I thought I would share this personal story with you.

Last week I recieved a Fitbit® as a gift.  At first, I really did not know what it was.  Well, turns out it is a modern day pedometer.  A fitbit is an electronic device that detects movement, has an accelerometer in it and can tell if you are climbing stairs. It automatically synchs to your mobile devices/ iPhone and the web.  So, for fun, I put it on. 

Well, as I finish my first week with this little device attached to my belt, I am a believer in the power information, feedback and leavaraging the goal-oriented person in each of us!

Yea, I was disappointed (but should not have been suprised) that during my 'office day' on Monday that I achieved less than 20% on each of my goal (steps, distance, stairs, very active period and calories).  Imaging my delight when I got an email in the middle of a busy day to congratulate me for my first day with over 5000 steps! When I finally made it to the gym Thursday night, you better believe I was sure to have my fitbit on in order to make sure it recorded the first time I finally achieve all 5 daily goals!

So that was week one.  Already I find myself standing at an elevator and looking at the stairs and saying 'if I take those stairs now, I can get all 5 flights I set for myself each day all in at once.' This is clearly an effective tool, for the people like me that are goal oriented, internally competitve to achieve higher levels and love electronic toys!  Even as I write this, I am  sneaking a peak to make sure I keep the virtual flower growing:

So that is my story - what is yours? Please share your health and wellness story with your MedStar associates to tell them how you promote well being and fitness fun!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Meditation Journey

As you know, MedStar has been promoting health and wellness for our associates. There is an MHRI Wellness committee that has initiated several organizational wide activities. Each week, associates are given a 'wellness tip of the week' in the 'Important Things to Know' email. Well, several departments have taken initiative within their own area and Sameer is a stellar example with his 'meditation movement' he has started at the University Town Center (UTC) offices in Hyattsville.  Below, Sameer is kind enough to share his wellness contribution.

By Guest Blogger Sameer Desale, Biostatistics

Sameer Desale
We share our life with so many different people--our family, our friends and of course, our colleagues. We share our house, our meals, our thoughts, our feelings, our laughs and countless other things. But, have you ever shared a silence? I don’t mean just being quiet in the same room, but really connected in the moment of peace that is equally shared and enjoyed. 

That’s what we try to achieve in meditation sessions at UTC. It’s a journey… in our inner being… that we travel together, to reach a destination where we are all in the same state of peace and joy that is equally shared. When I started meditating about 12 years ago, I never knew such a state existed and could be achieved so easily. And the best part is that you can share it with others! All good things we enjoy more when we share. It’s like you find a new place and know how to get there, then you take others and show them how to get there. That’s what motivates me--to guide people and show them that place. Once they see it, the joy and the understanding is evident in their expression.  

Sometimes it’s three people, sometimes it’s five or 10. Numbers don't matter. What matters is the 15 to 20 minutes of time that we truly give to ourselves, for nourishing our mind, body and spirit. I also conduct meditation class at a public library in DC, and one of my students told me she used to jog in the morning to feel fresh. Now she meditates and she feels same amount of freshness. The first time she meditated, she felt so relaxed that she was calm and confident in a job interview the next day and got the job! In my experience, meditation not only helps me to feel better, but it also actually improves relationships with people. Because we start to understand ourselves, we develop a better understanding of others.     

I am very glad that I get the opportunity to share meditation with my colleagues. It's wonderful when we open our eyes after meditation (sure, sometimes someone needs a nudge!), we know we have experienced something good that will stay with us for rest of the day!

*Each Monday at UTC from 12:30 to 1 p.m., Sameer guides meditation. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Investigators’ Meetings and the Blue Angels

As I traved back from an investigators’ meeting this weekend on a new, stentless heart valve that takes less time to implant and potentially combines the best technology from surgical and trans-catheter experience, I was reflecting on that meeting and my activities at MHRI.

My job at the investigators' meeting was to stand up in front of a room full of cardiac surgeons and share with them the importance of the echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound) in the trial.  I encouraged them to have a true co-investigator who makes sure the imaging data obtained from the study is as good as possible so we can accurately assess the new heart valve.  My first slide said that this could be the best valve in the world, and they could be the best surgeon in the world who puts the valve in perfectly, but without the rest of the research team, we will never have the data to prove it.

As I was on stage, my mind jumped back to my monthly message I sent out earlier this month with MHRI’s eNewsletter.  It was all about the Blue Angels, their high performance climb and the power (necessity) of teamwork in order to maximally perform. 

 I also shared how being part of this team, doing great work and helping our patients today and patients of the future is an honor and privilege that we need to recognize. The Blue Angels have a phrase, ‘Glad to be Here®’ that sums it up. 

The following is an excerpt from John Foley’s article from the Executive Forum that I shared in my monthly message (John Foley article):

“Glad to Be Here” was a statement of belief that we shared on the Blue Angels team. It was our centerpoint, our purpose larger than self. Reflecting back on my experiences, it’s clear to me that those four words were really the “secret sauce” of our high-performance team.

Sometimes “Glad to Be Here” meant that we were thankful for the opportunity to be a Blue Angel. Sometimes it meant that we were thankful for being surrounded by a great team of high-performing individuals. And sometimes it meant that we were just grateful for being alive.

Always, however, “Glad to Be Here” was our mind-set. It expressed our joy, our awareness, and our readiness to perform at the highest levels. It was a statement of our love, our commitment, our trust, and our respect for everyone on the Blue Angels team, pilots and support crew alike. Each time a member of the Blue Angels said, “Glad to Be Here,” the special bond was reaffirmed and strengthened.

 I ended my talk emphasizing that this trial was going to succeed or fail based on the strength of the entire heart team.  I let them know I was ‘Glad to be Here’ and contribute to this clinical trial. 

When a Blue Angel's pilot is asked about their team
they describe the men and women that keep their
airplane flying and performing at its peak

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Makes Our Investigators Different

By Guest Blogger Amy Loveland, MA, CCRC, program coordinator, MedStar Community Clinical Research Center

Amy Loveland
Last week while doing research for a study participant on diagnosing diabetes, I searched for a particular diabetes testing procedure. When I clicked on one of the first search results, imagine my surprise at seeing the face of one of our newest investigators, Dr. Asqual Getaneh. It turns out Dr. Getaneh previously ran a health blog answering frequently asked questions about diabetes symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. I read her entry ( and was pleasantly surprised to learn something I hadn’t known, that jelly beans have been shown in at least one study to be effective in diagnosing diabetes.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how fortunate we are to work with the investigators that we do. I have been to numerous study meetings and talked with research coordinators from all over the country, and time and again I hear about investigators who aren’t available, don’t know their study participants,or pop into the office once every week or so just to sign off on charts. Then, they are off to this meeting and that advisory board and another panel discussion. These activities all have their place in clinical research, but at the MedStar Community Clinical Research Center, I am proud to work with investigators who know the participants by name, ask about their work and families, and remember their medical histories from one visit to the next. I am proud to work with investigators who are equally as comfortable giving presentations to their colleagues at the American Diabetes Association as they are engaging the community at health fairs and through blogs. Our participants appreciate it, too, and it is part of what keeps them coming back study after study.

I feel fortunate to work with the dedicated investigators who are a part of MHRI!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The MHRI Management Team

Each quarter the managers from across MHRI come together for interactive and informative sessions on a variety of topics. Yesterday's managers' meeting was particularly notable for me.

As you can see in the picture below, Nadine Wethington, the AVP for Organizational Learning at MWHC, led a discussion on our associate survey results. We shared the MHRI results with associates during town hall meetings in May and every manager received his or her department results in June, so this session was a 'deeper dive' to gain greater understanding of the 'why.'

What I loved about the session was that Nadine helped us understand the power that the management team can have as a whole, and how we can collectively address many of what was raised in the associate survey.  By functioning as a cohesive team, MHRI's managers can be effective at making changes that directly address the issues raised. We certainly have work to do, but I am excited about our path forward and doing it with the team.

Managers are currently reviewing departmental survey results during staff meetings and working with every associate to develop action plans. Please feel free to discuss the survey results with your manager and jump in on developing the action plan. By using the department action plans together, we will continue to make improvements in our organization.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Hire Breakfast

Did you know that the highest 'risk' period for any employee is during the first year? The first year in any position is crucial.  Across all industries and across all companies, the highest turn over of associates is during this initial period. Why is this the case? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Sometimes the person and the position is not a good fit. Sometimes, expectations are not aligned. Other times, the 'on-boarding' to the new position is not adequate. 

At MHRI, based on suggestions from the associate survey and the managers' councils, we have taken steps to improve the on-boarding process. This renewed effort starts weeks before the associate arrives, to make sure they have the resources they will need on day one (e.g., computer, software access, etc).  The orientation process was also updated and expanded.

One of the new initiatives was 'New Hire Breakfast' where a few executives from MHRI have breakfast with a small group of associates that began at the Research Institute within the prior 6 months.  We talk about what is going well and where there are opportunities for improvement of the on-boarding process.  It is also a time that we can step back and talk about 'the big picture' - what is MedStar Health, what is MHRI and what is the vision of our organization.  In short, we discuss the greater purpose in our profession - how are we creating knowledge through research and advancing the health for our community.

The first year is a time to learn and absorb as much information you can about your new organization. It's a time to meet your colleagues and form professional relationships. But most importantly, it's a time to get off on the right foot and make sure every new associate recognizes that they are part of a proud organization that is changing the lives of people today and tomorrow - Moreso, they recognize that they have a voice in forming this organization into what we all want it to be!

This Monday, July 8, Karen Wade and I hosted a new hire breakfast and got a chance to meet a great group of new team members - thanks team and I look forward to working with you!

From left: Maria Hurtado, myself, Cynthia Yashinski,
Skarlet Patino Velasquez, Milvia Lagarda,
Meseret Deressa and Karen Wade. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Singing with the Bird!

This was just too good to only put into FOCUS and not to post......

On Wednesday, June 26, Mandi Michael, MHRI clinical research recruiter, part of the NIA (National Institute on Aging) team at MedStar Harbor Hospital, sang the National Anthem, with her musical colleague, Lizzy Jackson, at the Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards. No suprise, she was a smash hit!

And what a story to tell your family and friends!

Congratulations Mandi!

Mandi on right, with the Oriole Bird