Friday, January 31, 2014

A Busy Week

I am often asked what a typical week is like in my role as MHRI president. My response is always the same - there is no such thing as a 'typical' week and that is what I love. Every week brings new experiences, faces and opportunities which allow me to engage in activities that pull upon my administrative, academic, investigative and clinical interests.

I write this at the end of a busy week. Several times this week I said to myself, "oh, this would be a good thing to blog about" but here it is, Friday evening, and I did not get to blog about any of the things I wanted to this week. So instead, I thought I would answer that pervasive question "what do you do each week" to give you a sample:

Monday - Started the day at Georgetown University discussing regional approaches to research and cross-campus collaboration. I then spent the majority of the day at the MHRI admin offices at University Town Center (UTC) with one-on-one meetings and our executive team meeting. The highlight of my day was catching up with the OCGM (Office of Contracts and Grants Management) team. 

Tuesday - Back-to-back finance meetings with administrative directors occupied most of the day. We do this monthly to go over the revenue, expenses and budget implications for each department. These meetings are a great opportunity to learn about new studies or challenges each scientific center is experiencing. This month, PeopleSoft conversion was a focus. 

Wednesday - The day was dedicated to my own research activity. I worked in the core lab on studies investigating new types of heart valves. I ended the day heading downtown to meet with a leader at the AAMC (Association of Academic Medical Centers) to discuss their ROCC (Research on Care Collaborative) program. 

Thursday - Started by kicking off our quarterly investigators orientation, then headed to MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC) to do some clinical work and then plow through more than a dozen resumes with the search committee for the next VPMA at MWHC. 

Friday - Ended the week with an exciting meeting at NIH. A small group of us were invited to meet with the director of the clinical center on the Bethesda campus. We learned about their priorities and had a chance to share information about MedStar. We walked out identifying 'next steps' to identify specific research projects which could lead to mutually beneficial collaboration. A perfect end to a busy week!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

MedStar Safety Science report from the National Academies

By: guest blogger Dr. Rollin J "Terry" Fairbanks*  

As many of us are digging out of a week of snow and cold temperatures, it’s hard to believe that it was June when the MedStar Health Research Institute and the National Academies' University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) hosted a “Resilience in Healthcare” workshop at the National Academies.  Neil’s devoted blog followers might recall his post on this conference and how the healthcare industry is interested in applying the rules of resilience engineering to improve patient safety: 

The conference attracted more than 100 experts from leading institutions around the Nation, and as the program director for the conference I can tell you that the energy, excitement and knowledge exchange around this emerging field of research was truly inspiring. 

This month, the National Academies released a final report on the conference, and the PDF is available using this link.. In this report, the conference is summarized with key findings such as the difference between two fundamental interpretations of safety: safety-I and safety II. Safety-I is defined by the absence of things that can lead to a negative outcome, such as hazards, accidents, incidents, and near misses, while safety-II is defined by the ability  to succeed in both expected and unexpected situations:

The conference also included several case presentations with expert panel discussion to offer a resilience engineering perspective. Seth Krevat, assistant vice president for safety at MedStar Health, presented the first case, involving a medication error that resulted in a chemotherapy patient receiving both the wrong drug and the wrong dose.  Paul Plsek, an expert in complexity theory from the MedStar Institute for Innovation, served as the facilitator for the meeting, and many members of the advisory board for MedStar Health’s National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare served as speakers. 

It was a privilege for MedStar Health to co-host to such a groundbreaking meeting and I encourage anyone who did not attend the workshop and has interest in this emerging field to read the report.

*About the author:   Rollin J “Terry” Fairbanks Director of the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare and of the Simulation Training & Education Lab (SiTEL) at MedStar Health, and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine | Georgetown University. He is a human factors/safety engineer and emergency physician. He can be followed on twitter @TerryFairbanks

Monday, January 20, 2014

Teaching Scholars Celebrates 5 Years!

Last week, the MedStar Teaching Scholars program graduated their 5th class and celebrated the event with our traditional Capstone (poster and oral presentations by our graduating class) and a special recognition of our alumni. Some Teaching Scholar alumni provided updates and shared how the program has led to professional advancement.

Starting next month, the Teaching Scholars program will start version 2.0!  We will build on our success (small classes, one longitudinal curriculum, importing the excellent AAMC faculty to teach the MERC (medical education research certification) program, small work groups, journal club and a pilot project).  The revision is that we will lay the foundation for sustainability by extending the program to a second year so participants can either continue the research project to completion or revise their pilot project based on preliminary experience to redesign it into a definitive research study.

The other addition in 2014 will be the pilot of a parallel program called MedStar Research Scholars.  This will be run by Jason Umans and target faculty members that want to launch a career as a clinical investigator.  More on this program as we gain some early experience!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Learning Resolution

Every month when I send out the MHRI monthly e-Newsletter (on the first Sunday of each month!), I write a message to the MedStar research community.  I received several requests to post the January message so others can see it and comment so here it is:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

So what is your New Year’s resolution?

I was at the gym this morning and amazed with how crowded it was. For the last several years, I have been going to the same gym and every January there is this surge of activity for all those people making a pledge to exercise more and get into shape for the New Year.  As I’m sure we can all relate (myself included), we know how this will end for most - it can be difficult to make a resolution and stick with it.

So what is your resolution and how will you make sure you will accomplish it?

My strategy is to pick something that capitalizes on my natural tendencies and is obtainable by completing multiple small acts. My New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to expand my sphere of learning.  I have always enjoyed learning about new things in medicine and science.  Over the last several years as your Research Institute president, I have enjoyed learning about ideal business practices and the business of healthcare. My resolution is to expand my learning even broader beyond these traditional areas.

I can’t believe I am going to reference a quote from a holiday card*, but here it goes:

You live – You learn
You love – You learn
You lose – You learn
You laugh – You learn
You choose – You learn
You ask – You learn
You live – You learn

I am going to also add one more final pair:  You learn – You live. For me, learning adds ‘life’ (fulfillment, excitement, satisfaction) to living.

In addition to adopting this as my New Year’s resolution, I also want to expand this learning attitude to MedStar Health Research Institute. In everything we do, we need to continually be learning (and thus improving) from what we experience. We need to learn from each success and we also need to learn from each failure. With a learning attitude, challenges take on a whole new light because they now become new learning opportunities; it taps into that inner curiosity to understand and improve, and helps melt away frustration or helplessness.

As we start 2014, I challenge you to pick an area that is of personal or professional interest to learn more about and incorporate a learning approach into your daily MedStar activities!  I am excited about the potential of unleashing the ‘learner’ in all of us to make MHRI a best-in-class research organization with unparalleled efficiency and SPIRIT (Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Teamwork) values.

I look for to learning from each of you in 2014 and making it the best year yet!

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

MHRI Board of Directors 2014

In previous blog posts I describe how, as a non-profit entity (501C3), MHRI has a Board of Directors.  Every MHRI associate should be very proud that our Board is composed of nationally acclaimed experts in healthcare.  A full list of our Board members are on the MHRI website at:

At our last meeting we welcomed 3 new Board Directors:

Mr. Craig Lipset is Head of Clinical Innovation for the Worldwide Research & Development division at Pfizer. His team is managing initiatives and investments that impact development of the Pfizer portfolio today, while collectively redefining the future of clinical research.  

Dr. Barbara Mittleman is Vice President, Clinical and Head, Immunology at Nodality, Inc., a southern San Francisco biotechnology company focused on diagnosis and drug development support. Before joining Nodality, Dr. Mittleman served as Director of the Public-Private Partnership Program at the NIH, developing an agency-wide approach to partnering with public, private, advocacy and other organizations to meet NIH’s biomedical research mission. 

Dr. Dana Frank is an internal Board member.  As chairman of Medicine for MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital he has been a strong advocate for the importance of academics to advance health. He champions novel methods of delivering  higher quality care to our community.

Below is a composite picture of the 2014 MHRI Board of Directors: 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Smartphone Medicine 2014

"Our smartphones are destined to become our prime medical advisers.... we will only turn to our doctors for refuge."

It is the new year and the TV and newspapers are full of 2013 year-in-reviews and 2014 predictions. 

Below is an excerpt from a New York Times article this week in the Technology/Innovations section that caught my eye - it is entitled '2013 was a more amazing year than you think'. 

"Technology is improving health care.

Quantified Self devices such as Fitbit and Nike Fuelband are becoming widely available. You even see these on the shelves of Apple Stores. Companies are running contests using these devices to encourage employees to get more exercise. Smartphone add-ons such as the Alivecor heart monitor are being prescribed by doctors. Interestingly, Apple recently patented a heart monitor sensor for the iPhone. Our smartphones are destined to become our prime medical advisers. I expect they will one day chide us to get more exercise, drink less alcohol and watch our calorie intake. They will tell us when we are about to get sick and which medicines to take. We will only turn to our doctors for refuge."

I know for me and my family, the Fitbit has become part of our life (yes, after my Fitbit Fun last summer, my wife and son are now on-board so we can all have a friendly competition for the  greatest number of steps each week (and of course, 'there is an app for that' so we get daily updates whether we met our personal goal and who is in first place).

This NY Times story exemplifies how rapidly technology for healthcare is changing the manner in which we deliver care. This is also why MHRI is investing in Health Services Research (research on the delivery of healthcare), with particular focuses on patient safety, quality, telemedicine and outcomes.