Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Learning Continuum

Over the last few days, I've learned a lot  about the continuum of learning that is going to be needed in the future of healthcare.

I just finished attending the annual meeting of the Alliance of Independent Academic Medical Centers ( I enjoy this meeting because it brings together leaders from over 80 other academic centers similar to MedStar and gives us a chance to discuss timely topics (see last year's post on AIAMC for more information).

This year, there were several good lectures about how we need to prepare the next generation of caregivers for the the rapid changes we are experiencing in healthcare. For example, Dr. Susan Skochelak from the AMA discussed (picture at left) how there are a dozen medical schools testing new approaches with flexible, individualized learning plans which focus on chronic care (and not just acute care), team-based care (rather than only the single physician's role) and population health (in addition to the single patient needs).

There were also many lectures about how only a learning healthcare system will thrive during this period of rapid change. We need to be testing new healthcare delivery approaches in an integrated manner, involving administration, medical leadership, education and research. Implementation science, research on the delivery of care and health services research were viewed as areas that independent medical centers can lead healthcare reform.  I was also very proud that a prime example used was MedStar's quality and safety initiatives with Drs. David Mayer (VP of Quality and Safety), Kelly Smith (Scientific Director of Quality and Safety) and William Thomas (retired EVP of Medical Affairs) presenting (at left) how MedStar has integrated research with system safety initiatives.

And then I  was brought down to earth....... to remember where the learning continuum all starts - with simple curiosity and eagerness to learn.  Below my son was busy playing on his iPad mini when this little boy, and then his sister, just wanted to see what he was doing and then wanted to learn how to play the game. That eagerness to learn new things will serve them well in the future, as it will us all!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Power of "Hello"

During our New Hire Breakfast this past Monday, we asked our new associates what matters most to them at work.  Delmonica Glaze, who recently joined the research team at Washington Cancer Institute, reminded the group how important it is to create a friendly working environment for each other. She said that you’d be surprised at how a simple smile to someone in passing, even if you don’t know them or even speak to them, can completely change their outlook.
Delmonica, doing what she does
best, smiling! 

Delmonica added, “Giving a smile and saying hello makes the working environment more pleasant.  And even though we are employees, we can also benefit from a smile and a friendly hello because we are all people too. You never know, that smile may be just what your co-worker needs to make a busy day manageable.”

At MedStar Health we are all very proud of the good work we do for our patients and how we advance health for future patients. However, what brings me even more pride is how we do this great.  Here at MHRI we always stress the importance of our core SPIRIT values which stand for Service, Patient First, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork. These exemplify HOW we do our great work and not just what we do. Three of those values—Service, Respect, and Teamwork can be amplified daily by a simple “hello”. 

Delmonica reminded me of the power of a smile and a simple 'hello.'  I encourage you all take her advice to smile and say hello to your colleagues and peers. You might just change their day!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Always Learning and Improving

While attending the 3rd annual research symposium last week, something our keynote speaker Carolyn Clancy said really resonated with me. While she praised our work as a system and the quality of healthcare we provide our community, she also spoke about “room for improvement.” She mentioned the importance of improvement in science, and that we need to “keep going if we want healthcare to be what we know it needs to be.”  She coined this 'improvement science.'

It reminds me of a quote I heard: “There's always room for improvement, you know-it's the biggest room in the house.”  What I like about about this quote is that it points out that as much as we know, there is always so much more to learn that can lead to these improvements.

A fine example of learning and improving came to fruition this week. Over the last several years we have been on a journey of improving our research operations and financial infrastructure.  We do this by learning from each experience and applying what we learned into action. While we do this to serve our investigative teams and sponsors, we also do this to abide by federal regulations.

We are very excited to share that we have just completed our annual audit (by an external accounting firm) that is required for organizations receiving more than $500,000 of federal grant revenue. This year, there were no (zero) financial audit findings!  In an organization that conducts thousands (if not millions) of transactions with hundreds of sponsors and dozens of sub-contracts, this is a remarkable accomplishment - one that speaks volumes for our strong teamwork across the organization (including remarkable partnership with MedStar's central business office).  These results are from years of slow and steady improvement in our processes and represents the best audit in the history of the organization. 

While I want you to be aware of our stellar adherence to  federal regulations and accounting principles, I also want you to think about how each challenge or obstacle can turn into a learning opportunity that can ultimately lead to improved processes.  Together, we will live 'improvement science!'

Sunday, March 16, 2014


When my wife and I were dating, our friends called us "The McWeissman's" as a combination of my name and my wife's maiden name McCarthy.  She introduced me (and adopted me) into her large Irish Catholic family (but it took her Jewish mother-in-law to show her how to make corned beef and cabbage!).

Well, I write this on the eve of St Patrick's Day to wish you all 'An Old Irish Blessing' (may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face and rain fall softly upon your fields) and to share a fun picture with you.

Apparently it is not just my wife that is trying to instill some 'Irish' into me!  On Friday the Cardiovascular Core lab 'went green' with a St Patty's day lunch and in the picture below you can see Shrylnee and Patsy had some fun dressing me up for the occasion!  

And even with the prediction of snow, I hope everyone has a great St Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Yesterday I had the unique experience of visiting with the founders of 1776.

What is 1776? Located a few blocks from the White House, 1776 is a platform that serves as a global hub for entrepreneurs and start-up companies tackling major challenges in education, energy, health care, government, and other critical industries (learn more at  In this open space, hundreds of entrepreneurs (with more than a dozen healthcare start up companies) come together in a 'college like' environment. As 'partners' these entrepreneurs / companies receive physical space in the building and are provided with mentorship, corporate connections and access to capital to help take their innovations to the marketplace. Each day there are several guest lectures and talks, with frequent end-of-day 'drink and learn' sessions.

This visit was arranged by Mark Smith and MI2 (see photo to the right of Drs Evans, Smith, Tori and myself with one of the founders).  We also had a chance to talk to a few healthcare start-ups.  One is founded by an ICU physician with an innovative way to identify when and where there are tertiary critical care (ICU) beds available across a city.  Another developed an app for pre-op and post-op care coordination and communication with the patient. During our visit, we discussed how MedStar Health can become part of this creative, forward-looking environment and be a stakeholder in developing a regional innovation ecosystem for new ways to deliver health care.  

So what to know 2 fun facts from this visit?  #1 is that they have 24/7 PB&J sandwiches available to everyone that works there and #2, with the open environment, they brought in these old fashion English telephone booths so people can have a quiet and private place to have a conference call!  What a fun place to work!

The potential for new collaborations is truly exciting and I look forward to learning more about 1776 and the unique healthcare start-up companies that are located in our very own backyard.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What a Night!

Months of hard work across the MedStar Health research community came together last night as over 400 people joined us at the third-annual system-wide MedStar Health Research Symposium. I was filled with pride and joy to see so many people, sharing their investigative work and discoveries with each other and with those learning about research at MedStar for the first time.  We had a diverse attendance, from the corporate executive leadership,  hospital and outpatient administrative leadership, clinical department chairs and even our philanthropy colleagues.

Evans, Weissman and Samet
There were many highlights for me but two I want to share with you here:  1) for the first time,we had a keynote speaker (Dr. Carolyn Clancy) who spoke about health services research, the improvements in science and health care, and how MedStar is very well positioned to take off in new directions and 2) we launched 'Research Brings Hope' posters that will increase the visibility of research potential to all at MedStar.

I want to send a huge thanks to all of the investigators and attendees that came out to support Med Star Health’s research initiatives.  I also want to extend a special thank you to the dedicated MedStar Health Research Institute staff that assisted in putting together the event, as well as the Symposium organizing committee Chaired by Stuart Levine, MD.

Dr Carolyn Clancy
For those who attended, I think all would confirm that the excitement and enthusiasm around research was truly inspiring. 

Remember, you can continue the collaboration and share the Symposium by visiting the virtual Symposium created by SiTEL here:

Monday, March 3, 2014

AAEM National Young Educator of the Year Award

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Michael Ybarra! Mike is an Emergency Medicine Physician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and a recent graduate of the MedStar Teaching Scholars program. Mike was selected as a 2014 recipient for the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) National Young Educator of the Year Award!

This prestigious award recognizes an educator less than five years out of residency who has made outstanding contributions to AAEM through work on educational programs. Mike was presented with the award at the AAEM annual meeting in New York City.

Congratulations to Mike for representing MedStar Health, Georgetown, the Emergency Medicine Residency Program and the Teaching Scholars Program so well! This is an outstanding achievement and a testament to Mike’s dedication to academics, scholarship and his depth of involvement in Emergency Medicine education at the local, regional and national level.  

Primary Care Research Collaboration

You know how it is a great feeling to finish the week on a high note?  Well, that is exactly what happened last Friday.

Did you know that in 2010, Americans made approximately 1.2 billion visits to office-based physicians?  More than half of these to primary care physicians.  If you take 1000 people (dark blue square to the right), 800 have some symptoms (inner light blue square) and of that 327 consider seeking medical care but only 217 actually go to get that care (and only 113 visit primary care office). Of these (the stippled squares), 13 go to an emergency room, 8 end up in the hospital and less than 1% are in an academic medical center.  So even through less than 1% are in an academic medical center, that is where we focus our research efforts - thus, we need to refocus our efforts on research in a primary care setting if we are going to benefit the majority of patients seeking healthcare.

It is for these reasons that Drs. Ranit Mishori and Michelle Roett from Georgetown had the brainchild to create a MedStar-Georgetown primary care research network made of academic and community based primary care leaders, health services researchers, educators, statisticians, bioinformaticians and health economists. 

The two of them, along with Dr. Stuart Levine from MedStar Good Sam, chaired this wonderful group of diverse experts to begin to organize this network. The goal of the consortium is to facilitate collaboration on primary care research projects, learn about ongoing research and scholarly activity in the network, match researchers to clinical collaborators and serve as a resource for MedStar and Georgetown to showcase primary care research and scholarly activity. I am sure you will be hearing about their exciting initiatives as they get organized and they extend this consortium to all those involved in primary care!

Neetra Thakur, Scott Krugman, Melissa DeJong, Mary Ann Dutton, Michelle Roett, Vanita Aroda, Dan Merenstein, Asqual Getaneh, Bruno Anthony, Stuart Levine, Jim Welsh, Ranit Mishori, Jose Delgado, Nawar Shara, Marc Shiffman, Subha Madhavan, George Hennawi, Kelly Smith and Neil Weissman