Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Treat of Retreat

Guest Bloggers:
Vanita Aroda, MD
Scientific Director of the MedStar Community Clinical Research Center

Jason Umans, MD, PhD
Scientific Director of Basic and Translational Science Laboratories at MHRI

Research Scholars Retreat - Wye River – google maps – that terrible bridge – new scholars –  will they be as good as their applications-or better?  –– will they be able to work as a group across research and clinical disciplines?---will we be able to constructively guide their next steps – do they have the ‘fire in their bellies’ to succeed as investigators? –-do we have the scientific depth to mentor colleagues outside of our own disciplines and interests – will the magic that we depend upon actually occur?---shoot, did I pack exercise shoes?  
So many thoughts during the hour + drive to the annual kickoff Teaching and Research Scholars retreat, welcoming the new cohort of Scholars into our paired academic career development programs. But what was hard to imagine during that drive was actually how it would all turn out -- for with the annual kick-off Research Scholars retreat, there is a required element of faith, that when the right intentions and substance come together, constructive clarity will emerge. And indeed, it did.

A day and a half of intensive constructive peer review and guidance to ensure research proposals had legs, career arcs had thematic integrity, resources were available to support initial steps, and feedback was incorporated to plan the year with sessions that would be of most practical benefit -- what a feeling of accomplishment! The most inspirational moments were those unpredictable, yet palpable, ‘aha’ fireworks moments, where fine tweaks, iterative review and feedback resulted in meaningful changes and clarified direction to research and career plans. Those are the moments that textbooks, formal curricula, and seminars don’t automatically create, but what in-person connection, mentorship, and dynamic discussions can spark. 

As one of the scholars shared, “You were right, when you said that tomorrow I would feel different than today. In just a day, I found myself thinking differently, with another perspective. I feel inspired!”   

We are privileged to help guide this remarkable new group of colleagues from across our system, Cynthia DeKlotz, M. Carter Denny, Suhasini Kaushal, and Deliya Wesley as they begin to develop independent, extramurally-funded research careers at MedStar Health.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Every two years, MedStar undertakes an effort to reach out to associates and get their feedback. MHRI frequently has a very high percentage of associates complete the survey, but this year blows them all out of the water.

As of Monday, March 20, we have a 98% completion rate from our associates! Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to share with us at MedStar how you feel about working here.

In an effort to reach all associates, the deadline to complete the survey has been extended until midnight, Tuesday, March 21. If you are in the last 2% of MHRI associates, please take this opportunity to share with us in this confidential venue.

We use the results of the Associate Survey to gauge what initiatives MHRI can undertake to engage our associates. We’ve implemented career ladders and professional development funds due to the 2015 Survey feedback and are looking for your feedback to make changes in the next 2 years.

We remain committed to our associates and this survey is a valuable resource for MHRI and MedStar leadership to stay engaged with our associates.

Visit to complete your survey. The survey takes only 15 minutes to complete. Make sure you have time to complete the survey. Once you start the survey, you cannot save and return later.

The MedStar 2017 Associate Survey, Powered by You
March 1-21, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Clinical Trial Participant and Author

A few weeks ago, Heather Williams, Oncology Research Nurse Coordinator at MedStar Union Memorial received an email from one of her study patients. The patient, Dr. Kelsey Crowe, enrolled in the Breast Cancer GP2/AE37 Vaccine Trial in 2013. She had travelled from San Francisco to MUMH in Baltimore to receive her vaccine injections over the course of 2.5 years. She is now in follow up.

Kelsey contacted Heather to let her know that she had written a book and would be having a book signing at Kramerbooks in Washington, DC. Kelsey’s book is called “ There is No Good Card for That”. Since her study treatment she has also started a non profit called “Helping Each Other Out” (

Jean Flack, Manager for Oncology Research in Baltimore, and Heather Williams attended the book signing on March 1, 2017. Kelsey was delighted to see her study coordinators again plus Heather was able to do a follow up visit! It was a great experience for Jean and Heather as well – to see a former patient doing so much good work and being such an inspiration for others!
The trial that Kelsey was enrolled in was open at MedStar Union Memorial and enrolled several patients. One (Kelsey) traveled from San Francisco; others came from Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania to participate in the trial and two were local. Most of the patients found the study through breast cancer web sites. The study is now closed to enrollment while patients continue in follow up for collecting recurrence and survival data.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learning On the Job

It’s been a while since there was a lunch and learn at MHRI, but they’ve made a comeback! Our first forays into this event were on Excel and SharePoint, and our most recent was on Outlook.

"Optimizing your Outlook" with Kelly Rosendall was attended by a packed house at University Town Center and more than 40 associates via WebEx. Kelly walked associates through some steps that they can take to simplify their email process and work their way to a clean inbox.

You can download her flyer with the steps to complete several different aspects of Outlook optimization here.
There are also specific instructions available for archiving calendar events, if you frequently find that you are running out of space in your email. These are from Clark Bean, our Director of Information Technology.

She also covered some basics on using the Office Communicator that is installed on all MedStar computers, with some great ideas for collaboration.

Thank you Kelly, for sharing your experience with us! If anyone has an idea for a future Lunch and Learn (or would like to share their expertise), please contact

Monday, March 6, 2017

Powered by Teamwork

Friends and Colleagues,

Move over business leaders, the scientists will show you how it works!

I can’t tell you how excited I was this week when I received the March issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) and on the cover was “The New Science of Teamwork.” In fact, the last two issues of HBR have included several articles linking science and business. 

In an interview with Helen Fisher, a biologic anthropologist (who has spent her career doing functional MRI research on brain systems that drive human emotions, personality and attraction) summed it up nicely by saying “If you understand how the brain works, you can reach anyone.” Fisher and others are now using their scientific findings to improve the workplace.
One article that really caught my attention was, “The Neuroscience of Trust: Management Behaviors that Foster Employee Engagement.” In it, the author describes how wild animals are known to have a higher level of oxytocin to signal when another animal is safe to approach and how stress will inhibit oxytocin release. This makes sense because when you are stressed out, you rarely want to interact with others. The author postulated that the same may apply to humans so they did a series of tests measuring oxytocin level in different scenarios. The results were fascinating. The experiments showed that having a sense of higher purpose stimulates oxytocin production, as does trust. Trust and purpose then mutually reinforce each other for even higher levels of oxytocin, which produces happiness.

Applying this to the workplace, joy on the job can come from doing purpose-driven work with a trusted team. This scenario leads to high engagement with a strong connection with one’s work and colleagues, being a real contributor to the team and enjoying ample chance to learn.
And there is more! The author shows that we can act on this data to make our workplace better. There are several effective ways to increase oxytocin levels: 1) recognizing excellence, 2) giving people discretion in how they do their work, 3) sharing information broadly through good communication, 4) building relationships and, 5) helping people develop personally and professionally. However, in order to know which of these areas to focus on, associates needs to provide input, advice and feedback. Well, the timing for this article could not be better.

The bi-annual MedStar Associate Survey just launched and asks your opinion in the following categories: Career Development and Training, Communications, Engagement, Leadership and Direction, Performance Management, Patient First, Supervision, Total Rewards, and Teamwork. This survey is online and only takes 10-15 minutes to complete. Visit now to voice your opinion.

Together, we will build a future at MHRI and MedStar Health that is focused and powered by you. And together, we will raise all of our oxytocin levels to new heights! Thank you for all you have done to advance health and for your input on how to do this important work even more effectively and enjoyably!


Read Focus at

Thursday, March 2, 2017

MedStar 2017 Associate Survey

As you prepare to take the MedStar 2017 Associate Survey, consider the things you enjoy most about your job and the opportunities we have to move forward.

While we launch the 2017 survey, it gives us a chance to look back at the 2015 results to identify where we made progress.  In the 2015 survey, associates were asked for the first time to comment on the one thing they enjoy most about working at MedStar Health. There were nearly 12,000 comments in response, providing invaluable insight to strong shared values across the organization. More than 2,000 comments mentioned patients,and nearly 7,000 referenced co-workers and teamwork. Here are a few representative comments from the thousands received.
  1. People and community: "The thing I enjoy the most about working at MedStar Health is the opportunity that MedStar gives me to care for the people of my community, support those that care for the patients directly, and ultimately improve health care and the industry as we know it today."
  2. Sense of purpose: “The most enjoyable thing is being a part of our purpose: helping to provide safe patient care. That is all tied to service that only comes from attention to the providers' and patients’ needs, teamwork, and understanding of financial limitations, and managing expectations in evaluating priorities."
  3. Opportunity to expand skills: “This job has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills in the healthcare industry. The diversity in the department is one of the greatest assets and keys to success. The interactions across the system have been rewarding and challenging at the same time. I can see where my role has an immediate impact on outcomes to promote patient care.”
  4. Passion for patient safety and patient care: "The associates who work for MedStar are passionate about both patient safety and patient care, regardless of their role within the organization. It helps to provide purpose and value to one’s profession. MedStar is an excellent company that offers much to the community and to those who serve within the organization, and I am proud to be a MedStar associate.”
What is the one thing you enjoy most about working at MedStar? Please take the time to let us know as part of the Associate Survey.  While the survey will capture opportunities for improvement, it is just as important to recognize the things you value to make sure they stay as part of our culture and organization.

The bi-annual Associate Enagement survey is open now and will run through March 19, 2017. Your feedback is anonymous and confidential—MedStar partners with Willis Towers Watson, an outside consulting firm, who receives and processes all surveys. No one from MedStar Health sees an individual’s completed survey. MedStar Health is Powered by You!

The MedStar 2017 Associate Survey is open now until March 19, 2017. Visit to complete your survey today!