Friday, December 22, 2017

Celebrate the Season

For the season of joy and thanksgiving, I would like to express my gratitude to the entire MedStar-Georgetown research community this holiday season.  May you all have a hearty, festive holiday season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Positive Thoughts = Positive Results

Guest Post:
Melissa (Mel) Goodrich, Director of Human Resources
MedStar Diversifieds & MedStar Health Research Institute
There are some phrases that I have come to realize we use too much. The main ones...
  • How are you today?
  • How are you doing?
  • Are you Okay?
My answer is always "yes I am fine thank you for asking". Or I will say, "yes I am okay". I don’t even know what okay and fine really means.

I am changing my phrases to engage and I hope many others do as well. I don't really want to know someone is fine or okay. I want them to be much better than that. If they are not better than fine or okay, I want to see what I can do to help.

My new phrases I think are going to be…
  • What amazing things have you seen or done today?
  • Any good stories to share?
  • What's new in your world these days?
Willie Nelson said once you start to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you will have positive results. Willie was not the strongest businessman but he was often happy. I think I will give it a try.

What makes you engage in a conversation? What makes you want to know more?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Socks

When I put the word 'socks' next to 'holiday' what comes to mind? Perhaps Christmas stocking hanging by the fire? Well, think again!

As some of you know, for the last year I have been 'expanding' my horizon of conservative clothes to include some 'fun' socks.  Most just introduce a little color or pattern to an otherwise boring wardrobe.  

 And then sometimes, they help celebrate a trip or gift from someone who recently took a trip:
Well, since our end of the year holiday celebration theme was to unleash the superhero in all of us, I had some very special socks to share at these events!  For those who did not make it, here are my superhero socks:

 AND THE ALL TIME FAVORITE, with sock 'cape' and all:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE - hope the super hero comes out in all of us in 2018!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Celebrating a Successful Year

We just finished hosting our three annual end-of-year celebrations this week, and what fun they were!

Organized by the MHRI Associate Engagement Committee, each event featured trivia, a photo booth, our service award presentations and the all important raffle and associate gift!

Thank you to all you research superheroes, who make a difference in the lives of our patients everyday and help make the world a better place for tomorrow.  

Thank you to the committee for arranging these very special events and all of those who helped to set-up, break down and host the festivities.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

NIH Building a Local Clinical Research Network?

On Friday I attended an exciting meeting at National Institutes of Health (NIH) exploring the possibility of building a local clinical trials network.  The NIH leadership wanted to explore the interest of regional healthcare research leaders, from Virginia (UVA and VCU), DC (Georgetown, MedStar, GW, Childrens, Howard, USUHS/Walter Reed), Baltimore (Hopkins, U of MD, MedStar) to Philadelphia (HUP and CHOP).  I was very pleased that MedStar was 'at the table' with these other great medical research organizations.

The day started out with Francis Collins (NIH Director) welcoming us and setting the stage of possibilities.  Then John Gallin (Chief Scientific Officer) and James Gilman (CEO of the Clin Center at NIH) explained how the NIH hospital, the largest hospital in the U.S. dedicated to research, has enormous resources that could potentially be shared with regional investigators.  Furthermore, the NIH could facilitate other types of peer-to-peer research organizational collaboration.

Then we heard about the challenges for building a clinical research network from Rob Califf, the former FDA Commissioner (who currently spends half his time as Vice Chancellor for Health Data Science at Duke and half his time at Google spin-off Verily Life Science) which set the stage for a robust discussion of 'what is possible together.'

At the end of the day, we all agreed that there is potential for such a regional network and committed to continue to work on it together.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Stepping Away from the Routine

Below is my monthly message for the December 2017 edition of the MHRI newsletter, Focus. You can view Focus online at

Friends and Colleagues,

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and you are now getting into the end-of-year holiday spirit.

Along with the holiday celebrations, the season is a wonderful reprieve from the routine. It’s a chance to take a breath and relax. It is also a chance to reflect and appreciate.
I recently took a BIG step away from the routine, which gave me an unprecedented chance to reflect and appreciate. It has been a long-time desire of mine to do volunteer work in a medically underserved area. I wanted to be able to use my experience in cardiac ultrasound to make a difference. After realizing that I could keep putting this off forever, I finally decided to do it.

Last month I went to Africa to volunteer with Team Heart. Team Heart is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to medical care in Rwanda. In a country with only two cardiologists (yes, only two in the entire country!) where rheumatic heart disease (a consequence of untreated strep throat) remains rampant, there is a big need for volunteers with cardiac expertise. My job was to help train the nurses, doctors and staff physicians how to use cardiac ultrasound to identify rheumatic heart disease and other disorders of the heart. With support from the Rwanda Ministry of Health, our volunteer team brought new, laptop-sized cardiac ultrasound machines to four hospitals.

Having worked in healthcare for over 30 years and seen many clinical situations, I was amazed by the clinical staff’s level of dedication, creativity, and resourcefulness. They did whatever was needed to care for their patients. Despite knowing what was possible in places with modern healthcare (because of online textbooks and other tools), they never got discouraged. This is often despite not having basic things we take for granted all the time—and I am not only referring to materials like antibiotics, ECG leads or IV saline. Basic things we never think of, like electricity, would routinely go out each day for a few minutes! Nonetheless, each patient, every day was approached with a ‘can do’ attitude utilizing whatever was available. On top of it all, everyone I met was so incredibly nice and grateful for what they had. It is true: when you have little, you really appreciate the things you do have so much more.

While they were appreciative of our time and expertise, I feel that I received far more than I gave. It’s just like tonight’s supermoon (when the moon appears larger-than-usual), using the time to reflect as you step away from the routine showed me things in my life “larger-than-usual”.
The 2016 supermoon
by David Zvonař on Unsplash
Let me take this end-of-year opportunity to also thank you – thank you for taking the time to read this monthly column and for your frequent comments. It’s great when a message resonates or touches someone else. Thank you also for the privilege of working with you each day on our meaningful work here at MedStar.

If you want to see some pictures from Rwanda, they are posted on my blog, Notes from Neil.

Very best wishes for a joyful and healthy (and reflective) holiday season! I look forward to working with you in 2018 to advance health for our community today and tomorrow.  Enjoy this month’s FOCUS e-Newsletter below.


Read Focus at