Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween from MHRI


101 Dalmations at the Weinberg Cancer Institute

The gang from the Hundred Acre Wood

Black Cat, Bride of Chucky, Pocahontas, and Mary Poppins!

The Feather Duster from Beauty & the Beast and Morticia Adams

Dorthy left Toto at home today

Scout from To Kill a Mocking Bird

Nemo and Bruce (or Baby Shark for the Nats fans out there!)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Supporting Research Into Quality of Life after Spinal Cord Injuries

The research happening at MedStar NRH is broad. It can be part of a rehbilitation trial, or in the case of the recent award from DoD to Suzanne Groah, MD, MSPH, it can focus on conditions that are a result of spinal cord injury.

This work is in follow up to earlier pilot work that Dr. Groah led at MNRH. This most recent work is funded through a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense - Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. Her team will conduct focused research for patients who are living with spinal cord injuries and neurogenic bladder, with a focus on urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Dr. Suzanne Groah and members of her research team

UTIs are the most common outpatient infection world-wide. For patients with spinal cord injuries, they can be especially concerning. The research has three aims, including clinical ideitifcaiton of markers to help diagnosis UTIs in those with spinal cord injuries and the pilot clinical trial to help reduce symptoms and potentially prevent urinary tract infection.

You can read the full press release on the MHRI website.

Congratulations to Dr. Groah and team for their focused work on patient outcomes and quality of life!

This post is part of my series on MHRI's funding success in FY20. You can view all the blogs associated with the series here.

Friday, October 18, 2019

2019 MedStar-Georgetown Summer Student Capstone

Each summer, MedStar Health and Georgetown University collaborate to provide medical students the opportunity to participate in research. These students are funded through scholarships, including the Pines-Kleinman Fund, the Pellegrini Fund, and the Dean’s Office at Georgetown School of Medicine.

For these rising second-year medical students, the eight weeks they spend over the summer may be their first foray into research. In some cases, this program may inform their decision of how they would like to grow as a medical student and their future career trajectory.

We were proud to host those summer students, their mentors, and the greater research and academic community at the Summer Student Capstone at the Fenech Embassy.

This year, over 200 members of the MedStar-Georgetown community joined us to celebrate student research.  91 students presented their research to small group audiences. MedStar’s Dr. Munish Goyal, who oversee’s the summer program, shared the stage with Dean Joe Timpone and Dean Stephen Ray Michell to welcome the attendees and presenters.

Congratulations to all the students and mentors!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Working Towards Improving Diagnostic Safety

Expanding the focus of research and innovation, MedStar is also contributing to contracts to support patient safety and outcomes in understanding and improving diagnostic safety.

20 years ago, the US Institute of Medicine released a milestone book, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, which created an entire movement based on patient safety. At MedStar, our Institute for Quality and Safety (MIQS) is helping to drive meaningful change in outcomes for all patients, not just those within our walls.

Dr. Christine A. Goeschel
One of the awards received by MedStar Health in the beginning of our fiscal 2020 year includes a contract from the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) to develop novel resources, tools and programs aimed at reducing diagnostic errors and related patient harm.  Led at MedStar by Dr. Christine A. Goeschel, the team will collaborate with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Our diversified healthcare delivery system provides an environment for researchers to work side by side with providers, patients, and administrators to understand real-world diagnostic challenges, and then work collaboratively improve diagnostic processes and outcomes.

Congratulations to Dr. Goeschel and the MIQS team on their award and for their commitment to caring for our patients.

You can read the full press release here.

This post is part of my series on MHRI's funding success in FY20. You can view all the blogs associated with the series here.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Analyzing the Nation’s Largest Patient Safety Database

In my “series” on great funding news for the first quarter of the 2020 financial year, I’d like to congratulate Raj Ratwani, PhD, and the collaborative team from the MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare on their multi-year project with the state of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Raj Ratwani
When we talk of funding sources, we mostly think of federal grant awards or commercial studies. This award is from Pennsylvania's Patient Safety Authority. Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that requires healthcare facilities to report events that could potentially cause harm to patients, as well as events that have been shown to cause harm.

Over several years, the team will analyze the largest patient safety database in the country. They will be using machine learning algorithms to quickly identify areas where improvements can be applied to shape the future of safe and effective patient care within the state.

You can read the full release on this award here.

This post is part of my series on MHRI's funding success in FY20. You can view all the blogs associated with the series here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Celebrating Our Growth in Research

Over the first quarter of the academic year (July through September 2019), MedStar Health Research Institute has had a record number of new grants and contracts with our investigators obtaining awards worth over $30 million! This is a testament to the great work we are doing and the talented research teams doing them. It is also a tribute to our building reputation as a great place in which to conduct research, from clinical trials to healthcare delivery research assessing quality, safety and patient outcomes. As I review these new awards, I am in awe of the diversity of talent, from research studies in patients with spinal cord injuries to cardiovascular trials to human factors work in diagnostic errors. Many of these awards are for multi-year projects and many of them have potential for additional sub-projects or extensions.

This work wouldn’t be possible without the support of the entire MHRI team. Our investigators, the research teams working with them, the scientific center administrative directors, the office of contracts and grants management, the IRB, finance partners and every team member around the system are integral to our continued growth.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some updates on the projects that have been funded so you can learn about some of our new studies and congratulate the research team. Join me in congratulating these investigators and their teams!

Monday, October 7, 2019

There is More to Life Than Being Happy

Below is my monthly message for the October 2019 edition of the MHRI newsletter, Focus. You can view Focus online at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

“There is more to life than being happy”

That is the title of a
TED talk by Emily Esfahni Smith– it’s a talk I return to often, gaining something new each time which I try to incorporate into my life at home and work. It has continued to have a positive impact on my life and I would like to share it with you today.

Many people believe that the whole purpose of life is pursuing happiness. What’s more, many equate happiness with having the ideal job, perfect boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, or a beautiful home. The pursuit of happiness becomes a pursuit of these ‘things’. However, the data from multiple studies has shown that chasing happiness in this way ironically makes people unhappy! In fact, it often leads to an emptiness bringing people to ask ‘is this all there is?’

Happiness is defined as a state of comfort and ease which lets you feel good in the moment. The key word in that definition is ‘moment’. The things we equate with happiness do not give long-term fulfillment. Emily Esfahni Smith makes the compelling point that seeking meaning in life is a more fulfilling path. Meaning is defined as belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you. In fact, data (yes – science!!) shows that those seeking meaning are more resilient, do better in school/work and even live longer!

So, how can we live a more meaningful life? She feels there are 4 pillars to having a meaningful life:
  • Belonging: being in relationships in which you are valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well; bonds to family, friends, and colleagues
  • Purpose: less about what you want than what you give; using your strengths to serve others (e.g., raising your children or healing sick people); the ‘why’ that drives you forward
  • Transcendence: lifting yourself above the hustle and bustle of daily life, so your sense of self is connected to something higher. In one experiment (more science!) students were brought into the woods and asked to look up at 200’ tall trees for one minute. After that, tests showed they were less self-centered and gave more generously when given the chance to help someone
  • Storytelling: the story you tell yourself about yourself. We are the authors of our life story. The way we see our own life changes how we feel. She told about a man who became paraplegic from an accident. He complained about his situation, the bad break he got and being a victim. He was miserable and he reinforced his unhappiness. However, with time he started to see it differently. “Before my injury my life was purposeless. I partied a lot and was selfish. My injury made me realize I can be a better man.” After telling the new story, he discovered the best within himself, started to mentor kids, and learned that his purpose was serving others.

On the most recent MHRI associate survey, when asked about what people enjoy most about work, the most common answers were ‘the people I work with’ and ‘the gratifying work we are doing at MedStar’. Those answers demonstrate belonging and purpose. The nature of research (and healthcare) requires a multidisciplinary team which means it is a field that is higher than any one individual.

We are all very fortunate to be in a profession where we are given the opportunity to easily embrace three of the pillars of meaning (belonging, purpose, and transcendence). The last pillar, however, is up to you. What story do you tell yourself about your professional journey? The easy path is to fixate on what does not work rather than having gratitude for what you do have. This TED talk reminds me that the way we tell our own story, how we view our own experience, helps us discover our purpose and meaning in life. Meaning gives fulfillment to life, even when daily events can make happiness in the moment wax and wane.

For me, meaning comes from the sum of healthcare + MedStar + advancing health through research, education and innovation.

Thank you for being part of meaning at MedStar - long-term fulfillment through the work we do together and the impact we have on our community.
P.S. Mark your calendars now for Monday, April 6, 2020, for the 2020 MedStar Health-Georgetown University Research Symposium! View the flyer here.

Read Focus at