Monday, November 25, 2019

How Can We Think Differently? Thoughts from the 2019 Innovation Forum

Ashlee Tidwell
Communications & Planning Specialist
Office of Research Development, Planning & Communications

This was my second time attending the Mi2 Forum and I couldn’t wait to see what THIS year had in store! The speakers were excellent and shared a lot of valuable information to those of us that yearn to “think differently.”

One of my favorite experiences of the day was the Albert Einstein illusion that was present on stage. My team sat in the front of the room, so my eyes couldn’t stop looking at it. I was fascinated because I couldn’t tell if the face was sticking out or going inward! It’s hard to explain so take a look at this video where they discuss the “hollow-face illusion” of Albert Einstein. 

Two of my favorite quotes of the day:
  • “Practice Mindfulness” 
  • “Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Cheaply”

Deliya B. Wesley, PhD, MPH
Research Scientist, Health Equity

I thought there were a couple of really interesting insights provided by the speakers, especially in the afternoon lineup. I particularly enjoyed the talk on the next 10 Wikipedias, which made me think differently about framing my ideas for my research proposals- in essence, thinking not about what the best solution is for right now, but more forward thinking in terms of what the next iteration of what I’m proposing may look like given the current healthcare landscape. In that same vein, the speaker who talked in depth about why Russia beat the US to the moon and the importance of not losing sight of the sometimes simpler, less resource intensive but immediately effective approach.

Eva Hochberger
Communications & Planning Manager
Office of Research Development, Planning & Communications

Over the years, the Innovation Forum has frequently left me walking away with more questions than I started the day with. This isn’t your typical event, especially not a typical MedStar Health event, but it consistently remains true to the work of the MedStar Institute for Innovation and their charge to think differently.

Each of the presentations brought something different to the table. I was particlary intrigued by the NIH’s All of Us project. It’s a massive undertaking, one which will have the ability to provide a huge data set for future work. But it also raised really important questions around research in the era of big data: how are we sharing information? How are we protecting that information? How can we engage a broad audience in what, on it’s face, is a low effort clinical trial? What tools can we use for retention in a database study? Certainly food for thought!

If you are interested in learning more, the entire event was live-streamed and the 2019 videos will soon be available here. Video archives from the past ten years of Forums are also available, with more coming soon. There was also an active group on Twitter with the hashtag #MI2Forum.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Philanthropy, Powered by Gratitude

As we continue through the Power to Heal campaign at MedStar Health and we get closer to Thanksgiving, I wanted to share the impact of our associates giving has for our investigators.

Below are some of the recipients of the New Investigator ‐ Associate Giving Grant Fund sharing why this fund and the support of MHRI associates, is impactful to them. Most associates support this philanthropic endeavour to share their gratitude. Click on the images to view them larger.

Every dollar donated by associates from this campaign goes to fund New Investigators so they can collect pilot data that is crucial to launching their careers at MedStar Health. Join us in supporting our future and our future researchers by directing your gift of gratitude to the MEDSTAR HEALTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE when you visit


Friday, November 15, 2019

20 Years of International Collaboration and Friendship

Last week I had the honor of being part of Vien Tim Mach VietNam 30 year celebration. As the oldest Heart Hospital in Vietnam, they have made seminal contributions to the cardiac care of millions of people throughout the country. Approximately 20 years ago, I was so fortunate to be part of a small group of cardiologists to visit the hospital and share our knowledge and experience. Back then I spent several days with Dr Hoai Nguyen using echocardiography to assess patients with damaged heart valves and determne which patients needed an intervention. Below is a picture of us 20 years ago and another from last week in the same hospital. Over the weekend, the hospital hosted a scientific conference and recognized those that made contributions to its history. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

MHRI Board Member Recognized for Commitment to Public Health

Guest Blogger:
Angela D. Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA
Assistant Vice President, Healthcare Delivery Research
MedStar Health Research Institute

Recently, I had the pleasure of witnessing one of our esteemed MHRI Board members receive the “Promise of Health in Howard County Award”.  At the 2nd Annual “State of Health Care in Howard County” event hosted by Howard County General Hospital, Dr. Carlessia A. Hussein was honored for her dedication to improving the health of populations locally and nationally.  Steven Snelgrove, President of Howard County General Hospital and Elizabeth Rendon-Shermon, Chair of the Howard County General Board of Trustees presented Dr. Hussein with this notable award.

Though retired from her role as director of the Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities in the Office of the Maryland Secretary of Health, Dr. Hussein’s passion for improving the health of communities and reducing disparities continues.  She remains active in the healthcare community through volunteerism on several Boards and committees, including MHRI’s Board of Directors. Dr. Hussein has also established the Carlessia Hussein Minority Scholarship fund where she awards scholarships to minority middle school boys making low grades and living in low income families in Howard County and Baltimore City.

Dr. Atul Grover, Executive Vice President of the Association of American Medical Colleges gave the keynote address entitled “Our Changing Health Care Culture”. It was inspiring to see how the legacy of Dr. Hussein’s work helped to lay the foundation for the future of healthcare. Several of Dr. Hussein’s distinguished friends, including Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, were also in attendance to celebrate with her.

Congratulations Dr. Carlessia Hussein!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Gratitude Does Matter

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

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It happened again - I spent the last few days thinking about this monthly message only for it to change at the last minute. I knew I wanted to discuss gratitude and the power of giving. I was debating how best to translate the power of gratitude into words, but found myself stuck.

At first, my thought was to approach the message from a personal perspective by sharing the feeling I get when
volunteering for medical missions. Alternatively, I considered relying on ‘science’ by quoting this great article I recently read in Frontiers in Psychology which proves that gratitude changes our mood, reduces exhaustion, helps us connect to others and gives a wonderful sense of accomplishment. There was also this delightful video entitled ‘GratiTALK’ filmed at the last Research Symposium which speaks so well to why gratitude matters so much in healthcare.

However, when I sat down this morning to write this column, I opened my email and the direction immediately changed. The email below is from a colleague who is returning from medical leave and it sums everything I was trying to express so much better than I could ever do:

Good Morning,

I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for your support over the last week and a half. It was a spooky time for me and not because it was Halloween! I consider myself extremely fortunate and one of the things that makes me so fortunate is that I have colleagues with such big hearts.

With gratitude,

Gratitude does matter.

Once a year at MedStar Health, we ask our communities to share their gratitude with us. As part of that, we invite you to participate in our annual Power to Heal campaign. This campaign reinforces the importance of bringing our community together, building a culture of expressing and accepting gratitude, all while providing everyone the chance to positively impact the communities we serve. The ultimate goal of our Power to Heal Campaign is to encourage expressions of gratitude between associates.

At MHRI, I am proud that the gratitude of our associates and community has supported over 20 investigators through the New Investigator Associate Giving Grant Fund.  Every dollar donated by associates from this campaign goes to fund New Investigators so they can collect pilot data that is crucial to launching their careers at MedStar Health. You can learn more about the recipients of the fund from my recent blog post or in this issue of FOCUS below.

Join us in supporting our future and our future researchers by directing your gift of gratitude to the MEDSTAR HEALTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE when you visit

Thank you for your commitment to advancing health through research!


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

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Associates Giving Back to Research: New Investigators Fund

In talking about our recent funding success, I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the research that was funded directly by our associates! 

Each year, all MedStar Health associates are invited to share their gratitude for each other and the mission we serve by making personal contributions to funds across the system during the Power to Heal Campaign. For the past four years, MHRI has designated these donations into the New Investigators Fund. This fund provides initial funding to researchers who are within five years of joining MedStar to help them pilot their research. We hope that these research projects will lead to external funding.

Thank you to each of the associates who contributed last year. Without your support, we couldn’t make this happen.

This year, we’ve added five more investigators to our recipient list. This brings the total number of research projects supported by associates to 21 since 2016.
  • Ankit B. Shah, MD, MPH, FACC (MedStar Sports & Performance Cardiology Program)
    “Atrial size, function and fitness level among endurance runners with known paroxysmal atrial fibrillation”
  • Leila Shobab, MD, FRCPC (MedStar Washington Hospital Center)
    “Sex-Specific Immune Landscape of Differentiated Thyroid Cancer”
  • Pashna M. Munshi, MD (MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center)
    “We're in This Together: Health-Related Quality of Life, Self Preparedness, and Caregiver Burden in Patient/Primary Caregiver Dyads in the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Setting”
  • Shashwati Geed, PT PhD (MedStar National Rehabilitation Medicine)
    “Identifying a signal for critical period plasticity: Function of PV+ interneurons post stroke”
  • Yasar Torres-Yaghi, MD (MedStar Georgetown University Hospital)
    “MicroRNA in Neurodegenerative Diseases: Parkinson Disease, Lewy Body Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease”
You can read more about this fund in the press release.

If you are interested in supporting this campaign for the next cohort of New Investigator Fund recipients, you can make a donation today through the Power to Heal website. Select MedStar Health Research Institute from the drop down to support our future researchers.

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.