Sunday, June 28, 2020

Safe Babies and Safe Moms

I, along with everyone at MedStar Health, are proud to announce that we have launched the D.C. Safe Babies and Safe Moms Initiative, due to a generous donation from the  A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation
Washington DC is a microcosm of the United States healthcare outcomes, including outcomes for mothers and their babies. For patients treated at in Washington DC the prevalence of stillborn deliveries and infant mortality overall is almost four times higher for African American mothers than white mothers.  
The DC. Safe Babies Safe Moms Initiative  is focused on proving holistic support for mothers and families, both during pregnancy and after the birth. The project is built on patient-centered, culturally competent care, including access to a comprehensive list of services. 
This work is a true team effort, with clinicians from MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, along with data infrastructure support and scientists from MHRI. Our goal is to improve health of babies and moms today while creating knowledge and methods to deliver care to help generations of babies to come. We are also proud to be working alongside several community organizations to support this incredibly important work.  This program will help us address health inequities which will make a difference in the District and beyond!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Welcome New Interns to MedStar Health

Guest Blogger:
Jamie Padmore, DM

VP Academic Affairs, MedStar Health
Sr. Associate Dean for Medical Education, Georgetown University Medical Center

For all of us in medical education, this is the most wonderful time of the year!  In the past week, we greeted our 300 new interns to MedStar Health.  And in the first time in my 30-year career history, it was done virtually on Zoom.  While COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges such as this, we have used these challenges to innovate and create new ways to connect, communicate, and educate.  For example, physicians and associates from around the system created a welcome video to express how excited we are to meet all of our new residents. It was so much fun to watch, and it was a great way to kick off orientation!

We also held our June GME Town Halls. You can watch the recording by accessing
During the town halls, Dr. Evans and I both had the opportunity to discuss MedStar’s position on diversity and inclusion, as well as actions we are taking within our academic community to begin to change racial injustice and health disparities.  I committed to three immediate next steps:

  1. We will provide space and schedule forums for us to have reconciliation conversations together.  These conversations will provide us with opportunities to share, learn, and grow together. 
  2. I am charging our academic leadership to create working groups composed of residents, fellows, and faculty to discuss, inform, and make recommendations to me on actions we should take within our academic community, and within MedStar Health, to make tangible changes to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  3. We will move swiftly to create diversity and inclusion strategies for recruitment and selection of residents and clinical faculty, as stipulated by the ACGME in 2019.  I will provide resources and structure for our program directors and clinical leaders to develop these recruitment and selection strategies that can be implemented as early as this fall. 
These three steps are just a beginning.  In order for us to create actionable and sustainable change, we must all work together to share, listen, contribute, and develop additional steps forward.  I will use this weekly update to provide information on next steps and opportunities for each of you to contribute and participate. 

Together we can make a difference.  OneMedStar, OneGME, OneTeam. 

Friday, June 19, 2020


Guest Blogger:
Carlessia A. Hussein, RN, BS, MS, Dr.PH
Member of MHRI Board of Directors

June 19 commemorates the day that slaves in Texas learned in 1865 that they were free.  This was two years after the actual signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, that freed the slaves.  Slave owners in the south and elsewhere around the nation kept this information about freedom from the slaves.  In many ways, institutional and structural racism prevents or limits full implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation to this VERY DAY.

It is important, that all Americans, immigrants and visitors learn the true story of slavery, its continuation and the Proclamation signed to end it. Knowledge is power, each of us must RELEARN the facts and act on the platforms on which we work, live and play to fully free the descendants of the slaves.  Our nation's destiny is dependent on our actions. 

The link below shares the story the ’Tulsa Riot’ in 1921, where White citizens burned and destroyed a prosperous Black town.  It is one of many examples where the Emancipation Proclamation is rejected and local Whites punished Blacks for their hard work.  For the NEW LEARNER  on this subject, there are many instances where Black communities were destroyed by Whites.   

Please join me in this re-education and share with others who want to learn.

Dr. Carlessia A. Hussein  -   June 19  -  ‘Juneteenth'


Thursday, June 18, 2020

MedStar Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery Inaugural Research Symposium

As we continue to adapt to living with physical distancing, our community is re-creating our academic platform.  This morning (at 6 am, thank you very much!) I had the pleasure of joining the faculty, staff, residents and students in the MedStar Department of Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery for their inaugural virtual Research Symposium.

Despite the early hour, this was a vibrant symposium.  After opening remarks by Dr. Ken Fan, the scientific director for the department, we went into resident and research fellow presentations.  I was so impressed with the quality and quantity of research studies, from surgical techniques to the use of tele-health.  In many ways, this department's research exemplifies many of the concepts I described in my keynote lecture on becoming a world-class academic health system -  one in which our research is well connected to the health and well-being of our community.

Congratulations to all the presenters and the entire department!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

In this unprecedented time, we come together to honor the men and women who have served this country. We thank you for your courage and your sacrifice. Have a safe Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What week is this again?

Can you believe we're now in week 10 of our "new normal"? It feels like time is moving slow and fast at the same time - its a strange world for sure and so much different from anything any of us imagined.  While there are many challenges, there are a number of 'silver linings' that have come out of this pandemic and one is being able to catch up with teams from around MHRI at their weekly staff meetings.

Over the last few weeks I've visited each MHRI departmental staff meeting and couldn't be more proud. Our associates, managers and investigators are being creative in identifying innovative ways to continue the great work we do while staying safe and having a bit of fun. Thank you for your warm welcome into your staff meetings and the opportunity to hear from each of you.

I've also really enjoying having the chance to hear about the things you are doing to stay healthy and well. Some of you are creating great fitness habits such as walking, jogging and virtual exercise classes. Others are exploring healthy cooking recipes and keeping up with their gardening. It's been wonderful getting to know you (and sometimes your children and pets!) on our video sessions.  It was especially nice when people shared the 'fun things' they are now doing, like ballroom dancing! Again, thank you for such an inviting space and getting to know you better.

Please stay safe and continue to practice physical distancing while staying socially connected!

Office of Contracts and Grants Management Team meet with Dr. Weissman

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Georgetown-Howard-MedStar GHUCCTS Receives $24.3 Million CTSA from NIH

Congratulations to the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) for receiving a $24.3 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) from the NIH.  This renewal marks the third 5-year award for GHUCCTS, which has secured close to $90 million in research funding for its member institutions.

GHUCCTS' mission is to advance research and training with excellence, innovation, collaboration, and efficiency and it's great news to share that we will be able to do just that while engaging our communities in clinical research. 

Over the last 10 years, GHUCCTS has accomplished several goals including:
MHRI has been an integral part of GHUCCTS from the beginning, providing the largest clinical settings and providing leadership in several components. Congratulations to all of our GHUCCTS investigators and collaborators. Let us continue to improve the health and wellness of our surrounding communities as we advance research!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Celebrating Nurses Week

Guest Blogger:
Joan Bardsley MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE
Assistant Vice President, Nursing and Research Integration

Nurses Week starts this Wednesday, May 6th. The WHO has declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. I find it somewhat fortuitous considering the role nursing is playing in the pandemic.

On a normal day, nurses are heroes. But right now, during this COVID-19 crisis, the sacrifice and dedication is even more deserving of recognition. A simple thanks for what they do every day and especially now is so important. Our MHRI nurses have shown incredible flexibility and tenacity to ensure our research participants are safe. Our nurses are supporting COVID-19 projects that will help us learn more about this pandemic in the future. In addition, many have volunteered for projects to call associates with testing results and advising on follow up. It is gratifying that so many are having the opportunity to learn about what our nurses do in general and how they contribute to research.

Below are two highlights of our great MHRI nurses doing what they do best: helping.

Maureen McNulty was redeployed from MHRI to MWHC Occupational Health a little over a month ago. It was pretty chaotic when she first arrived because a formal process had not yet been established for communicating and evaluating COVID-19 associate testing results. However fast forward three weeks, and they are  using an efficient, multi-system process to track, report & return our associates to work after testing or quarantine. She occasionally donned her quality assurance hat to provide feedback on how to improve processes & documentation! During this crisis, Occupational Health has expanded its hours to accommodate our associates, so it has been interesting to return to working evenings & weekends, which she haven’t done in 20 years! All in all, she feels very grateful for the opportunity to support-- in some small way-our incredible MWHC workforce during this challenging time. She is really proud of the  team!
Maureen McNulty (center) with other nurses working in Occupational Health

Terry Moriarty
MedStar Health Research Institute’s Medical and Surgical Research Network research nurses Terry Moriarty, Kristin Garman, and Melissa McLawhorn have been working together with the rest of the MedStar team to offer patients diagnosed with COVID-19 the opportunity to participate in research studies. These studies are varied and include therapeutic drug trials, biologic sample collection to better understand the disease and develop testing assays, plasma transfusions, retrospective chart reviews for data points, and imaging studies for machine learning to help future patients. Our research nurses are working at all hours to obtain informed consent, administer research drugs, obtain imaging, draw labs, and so much more. The research nurse team is excited that MedStar has these opportunities available for patients with COVID-19 to be able to participate in research to improve outcomes and that they can play a key role in helping to treat this disease and serve the community. They also want to give a shout out to the staff nurses who are taking care of the research patients, “we couldn’t be successful without your help!”  

Sue Cranford, RN, Jennifer Latteri, BSN, RN, CCRC, and Rachel Campbell, RN, were quick to heed the call and sign-up to assist Occupational Health in making phone calls to COVID positive MedStar employees. All three RNs worked weekends, day and evening hours and adjusted their research work hours to accommodate the request.
“I was surprised by the number of people that did not think they would be positive due to minimal symptoms, and at the varying symptoms that were reported. I am so appreciative of the fact that I was able to help out in these uncertain times,” said Sue Cranford, RN.
Rachel Campbell, RN, was also happy to help Occupational Health and, at the same time, was able to successfully enroll patients in two MUMH inpatient cardiology studies.
Rachel Campbell

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

We Remain Hopeful

Below is my monthly message for the May 2020 edition of the MHRI newsletter, Focus. You can view Focus online at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
"Life is like a rainbow….you need both rain and sun to make its colors appear"
Last month, I shared with you the word cloud we created at our MHRI Virtual Town Hall when asked "how are you feeling?" It represented the mix of intense feelings we are all experiencing, with 'anxious' being the dominant emotion. One month later, we remain in the midst of the pandemic.  Now, layered upon the intense emotions, is the fact that it has gone on for several weeks. It's therefore not surprising that when we repeated this exercise a few days ago at another MHRI Town Hall, the second most common word became 'overwhelmed'. But want to know what the most common feeling was among our associates? Hopeful! 
Hope is the feeling when we have an expectation of positive outcomes. Hope is derived from optimism. According to Webster's dictionary, hope (as a verb) is defined as "expect with confidence and anticipation." 

However, hope is NOT a wish or a dream. The psychologist Charles Snyder made the point that the difference between hope and desire is that hope includes practical pathways to an improved future.  
At MedStar Health, we have practical pathways to navigate this pandemic. Our MedStar heroes are demonstrating this every day and as a result, they are saving lives. This week, the 1000th COVID19 patient was discharged from a MedStar Health hospital to the uplifting clap line. And while this pandemic continues to evolve, we continuing to look forward, make plans, and carry those plans out in a coordinated fashion across the system. 
At MHRI, I could not be prouder of our associates, managers, and investigators in their ability to look forward, make plans, and skillfully put those plans into action. Having just completed my visits to each MHRI departmental staff meeting, the dedication and creativeness to keep research running, in a safe manner that supports clinical operations, is amazing. 
Because of early pro-active operational and protocol modifications (such as tele-health follow-up visits or remote monitoring), we have maintained over 90% of studies to some degree. Even more astonishing is the success in standing up COVID studies (now well over 40) across the system and becoming national leaders in multi-center trial enrollment.  
However, the email from Dr. Mimi Novello, VPMA at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, reminded me that research is more than creating new knowledge…. it is creating hope. Here is an excerpt: "Neil, I wish you could be here on rounds with me to see how enthusiastic our teams are about participating in these studies. The glimmer of hope that I saw in the eyes of the intensivist when we discussed the plasma study was so rewarding. Our caregivers really want to be a part of the long-term solution and you are doing so much to make that happen. So truly, the gratitude goes to you and your teams." 
Thank you, Dr. Novello, for sharing that with us and for what your team is doing to take care of patients today and advance health for tomorrow. It's a great reminder for all of us to see the brilliant colors of hope, especially in these difficult times. 
Stay safe everyone -  stay physically distanced and emotionally connected!

Read Focus at

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Benchmarking Another Month - MHRI Town Hall

A few days ago MHRI associates came together for another virtual town hall. To check in and benchmark the continued impact of the pandemic, we asked our associates the same question that we did to open last month: In one (or two) words: How are you feeling today?

This month, it made me proud to see that "hopeful" was the largest! There are still mixed feelings, but there is clearly a sentiment that we will emerge from the other side of this... and do so a stronger research organization.

We continue to be social connected while physically distanced. The work that is happening across the system, include at the Research Institute, couldn't happen without the dedication of our associates. Thank you all!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Letter to Our Research Participants

COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives, including how we conduct research and how people participate in research. During these challenging times, we want to pause and thank our research participants for their part volunteering to help us advance health at MedStar. Below is a letter we are sharing with the thousands of research participants actively participating in clinical trials across the MedStar Health system.

Dear Valued Research Participant,

It's an extraordinary time for our communities, our nation, and the world. At MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI), our primary responsibility related to research is to protect the safety of our research participants and our research staff.

As we make every effort to observe the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” directive, we want to continue to keep your health and the delivery of your needs front and center during this unprecedented time. Our highly skilled research teams have processes in place to ensure the continuity of research while keeping you, the research participant, at the heart of everything we do.

Your participation in research remains very important to us. Research studies can often be modified so they can be conducted in a safe manner that protects you, researchers, and the community. There are several ways we try to minimize your risk. If possible, we will limit the number of times you have to come to a clinical care site or research site. We are screening every research participant for COVID-19 symptoms, and we are reducing the time spent in a clinical care or research site while keeping you a safe distance from others. We are moving toward remote data collection methods to the extent possible such as a change from an in-person visit to a telephone visit or other electronic methods for visits and follow-up. If your research study includes taking a study drug, it may even be possible to send your study drug directly to your home. Since your safety is our highest concern, in some cases, your research tests or visits may be cancelled, or your research study may be put on hold. We have asked our research team to reach out to every participant to discuss any potential changes with you.

The information related to risks of COVID-19 changes every day and we know there will be further challenges. We have implemented best practices for virtual working. We look forward to working through these challenges together and exploring new approaches as we continue to focus on your health.

We are heartened by your commitment for the important work we do in the face of such adversity and we thank you for your continued partnership. For questions or additional information on MedStar Health Research Institute's response during this time, please reach out to us at

Neil J. Weissman, MD

President, MedStar Health Research Institute

Thank you to the MHRI Administrative Staff for diligently stuffing envelopes, applying labels, and ensuring these letters reach our participants.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Research at MedStar During COVID-19

During these unprecedented times, we are all individually and organizationally challenged.  Below is a graphic that has been circulating in social media that I really like because it helps describe the different emotions and attitudes we are all have.  We all want to learn and grow from this pandemic but the truth is we also share in the fear.

At MHRI, I am so incredibly proud of the work going on throughout this pandemic.  As an organization, I am confident we are spending most of our time learning and growing - we have found ways to modify protocols to maximize patient and associate safety by increasing remote work, tele-health visits for follow up assessments, remote data monitoring for sponsors and direct delivery of investigational treatments.  Across MedStar, we have approximately 85% of our studies still active, to some degree and almost 90% of our associates working remotely, at least part of the time.  That is a tremendous accomplishment that shows we are solidly in the 'growth zone'.  Thank you to all my MHRI colleagues and to the research participants. 

Stay safe.  Stay well.  Remain physically distant but emotionally connected.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Life Goes On

With all that’s in the news, it’s nice to have a reminder of all the good that is still happening.
I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I was to open a recent edition of The New England Journal of Medicine and see that a team from MedStar Washington Hospital Center reporting the first US case of a COVID-19 patient with an uncomplicated delivery!  Not only is welcoming a new life into this world exciting, but it’s also a breath of air that life will continue through this.

I am so pleased the rest of the world gets to read about it our teams’ dedication, great, cutting-edge care in our highest profile journal!

The team was: Sara Iqbal, MD; Rachael Overcash, MD; Neggin Mokhtari, MD; Haleema Saeed, MD; Stacey Gold, MD; Tamika Auguste, MD; Muhammad-Usman Mirza, MD; Maria Elena Ruiz, MD; Glenn Wortmann, MD, and Masashi Waga, MS, all from MedStar Washington  Hospital Center, and Joeffrey Chahine, MS, from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

Congratulations and well done!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Physically Distant But Socially Connected

Below is my monthly message for the April 2020 edition of the MHRI newsletter, Focus. You can view Focus online at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
How are you doing?

Don’t breeze by the question. Take 5 seconds for yourself and check in – How are you doing?

That is how we started our MHRI Virtual Town Hall last week. Using an audience response system that is accessible from any phone regardless of location, we polled the attendees and asked them how they were feeling. The result was a
word-cloud in real time, sharing the feelings of all on the call. It was no surprise that ‘anxious’ was the most common response. The next most common responses were ‘concerned’, ‘worried’, ‘fine’, ‘good’ and ‘hopeful’. Among the next group of responses were ‘calm’ and ‘proud’.

Leave it to the scientist to collect data even when trying to understand feelings! However, I did find it insightful – we are all in a different place and ‘how we are doing’ is undoubtedly going to change day to day and probably even hour by hour. This is a time of intense feelings and its going to be a marathon of intensity. We need to pace ourselves emotionally, as well as physically.

I fill my emotional tank by recognizing the dedication, commitment, compassion and caring that is happening every day across MedStar Health by our heroes on the front line. I also beam with pride that, throughout this pandemic, we continue to advance health in ways that will help patients today and tomorrow. Whether it’s the
New England Journal article about a COVID-19 patient outcome in our system that was published last week or finding out that we are a top enroller nationally in a novel monoclonal antibody trial for critically ill COVID-19 patients, the MedStar Health team continues to amaze me. Hope. Pride. Grateful. Fortunate. These are the feelings others shared during the MHRI Town Hall and these are the feelings I get from their accomplishments. It may not make the concern and worry go away, but it sure does provide a healthy balance.

Stay safe, and as Mark Smith has taught me: let’s get socially connected while we physically distance ourselves because its together that we will get through this pandemic and be stronger because of it.

With heartfelt gratitude,


Read Focus at

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Connecting & Sharing via Technology

As times continue to change, we are continuing to evolve how we respond to them.

Last week, MHRI hosted our first virtual town hall for associates. This was a new experience for us as a team, but it was a great chance to expand our connections during this hectic time. We did keep some things the same as our in-person meetings, including using a polling tool to get audience responses and answer questions.

The first question we asked made use of the technology at hand and allowed us to understand the "feel of the room" without us all being in the room.

It's times like these that remind us to connect with each other. While most are feeling anxious, it was heartening to see submissions of 'hopeful', 'proud', 'fortunate' and grateful' coming from our associates.  We all live with mixed emotions but recognizing all the great work going on every day helps balance things out and allows us, together, to get through this pandemic and emerge stronger.  Stay safe everyone!