Thursday, March 12, 2020

Working Together in Times of Change

Today, we brought over 40 MHRI managers from across the system for a virtual MHRI Managers' meeting.  Although this meeting was originally scheduled to a full day, in person quarterly meeting, we exemplified the need to stay flexible as our world around us changes due to the pandemic.

As MHRI leaders, we spent much of the time getting updates on COVID-19 and were particularly thankful to have MedStar experts, such as Dr. Maria Ellen Ruiz, Assistant Section Chief of Infectious Disease at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and Bill Sheahan, corporate Vice President and Exec Director for MedStar Telehealth who were able to give us updates and information we need to lead research at MedStar Health.  Among the important pieces of information was regulatory and compliance considerations for research that may change or be disrupted do to COVID-19 and examples of what other organizations are doing.

We also spent time to discuss other important updates, such as pertinent human resource activities, finances, operational continuity, and budgeting.  We even had a great lecture by a key investigator lead, Dr. Kristen Miller on a great example of implementation science and use of technology in a clinical setting (partially highlighted in a recent blog posting).  

Lastly, we discussed our coordination with Georgetown University. Over the last several months, MHRI collaboration with members of the Georgetown research community has accelerated, including the creation of several new joint policies. For example, last month Mary Anne Hinkson, MHRI’s Vice President of Research Operations, brought together a group of research coordinators at our Hyattsville offices. This diverse group, from across services line and from both MedStar and Georgetown, were here to discuss a new policy that is being developed (see pictures below).  Well, with so many potential changes that COVID-19 could effect, we are very actively working to make sure any new information and/or research guidance is joint with Georgetown whenever possible.

I want to thank all the MHRI Managers for their leadership in a time of change and encourage all MHRI associates to touch base with their local leader for the most up-to-date information and ongoing re-assessment of your research activities.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Growing as a Researcher at MHRI

One of the great things that happens at MedStar Health and MHRI is the growth of our associates.

At the end of February, Bonnie Carney defended her PhD dissertation entitled, “Hypopigmented Burn Hypertrophic Scar Contains Melanocytes that can be Signaled to Repigment by Alpha Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone”. This defense represented the culmination of her doctorate degree in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Georgetown University Medical Center. Bonnie’s thesis work was advised by Dr. Dean S. Rosenthal, an Associate Professor in the department, as well as by Dr. Jeffrey W. Shupp, the Director of the Burn Research Program at MedStar Health Research Institute, and an Associate Professor of Surgery and Biochemistry at Georgetown.

Bonnie’s thesis research was completed in the Firefighters’ Burn and Surgical Research Laboratory at MedStar Health Research Institute where she started as a volunteer in 2013. She was then hired as a full time Research Associate in 2014. She then began her doctoral program in 2015. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2014 with a degree in Chemistry and minor in Mathematics.

Her work, which studied dyschromia in post-burn related hypertrophic scarring, seeks to development mechanistic treatments for dyschromia, an aesthetic symptom of scar that can have lasting psychosocial effects on burn survivors. Dyschromia is difficult to predict, heterogeneous, shows little improvement over time, and is pervasive amongst certain patient populations. Bonnie studied treatment of hypo-pigmentation with synthetic alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone, which proved to be efficacious in in vitro modeling in scar-derived cells, as well as in in vivo modeling in animals. These treatments may be more efficacious, tissue sparing, and more widely applicable compared to the limited currently available techniques.

She would like to thank Drs. Rosenthal and Shupp for their support in this process. She would also like to thank Drs. Moffatt, Travis, Johnson, and Alkhalil for their mentorship. Finally, she would like to thank members of the FBSRL who have contributed to her research over the past few years. She hopes to make an academic career out of studying skin fibrosis in an effort to improve the lives of those affected by burn injury.

In addition to this great work, Bonnie is al the recipient of a student grant from the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery towards continuing her research.

Congratulations, Dr. Carney! Thank you for being a part of the MHRI family and to those who helped you along the way.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Using Technology to Enhance the Patient Care Experience

Back in late 2018, we announced that MedStar Health’s National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare was one of only two recipients of funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (IT) to accelerate health IT interoperability.
Over the last two years, the team at MedStar Health, led by Kristen Miller, DrPH, CPPS, has been working to integrate risk calculators into electronic medical records. You can read more about this project on MI2's website, under their featured projects. Using the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD) 10-Year Risk Calculator, the tool estimates the risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years. By linking it within the EMR, it allows for auto-population of relevant lab values and patient information.

This week, it was exciting to see this great work on the local news!  Dr. Carolina Valdiviezo and patient Cheryl Robinson-Haili were on Fox 5 to share the impact of this program on patient outcomes at MedStar Health.

Congratulations to Dr. Miller and the Human Factors team on implementing this great work.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

March Motivation

Guest Blogger:
Alana Tuthill
Manager, Human Resources for Diversified Businesses

Monday, March 2 marked National Read Across America Day 2020. This week is was designated as Read Across America week at my daughter Alora's school.

For the first day, students are supposed to wear their favorite hat and she choose her MHRI hat!! 

I asked her why and she said she is proud of MedStar and wants to make sure everyone knows that is where her mommy works.  It is moments like that that make me pause and think about all the amazing things we do at the Research Institute and at MedStar Health - and I am just as proud of MedStar as her!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Just Culture, High Reliability, and the Power of Research

Below is the monthly message for the March 2020 edition of the MHRI newsletter, Focus. This month it is a joint message from myself and Dr. Terry Fairbanks, VP of Quality and Safety.

You can view Focus online at

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Today we jointly write to you about a just culture, high reliability, and the power of research.

Recently, we returned from the annual MedStar Health Leadership Team retreat which was primarily focused on strategic planning for the next several years. At the onset and throughout the retreat, we were reminded about the failure of Boeing’s 737 MAX and why their corporate culture led to the death of 346 passengers and financial hardship for the company. An NPR interview with Cynthia Cole, who worked at Boeing as an engineer for 32 years says that the company’s safety-first culture started shifting and “greater emphasis on maximizing profits over safety caused all kinds of problems.” A recent Forbes article entitled “What Boeing has taught us about not neglecting company culture” gives examples of the tendency to “avoid speaking up so that you don’t get in the way of success of the endeavors of the organization.” There were specific examples of how the problems in 737’s Max’s auto-throttle system were recognized but employees were afraid to tell their managers or worse, their concerns were discounted.

The Boeing story is very sad but telling. The Boeing 737 MAX disaster could have been avoided and Boeing could have saved hundreds of lives and billions of dollars if the employees were empowered to speak up and their voice was heard. Same applies in medicine. Lives can be saved by empowering everyone to speak up, voice their concerns, and have an environment where it is safe to be heard. In fact, our Leadership Team retreat started with a safety moment exemplifying this concept when an adverse event was first discovered.

We are proud that MedStar Health has developed an HRO culture based on speaking up, directly addressing adverse events, maintaining transparency with the patient, and applying systems-based learning from serious safety events. This has led to a nationally funded, AHRQ program (CANDOR) which allowed us to further optimize and scale this model approach. This is just one of many examples of how research has help power the creation of a just culture at MedStar Health. More recently, MedStar Health investigators have studied electronic medical record safety and reporting, working to protect patients and clinicians by advocating for transparency and improvements when it comes to these systems.

Research is the pursuit of truth through formalized investigation. Whether it comes from an academic study or via clinical experience at the bedside, it is the power we all need to learn and improve. Medicine will get better and safer as we share what we know and collectively use that knowledge to learn from for long-term success. This is a learning healthcare system.  This is the essence of a high reliability culture and this is MedStar Health.

Thank you for advancing health, quality, and safety at MedStar Health.

Neil & Terry
Neil J. Weissman, M.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, MedStar Health
President, MedStar Health Research Institute
Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University

Rollin J. (Terry) Fairbanks, MD MS
Vice President, Quality & Safety, MedStar Health
Professor of Emergency Medicine, Georgetown University

Read Focus at