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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 

    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.

    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 

    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.

    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.

    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.

    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.

    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 

    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.

    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 

    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog:
    Click to Tweet


    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.

    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.


    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!

    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • March 01, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Every February at MHRI, we celebrate “Heart Healthy” and take the time to “Go Red!” for heart health. Associates were invited to wear red in support of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) fight against heart disease in February. Throughout the month, associates gathered together to show their commitment to heart health.

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At MedStar Health Research Institute, many of our research efforts are designed to improve quality of life for heart patients. Chances are we all know someone affected by heart disease and stroke because about 2200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day. That’s an average of one death every forty seconds.

    As we have for the last eight years, we accepted submissions for a photo challenge! Associates showed off in their red outfits and team spirit. View all the photo submissions from MHRI teams below. Thank you to all who took the time to participate. Winners will be announced in an upcoming edition of Important Things to Know for all MHRI associates.

    Thank you to all who showed their support for this important cause!

    Take the time to take care of your heart. You can learn more about taking care of your heart health from the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute:


  • March 01, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Do you know someone who exemplifies excellence, leadership, and commitment? Each year, MedStar Health associates have the opportunity to win a John L. Green Generation of Leadership Scholarship. The scholarship is for five MedStar Health associates, each equaling up to $3,500. Recipients of the scholarship may use funds for tuition and/or fees for the current academic semester (in which the applicant is currently enrolled) or for the upcoming academic semester.

    Established in 2003, the John L. Green Generation of Leadership Scholarship awards academic scholarships to highly-motivated, MedStar associates who strive to advance their leadership career in health care.  For application consideration, you must:

    • Serve in a management or supervisory position
    • Work for a minimum of two years at any MedStar entity
    • Be actively pursuing a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree (or higher) in a field applicable to healthcare administration/leadership
    • Maintain good-standing with the organization, including no disciplinary actions on file within the past year
    • Strive to advance your leadership career in healthcare
    • Identify as:
      • American Indian or Alaska Native
      • Asian
      • Black or African-American
      • Hispanic or Latino
      • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

    The John L. Green Generation of Leadership Scholarship honors the late John L. Green, executive vice president, Corporate Services. From 1983 to 2002, Green held executive leadership roles at Medlantic Health Care Group and MedStar Health, as well as on the Morgan State University Board of Regents in Baltimore. He served as chairman of the Morgan State University board from 1990 to 1995.

    The scholarship is reserved for exceptional individuals who share Green’s traits of excellence, leadership, and commitment to the vision, mission, and values of MedStar Health. This targeted scholarship reflects Green’s commitment to increasing minority representation in leadership positions in health care.

    The scholarship is funded entirely by a grant from the MedStar Health Board of Directors to commemorate Green’s contributions and his legacy of excellence.

    Recipients of the John L. Green Generation of Leadership Scholarship are awarded up to $3,500 for assistance with tuition and fees for the current or upcoming academic semester. Interested associates must meet the scholarship criteria and submit a completed application by May 2.

    For questions about the John L. Green Generation of Leadership Scholarship, call 410-772-6751 or email Helene Leclercq-Buchwald.

  • March 01, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    The goal of the Translational Biomedical Science (TBS) program offered through the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) is to prepare pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows (MDs and PhDs) to serve as the critical link in advancing the translation of basic science into improved outcomes for health, aging and disease. 

    Learn more about the program by attending one of the upcoming online information sessions.

    • Wednesday, March 11th at 3pm
    • Monday, March 17th at 10pm
    • Monday, March 23rd at 4pm

    Register Here for Informational Sessions

    Application Deadlines:

    Optional Interest Form: April 1, 2020
    Final Application: June 30, 2020

    For questions contact Emily Bujold at  | Learn More 

  • March 01, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    We are pleased to announce the 2020-2022 cohorts of the MedStar Health Research and Teaching Scholars!

    The MedStar Research Scholars program supports the development of MedStar clinicians who seek careers with a focus on clinical and translational research, in large part by addressing the need for research mentorship and critical feedback in project design, analysis, and presentation. MedStar Health Research Institute, MedStar Health Academic Affairs, and the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science offer this research career development program to clinical and junior research colleagues.

    New Research Scholars
    Victoria Lai, MD, MS (Surgery), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Leila Shobab, MD (Endocrinology), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Alexis Dieter, MD (Urogynecology), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Blair (Amanda) Spence, MD (Medicine, Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

    The MedStar Teaching Scholars program is a two-year longitudinal program leading to Medical Education Research Certification (MERC) and Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) certification. The program is led by MedStar Health Academic Affairs and MedStar Health Research Institute, in conjunction with the Association of American Medical Colleges, and has been in place since 2009.

    The heart of the program is teaching clinician educators from across MedStar Health how to apply research principles to medical education; become informed consumers of the medical education research literature; to be effective collaborators in medical education research; and to develop as a leader in academic medicine. GME program directors, core clinical teaching faculty, clerkship directors and other clinician educators (with limited research training or experience) in all specialties and professions are encouraged to apply.

    New Teaching Scholars
    Elizabeth Clienti, MD, MPH 
    (Internal Medicine), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    Kathryn Hart, MD, FAAFP (Family Medicine), Georgetown University
    Nicholas Hazen, MD (OBGYN), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Laura Johnson, MD, FACS, FCCP (Burn/Surgery), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Mark Mattar, MD (Medicine-Gastroenterology), MedStar Georgetown
    Gregory Nizialek, MD (Internal Medicine), MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    Anita Tammara, MD, MBA, MPH (Medicine), MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    Rachelle Toman, MD, PhD (Family Medicine), MedStar Washington Hospital Center, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Georgetown University

    Congratulations to the new scholars for 2020-2022!

  • February 28, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    For Chevy Chase, Md., native Nicholas Kessides, MD, joining MedStar Washington Hospital Center as an attending physician in anesthesiology offered the best of all worlds. Not only was he returning home to friends and family, but he appreciated the opportunity to handle challenging cases, particularly those involving high-risk patients from underserved areas, and to develop professionally in his subspecialty of obstetric anesthesiology.

    "Childbirth can be both physically and emotionally challenging for mothers, particularly if they’re facing a high-risk delivery,” Dr. Kessides explains. “This is where teamwork with colleagues in obstetrics and other specialties is so important—finding the safest way to make patients comfortable and help them through delivery.”

    Dr. Kessides initially stayed close to home for his medical training, graduating from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, followed by an internship in Internal Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. It was then on to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis for his anesthesiology residency, where he stayed for a fellowship in Obstetric Anesthesiology at Washington University.

    Benefit of the Anesthesiologist–Patient Relationship

    An anesthesiologist’s patient relationship differs from that of other specialties, Dr. Kessides says, as it tends to be more focused on physiological and pharmacological details. “The emphasis is on helping them with an immediate, acute need,” he explains. “Though our interaction may be relatively brief, it’s nonetheless meaningful and rewarding.”

    Dr. Kessides also enjoys teaching, a facet he hopes to expand at the Hospital Center and elsewhere. “I hope to help develop obstetric anesthesiology services at other MedStar hospitals, and perhaps to get involved in maternal mortality initiatives in the D.C. area,” he says.

    Outside the Hospital

    While Dr. Kessides knows the ins and outs of the nation’s capital, he enjoys exploring the city’s ever-growing range of food and cultural events. He also stays active with sports like volleyball, basketball, and running. And being a bit of a history buff, “I’ll do ‘touristy’ things too like visiting museums,” he says.

  • February 26, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Updated March 15, 2020

    A colonoscopy probably isn’t how you want to celebrate your 45th birthday, but it’s the best way to ensure you’re around for your 60th birthday and the decades to come.

    For most people, it’s not the actual procedure that causes them to delay. It’s the day of dietary restrictions and diarrhea before the exam that sends people running in the other direction.

    But one day of colonoscopy prep is nothing compared to the weeks and months of chemotherapy or radiation if you are diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. The truth is, colon cancer is mostly preventable through regular colonoscopies, so don’t let the fear of colonoscopy prep get in the way of taking care of your health.

    What is a colonoscopy?

    A colonoscopy is a screening test doctors use to look for suspicious growths or anything unusual in the rectum or colon generally starting at the age of 45. In fact, it’s the best way to prevent colon cancer and rectal cancer—or to catch either disease early when they are curable.

    During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a thin, lighted tube attached to a small video camera to see the inside of your rectum and colon. If a polyp or strange growth is found, they can remove it then and there, preventing the chances that it could develop into cancer.

    Did you know we offer free colon cancer screenings for eligible patients? Call us today at 410-350-8216 to find out if you qualify.


    Why is colonoscopy prep important?

    Thoroughly preparing for your colonoscopy is important so that your doctor can get a clear view of your colon. If the colon isn’t completely emptied of waste, it’s harder to spot polyps or other early signs of colon cancer. If your doctor can’t see your entire colon, they may ask you to come back in one year for a repeat procedure.

    How can I make colonoscopy prep easier?

    Prepping for a colonoscopy can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it’s a lot better than it was ten years ago. While your prep may vary slightly based on your doctor’s recommendations, here are five ways to make colonoscopy prep easier.

    Prepping for a #colonoscopy can be inconvenient, but it’s a lot easier than it was ten years ago. How did you make your prep easier? Michael Sickler shares his tips via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog:
    Click to Tweet

    1. Be thoughtful about when you schedule your colonoscopy.

    Since colonoscopy prep requires a liquid diet the day before the procedure, you probably don’t want to be tempted by a big Thanksgiving meal or birthday cake when you’re supposed to be restricting food. Avoid scheduling your colonoscopy around a special event or holiday so you’re more likely to stick to the dietary guidelines.

    The time of day can help to make prep easier too. Since you can’t eat solid food on the day of your procedure, it may be a good idea to schedule your colonoscopy for the morning so you don’t have to wait until the afternoon or evening to eat.

    Is it time to schedule your colonoscopy? Call 877-715-HOPE to find out if you qualify.

    2. Find creative ways to fill up on the liquid diet.

    You’re more likely to slip up on your prep diet if you’re hungry, so make sure you’re consuming a high number of calories from your liquid options. You can’t eat any solid food, but you can consume an unlimited amount of clear liquids which may include:

    • Water
    • Black coffee or tea
    • Bouillon/broths
    • Clear sodas (e.g., sprite or ginger ale)
    • Clear juice (e.g., apple or white grape),
    • Pulp-free lemonade

    You can also have popsicles, Jell-O, and sports drinks, but steer clear of certain colors, like red, purple, or blue.

    3. Chill and add flavor to the medication drink.

    You’ll need to drink a laxative medication over about four hours starting at 4 p.m. the day before your colonoscopy. Your doctor will direct you to drink the entire container of solution which will ensure your colon is as clear as possible when you go in for your screening. It may look visually overwhelming but there are a few things you can do to make it easier to drink, such as:

    • Use a straw
    • Chill the drink in the refrigerator
    • Mix in Crystal Light (avoiding flavors that are red or purple)
    • Drink from a cup rather than straight from the jug

    4. Make the bathroom as comfortable as possible.

    Once prep begins, you’ll be spending a lot of quality time in the bathroom. Try the following tips to pass the time as comfortably as possible:

    • Stock up on quality, soft toilet paper and wet wipes
    • Wear loose, comfy clothing
    • Bring entertainment (e.g. crossword puzzles, book, phone, or tablet)

    5. Do it right the first time.

    Your colon needs to be completely clear when you go in for your colonoscopy. If you don’t stick to the dietary guidelines or don’t  consume all of the prep liquid, your doctor may not be able to see the colon wall where polyps are likely to hide. If your doctor doesn’t get a good look at your entire colon, you may find yourself re-doing the dreaded prep again in a year.

    However, if you follow your physician’s instructions for colonoscopy prep, your doctor is more likely to get an unobstructed view of your colon. As long as you don’t have any polyps or signs of cancer, you won’t need another colonoscopy for ten years.

    Then, celebrate making your health a priority.

    After you successfully complete prep and colonoscopy, it’s time to celebrate. You’ve taken your health into your own hands by getting screened for colon cancer, and it could save your life. While colonoscopy prep may not have been enjoyable, it’s a small price to pay for doing the right thing for your health.

    While science is getting better and better at treating people, we'll never forget the importance of how we simply treat people.

    Learn More