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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:
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    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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  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Toxicology is critical to FDA’s mission because it is applied across the breadth of FDA-regulated product areas. Toxicological testing is done during the development and evaluation of FDA-regulated products, from human and animal drugs and medical devices to food and food ingredients, human biologics, and tobacco products. Today’s advances in systems biology, stem cells, engineered tissues, and mathematical modeling are offering exciting opportunities to improve toxicology’s predictive ability, potentially enhancing FDA’s ability to quickly and more accurately predict potential toxicities–and reduce associated risks to the public. These breakthroughs also hold the potential for replacing, reducing, and/or refining animal testing.

    This presentation will discuss FDA’s Predictive Toxicology Roadmap, its six-part framework for integrating novel predictive toxicology methods into safety and risk assessments of its products. In this context, the presenter will detail FDA’s collaborative efforts to advance toxicology toward a more predictive science with NIH, EPA, and other federal agencies through programs such as Toxicology Testing in the 21st Century (Tox21) and the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). FDA’s unprecedented role in the development and evaluation of the organs-on-a-chip technology with sister federal agencies and industry will be described and offered as an example of how FDA is enabling innovation in this exciting field.

    Presented by
    Suzanne Fitzpatrick, PhD, DABT, ERT 
    Senior Advisor for Toxicology
    FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)

    Thursday, May 10, 2018
    12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
    Learn more and register here.

    The FDA Grand Rounds are webcast every other month to highlight cutting-edge research underway across the Agency and its impact on protecting and advancing public health. Each session features an FDA scientist presenting on a key public health challenge and how FDA is applying science to its regulatory activities. The 45-minute presentation is followed by questions from the audience.

  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Each year, MedStar Health awards scholarships to approximately 30 first-year Georgetown University medical students in order to pursue research during the summer. For eight weeks, each summer scholar works under the direction of a MedStar Health physician-investigator to conduct research in a specific area, with the opportunity to have some clinical exposure during their summer between their first and second years of medical school. These scholars are housed at various locations throughout the MedStar system and their experience culminates with a capstone presentation in the fall. You can view photos and read about the 2017 Capstone here.

    Congratulations to the Class of 2021 Scholarship Recipients. Best of luck with your research!

    Frank S. Pellegrini, MD Scholars
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Idanis Perez-Alvarez Patient Safety MI2/MWHC Seth Krevat, MD/Angela Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA
    Sanjhai Ramdeen Quality Improvement MI2/MWHC/MGUH Raj Ratwani, PhD
    Pines-Kleinman Mental & Behavioral Health Scholar
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Amanda Shapiro Psychiatry MGUH Matthew Biel, MD
    MedStar Health Primary Care Scholarships at MedStar Franklin Square (MFSMC)
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Joanna Orzel Family Medicine MFSMC Nancy Barr, MD
    Megan Pogue Family Medicine MFSMC Nancy Barr, MD
    MedStar Health Scholarships in Baltimore, MD
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Eric Kim Asthma & Allergy MUMH Sudhir Sekhsaria, MD
    Oluwatoyosi Ipaye Internal Medicine MGSH David Weisman, MD/Rosemarie Maraj, MD
    Hunter Brooks Internal Medicine MUMH Louis Saade, MD/Alex Yazaji, MD/Stephanie Detterline, MD
    Christopher Anderson Sports Medicine MUMH Andy Lincoln, ScD
    Jacob Israel Orthopaedic Surgery MUMH Jacob Wisbeck, MD
    Charlee McLean Endocrinology MUMH Pamela Schroeder, MD
    Michael Shipp Curtis Hand Center MUMH Avi Giladi, MD
    Jenna Pellegrino Radiology MUMH Adnaan Moin, MD
    MedStar Health Scholarships in Washington, D.C.,
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Jessica Saha Palliative Care MWHC Anne M. Kelemen LICSW, ACHP-SW
    Coleman Garrett Vascular Surgery MWHC Steven Abramowitz, MD
    Kelsie Gould Surgical Oncology MGUH Waddah Al-Refaie, MD
    Ariunzaya Amgalan ID, Hepatitis & HIV MWHC Dawn Fishbein, MD
    Megan Deyarmond OB/Gyn, HIV & Pregnancy MWHC Rachel Scott, MD
    Shannon Marwitz OB/Gyn, HIV & Pregnancy MWHC Rachel Scott, MD
    Nicholas Wegener General Surgery MGUH Shimae Fitzgibbons, MD
    Matthew Triano Emergency Medicine/Surgery MGUH/MWHC Munish Goyal, MD/Shimae Fitzgibbons, MD
    Jason Chavez Emergency Medicine MWHC Munish Goyal, MD/Maryann Amirshahi, MD
    Winnie Shivega Human Factors Engineering MI2 Raj Ratwani, PhD
    Ariel Rodriguez Urology MWHC Daniel Marchalik, MD, MA
    Rabia Mirza Family Medicine, Spring Valley MGUH Jeffrey Weinfeld, MD
    MedStar Health Scholarships in Population Health
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Stephanie Furlong Women’s and Infants’ Services MWHC Loral Patchen, PhD
    Sahaj Patel Neurology & Multiple Sclerosis GUMC Carlo Tornatore, MD
    Stephen Kane Psychiatry MGUH Matthew Biel, MD
    MedStar Health Orthopedic Institute Scholarships
    Recipient Research Area Location Mentor(s)
    Joshua Hardy Orthopedic Surgery Orthopedic Institute Evan Argintar, MD
    Neil Sarna Orthopedic Surgery Orthopedic Institute Evan Argintar, MD
  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    All MedStar associates are required to complete three compliance-related training modules in SITEL by June 30th. The three modules are Corporate Compliance and HIPAA, the MedStar Compliance Structure, and the MedStar Code of Conduct. Please ensure that you have completed this training by the deadline of June 30, 2018.

    Our compliance with this requirement as an entity will be reported to senior leadership. The expectation is that MHRI will have 100% of the associates complete these requirements in a timely manner. This includes all as-needed associates and volunteers.

    If you do not complete them by June 30, 2018, the modules will close and you will not have the opportunity to complete them after that date. 

    These compliance training modules are in addition to the other required training modules found on SiTELMS. All modules must be completed by the end of the fiscal year.

    To access your mandatory courses:

    1. Log into SiTEL at
    2. Navigate to the left panel
    3. Click on “My Curriculum” under the Learning Center
    4. Click on “MHRI FY18 Annual Required Training and Education”
    5. Launch and complete each course listed.

    To ensure you are fully compliant, please complete the training prior to June 30. If you experience any difficulty in accessing the training, contact the SiTEL Help Desk at 1-877-748-3567.

  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Three abstract submissions were recognized as the most outstanding scientific abstract at the 2018 MedStar Health Research Symposium. These three were selected from the nearly 400 abstracts submitted to the Symposium.

    Anna Day; Bonnie Carney; Kyle Monger; Abdulnaser Alkhalil, PharmD, PhD; and Lauren T. Moffatt, PhD recieving the award from Neil Weissman, MD.

    In the category of basic science, Anna Day (MedStar Health Research Institute/Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center) was presented with the award for the research submission “Reduction of In Vitro Pseudomonal Biofilm Density Using Hypochlorous Acid.” The purpose of the research was to test the effectiveness of a specific wound cleanser to disrupt biofilms created by laboratory strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A larger study that included this research was recently published in Advances in Skin and Wound Care and covered in Focus. The research team was Anna Day; Bonnie Carney; Kyle Monger; Abdulnaser Alkhalil, PharmD, PhD; Lauren T. Moffatt, PhD; and Jeffrey W. Shupp, MD.

    Tracy Kim; Kathryn Kellogg, MD; Matthew Nare; Joseph Blumenthal, BA; and Allan Fong, MS, receiving the award from Neil Weissman, MD.

    In the category of health services research, Tracy Kim (MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare) was presented with the award for the research submission “Understanding the Noise: Categorizing the Impact of Clinical Workflow, Behavioral, and Environmental Factors on Physiological Sensors.” This research sought to categorize emergency physician behaviors and environmental factors that are particularly challenging to the collection and analysis of data collected from wearable physiological sensors to measure stress levels. The research team also included Kathryn Kellogg, MD; Matthew Nare; Joseph Blumenthal, BA; and Allan Fong, MS.

    Natalie Shammas recieing her plaque from Neil Weissman, MD.

    Also in the category of health services research, Natalie Shammas (MedStar Georgetown University Hospital) was presented with the award for the research submission “Inter-Professional Shadowing Improves Role Definitions Between Nurses and Medical Students.” This research presented the team’s experience with a joint inter-professional student-shadowing program designed to improve role clarity and lay the foundation for improved future collaboration. This research looked at both first-year medical students and a nurse residency program. The research team included Shimae C. Fitzgibbons, MD, MEd; Kristine Edson, BSN; and Nancy Morgan.

    Congratulations to these research teams on your outstanding work.

  • May 04, 2018

    By Richard T. Benson, MD

    In April 2018, beloved Night Court actor Harry Anderson died at 65 from a cardioembolic stroke, which involves blockage of a brain blood vessel and is among the most common types of stroke. However, one contributing factor that led to his stroke was unusual: a case of influenza.

    Viral infections, as simple as those that can cause the flu, or bacterial infections can cause inflammation and dilation of the heart. In Anderson’s case, he developed a cardiomyopathy, or a weakness of the heart muscle, that either caused an abnormal heart rhythm or low output from his heart, leading to development of a clot that traveled to his brain. The bloodstream can carry these clots throughout the body. When a clot reaches a large blood vessel in the head or neck, it can block the flow of blood to the brain, resulting in a cardioembolic stroke.

    Anderson’s situation is somewhat rare, but it can happen to people of any age, particularly those with certain risk factors that predispose them to clot-related (ischemic) strokes.

    Who is most at risk?

    Cardioembolic strokes are known to account for approximately 20 percent of ischemic strokes, though that number likely could be as high as 30 percent if a clot develops because of another heart problem. Patients who have certain cardiac abnormalities or significant vascular risk factors are at increased risk for clot-related strokes. Therefore, these patients also are at greater risk for strokes with virus-related complications as a contributing factor.

    Some of these cardiac abnormalities include:

    • Atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of abnormal heart rhythm
    • Heart failure, or low ejection fraction
    • Patent foramen ovale (PFO), which is a hole in the heart that should have closed after birth but didn’t
    • Hypercoagulable state, or excessive clotting

    Additional vascular risk factors include:

    • Diabetes
    • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
    • Hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol
    • Obesity
    • Smoking
    • Decreased physical activity
    • Heavy alcohol consumption

    The risk for stroke increases as we age. However, patients of any age can experience this type of stroke. I remember the case of a young dad, younger than 50, who had some cardiovascular risk factors. He caught the flu from his child and developed a cardiomyopathy. Consequently, he ended up having a stroke on the left side of his brain—the side that controls language in all right-handed people and half of left-handed people. He survived the stroke, though he had to undergo rehabilitation for aphasia, or loss of the ability to speak.

    Patients with #heartfailure or #AFib are at greater risk for #stroke caused by a blood clot if they get the #flu and it affects their heart muscle. via @MedStarWHC
    Click to Tweet

    How can someone reduce their risk?

    Unfortunately, cardioembolic stroke is less preventable than other types of stroke that are very closely associated to lifestyle choices, such as smoking and high cholesterol. That said, patients can reduce their risk by following some common-sense healthy lifestyle recommendations:

    • Control your cardiac risk factors, which includes identification and management of heart conditions
    • Eat a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats, such as avocado and fish
    • Get plenty of exercise, which for most people means 30 minutes a day, four to five times a week at a minimum
    • Reduce the risk of viral infections by washing your hands frequently, limiting public outings during flu outbreaks, and getting your flu shot

    Just as patients should work to reduce their risk of cardioembolic stroke, they also should be mindful of traditional stroke warning signs, which affect as many as 70 percent of stroke patients. Remember the FAST acronym to identify stroke symptoms and get help quickly:

    • Face: Look for facial drooping or inability to smile
    • Arms: Check if the arms can be raised to assess muscle weakness or paralysis
    • Speech: Check the ability to repeat a sentence or speak without slurring
    • Time: Call 9-1-1 right away if any of these symptoms arise, because time lost is brain lost

    Related reading: The need for fast stroke care–and why some patients don’t get it

    How is cardioembolic stroke treated?

    Cardioembolic stroke tends to block the larger vessels of the brain, a situation called large-vessel occlusion or LVO. These strokes typically are more severe than when smaller blood vessels are blocked.

    In January 2018, a new standard of care was implemented in which mechanical thrombectomy, a clot-removal procedure, can extend the treatment window for patients who suffer strokes caused by LVO. This change has the potential to save thousands of lives in the U.S. each year.

    In our Comprehensive Stroke Center, we follow these guidelines based on the time a patient arrives after the stroke occurred:

    • 5 hours or less: The patient receives tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the gold-standard treatment to break up stroke-related blood clots
    • 6 hours or less: If an LVO is to blame for the stroke, the patient can undergo mechanical thrombectomy
    • 6 to 24 hours: The patient will require an MRI or CT angiography scan to determine the magnitude of the stroke and how much tissue is at risk, but since January 2018, it’s still possible to save the patient’s life with mechanical thrombectomy in this timeframe

    Cardioembolic stroke risk can be somewhat unpredictable. However, if patients and doctors work together to manage controllable risk factors, and if we’re all aware of the signs of stroke, we can potentially save more patients’ lives—and save more mental and physical function with fast, advanced treatment.

  • May 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Join us at MedStar Health Research Institute in recognizing the work of our nurses during National Nurses Week, from May 6 to 12, 2018. The American Nurses Association has designated this year’s theme as “Nurses Inspire, Innovate, Influence.” We want to celebrate and thank nurses throughout our system for their commitment to patient and associate care and wellness.

    At the Research Institute, we want to recognize our nurses’ contributions as valued and respected members of the research team. They truly focus on the participants in our research as the whole person, inspiring participation, innovating new approaches, and influencing our patients to take better care of their health. They directly contribute to our research experience and ensures quality outcomes.

    May 12 is celebrated as “International Nurse Day”, as designated by the International Council of Nurses in 1974 to honor the birthday of Florence Nightingale, commonly considered the founder of modern nursing.

    Joan K. Bardsley, MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, Assistant Vice President of Nursing and Research Integration, is MHRI’s representative to MedStar’s Chief Nursing Council and the Nursing Research Council. Ms. Bardsley says, “It is clear that the contributions our registered nurses make to research throughout the system are exemplary. Their practice is the forefront of new discoveries, yet they never lose sight of the person who is participating in such research. It is the connection between the person and clinical skills that differentiate them from others.”

    During this year’s Nurses Week, please be sure to recognize and thank the nurses with whom you work. We would like to extend a special thanks to all our clinical research nurses, and all nurses in the MedStar Health system, as they continue to provide the highest level of quality care to our patients. They are critical in helping provide the best care to our community and are dedicated to advancing health.