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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 29, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    A guest post from Christina Stanger, MA, CRA, Director of the MHRI Office of Contract and Grant Management

    Do you present at conferences in your specialty area? How about your staff?

    Presenting at professional conferences is a great way, but certainly not the only way, to spend and stretch your professional development funds. Each year within the Office of Contracts and Grants Management (OCGM), we develop a staff-wide professional development plan, which typically overlaps our engagement plan. As you know, regulations and laws change every year in our world. Our associates love to gather knowledge and industry trends by attending conferences to stay engaged in the work they do and the greater professional community of research administration.

    By supporting the OCGM staff in presenting at professional conferences we gain four valuable things:

    1. The experience develops more confidence and professional growth in the staff member.
    2. They gain more knowledge for the work they do every day by attending other sessions at the conference and by researching their own topics (if needed)
    3. They are usually able to stretch their professional development funds with conferences that waive registration for speakers
    4. The MedStar Health Research Institute is represented in research professional communities.

    This fiscal year, we’ve had several MHRI associates, not just from OCGM, present at MAGI WEST and NCURA FRA/PRA, with several more presenting locally at MAGI EAST in May 2018. We’ve presented individually, with teams, with industry and university partners, and with other MHRI colleagues. Check out our pictures from recent conferences. Other associates have presented at OnSemble (hosted by Forte, the vendor from which we purchased OnCore, our CTMS), with about a third of the entire conference in attendance!

    Professional development funds are MHRI’s investment in YOU! So, think about how you can spend these funds, and how you can help your staff and co-workers use this benefit to further their development as well. As a manager, do you talk to your staff and develop annual plans on how they’ll spend their professional development funds? If you are not, do you connect with your manager about the best ways to use your professional development funds? Remember these funds are separate from your educational assistance funds, and many people fail to use their funds. Can you believe it? They actually go unspent!

    If you are a manager who has successfully implemented a staff-wide plan for professional development, we’d like to hear about your team’s experiences. If you are an associate who has used your professional development funds in a way that was meaningful to you, we’d like to hear from you too! Please contact Haley Call, HR Generalist, at

    Make sure you submit your Application for Professional Development once you identify an event you’d like to attend. Take charge of your professional development and support your own continuous learning today!

  • March 29, 2018

    By Jennifer Brown, MD

    A diagnosis of heart failure doesn’t mean your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It’s a condition in which the heart cannot adequately pump blood to the body. Heart failure is a structural abnormality of the heart, and it causes patients to have some or all of these symptoms:

    • Congestion or fluid in the lungs
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Swelling in the legs
    • Fluid in the belly

    In the U.S., heart failure is the No. 1 reason for admission to the hospital and for readmission within 30 days. The most common forms of heart failure are a weak heart or a stiff heart. When patients understand their particular type of heart failure and what caused it, they're able to better participate in their care.

    To request an appointment with a cardiologist, call 202-877-3627 or click below.

    Request an Appointment

    What is a weak heart?

    In a weak heart, the heart muscle itself loses strength. A common cause of a weak heart is blockage in the arteries due to a buildup of plaque. We’re seeing that patients who survived heart attacks in their 50s or 60s may develop heart failure years later. Patients who are aware of this potential for heart failure can help to minimize further heart damage and partner with their physicians in treating the symptoms. People with weak hearts often notice shortness of breath, congestion, fatigue and swelling.

    A newer trend in #heartfailure diagnosis is patients who have weakened hearts as a result of heart attacks years or even decades earlier. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    What is a stiff heart?

    Just as other muscles in the body stiffen as we age, the heart muscle can become stiff as well. This stiffness keeps the heart from relaxing after each beat, which can cause fluid to back up in the lungs, legs and abdomen. The most common symptom people notice first is shortness of breath with simple exertion, such as walking up stairs.

    When a patient notices this shortness of breath, they usually are referred to a cardiologist, who will perform an exam and tests, including an echocardiogram. This is an ultrasound picture of the heart that allows us to see the heart’s structure and function.

    Personalized treatment for heart failure

    Successful treatment for heart failure symptoms is a unique process for each patient. A weak heart sometimes can be strengthened with medication. For all patients with heart failure the treatment regimen will include:

    • Controlling blood pressure
    • Decreasing sodium intake
    • Introducing diuretics, or water pills, which help rid the body of excess fluid

    As part of our heart failure treatment, our team works with patients to care for the underlying conditions that contribute to their heart failure, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease. In addition, our dedicated preventive cardiology team works to stop heart disease before it ever starts when possible.

    Our goal is to prevent heart failure when we can by reducing risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. For patients diagnosed with heart failure, we can help improve symptoms with a combination of lifestyle, dietary changes and medication. Patients who understand their type of heart failure can participate with their doctor in treating it, and significantly improve their quality of life.

    Find out today if you are at risk for heart failure. Call 202-877-3627 or click below to request an appointment.

    Request an Appointment

  • March 29, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in March 2018. The selected articles and link to PubMed provided below represent the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates and published in peer-reviewed journals last month. The list is compiled from PubMed for any author using “MedStar” in the author affiliation. Congratulations to this month’s authors. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    View the full list of publications on here.

     Selected research:

    1. Postconcussive Symptoms After Single and Repeated Concussions in 10- to 20-Year-Olds: A Cross-Sectional Study.
      Journal of Child Neurology, 2018. DOI: 1177/0883073818759436
      Oyegbile TO, Delasobera BE, Zecavati N.
    2. The role of extended-release amantadine for the treatment of dyskinesia in Parkinson's disease patients.
      Neurodegenerative Disease Management, 2018. DOI: 2217/nmt-2018-0001
      Mazen ET, Bahroo LB, Pahwa R.
    3. Association between Lifetime Risk of Atrial Fibrillation and Mortality in the Oldest Old.
      Clinical Cardiology, 2018. DOI: 1002/clc.22941
      Kheirbek RE, Fokar A, Moore HJ, Shara N, Doukky R, Fletcher RD.
    4. Immune biomarkers and anti-HIV activity in the reproductive tract of sexually active and sexually inactive adolescent girls.
      American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 2018. DOI: 1111/aji.12846
      Ghosh M, Jais M, Biswas R, Jarin J, Daniels J, Joy C, Juzumaite M, Emmanuel V, Gomez-Lobo V.
    5. Meta-Analysis of Surgeon Burnout Syndrome and Specialty Differences.
      Journal of Surgical Education, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2018.02.003
      Bartholomew AJ, Houk AK, Pulcrano M, Shara NM, Kwagyan J, Jackson PG, Sosin M.
  • March 29, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Educational intervention by community health workers was found to have a positive impact on perceptions of mammogram safety and efficacy in breast health and cancer awareness, recent research from the Washington Cancer Institute found.

    “Take care of your neighborhood” was published in the January edition of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. The research team was led by Elmer E. Huerta, MD, MPH, from the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. The team also included Patricia Weeks-Coulthurst, Courtney Williams, and Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, also from Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

    Through a two-phase process, community health workers connected with and surveyed women who lived in Ward 5 in Washington D.C., region that showed high rates of breast cancer despite almost universal access to health insurance and healthcare.

    In the first phase, health workers educated and administered a survey to 1092 women, 95.1% had health insurance, in order to identify potential causes for high rates of advanced breast cancer despite having health insurance and access to healthcare.

    Building on data collected in phase one, an intervention was developed in order to increase education among the target population. The community health workers provided this intervention to 658 participants from Ward 5.

    Through pre- and post-intervention surveys with the participants, the impact of the intervention could be assessed in comparison of knowledge and beliefs about breast health and cancer screenings.

    The initial phase found that “respondents most often identified personal factors (28.7%) and fear (27.7%) to explain the high rate of advanced breast cancer despite health insurance status.”

    The educational intervention positively impacted the participant's perceptions on the safety and efficacy of mammograms, with an absolute 15.4% increase in the respondents who believed that “A mammogram is the safest and most effective test available for finding early breast cancer.” The study found that some perceived barriers which discouraged participants from getting mammograms included access to care (17.0%), pain (13.2%), and education (13.1%).

    The research concludes that in an urban population of “predominantly insured women with high rates of advanced breast cancer at diagnosis, personal factors and fear were cited as the greatest barriers to breast cancer screening.” The educational intervention resulted in a positive impact on respondents’ perceptions regarding mammogram safety and efficacy.

    Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 2018. DOI: 10.1007/s10549-017-4492-1

  • March 29, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Multi-site research studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are required to use a single IRB of record for all participating sites. This policy applies to non-exempt human subjects research conducted under the same protocol. The policy is effective as of January 25, 2018.

    Why the Change?

    The purpose of the change is to streamline the IRB review process, remove redundant hurdles to the initiation of studies and eliminate duplicative IRB review. This change also aims to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens while still maintaining appropriate human subject protection standards.

    How Does this Impact You?

    If you are applying for an NIH grant application or contract proposal, you will be required to identify the reviewing IRB for your multi-site study. Multi-site studies are defined as two or more sites. Every site must be operating under the same research protocol to fall under this requirement. “Same research protocol” means protocols that address the same research questions, involve the same methodologies, and evaluate the same outcomes.

    Which IRBs can Serve as the Single IRB?

    Institutional based IRBs, as well as commercial/independent IRBs, can serve as the reviewing IRB under this policy. Review costs for all research sites should be contemplated in your grant application or contract proposal.

    Will the MHRI IRB Serve as the Reviewing IRB?

    Please contact the IRB office BEFORE submitting your grant application or contract proposal to discuss IRB review options at

  • March 29, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Each year, we celebrate the associates who help to advance health at MedStar Health through Research Week.

    Research at MedStar Health wouldn’t be possible without the support and hard work that MedStar Health Research Institute associates bring to our sites every day. From good catches in patient care to supporting future clinicians, the commitment to advancing health through research begins with YOU.

    Research Week is a time to reflect on all of the accomplishments we’ve achieved this year as part of the MHRI community, from planning committee events to participating in awareness and fundraising endeavors to supporting each other in completing research.

    Research Week kicks off each year with the annual MedStar Health Research Symposium on April 30. We invite all our research teams and associates to join us at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center to learn more about the research that is being conducted throughout the system by research associates, nurses, faculty, and residents.

    On Wednesday, May 2, we invite all associates to share in our gratitude for each other on Associate Appreciation Day. On behalf of the MHRI Associate Engagement Committee, all associates will receive a small gift in recognition of the important work you do.