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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 09, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    On March 10, 1958, the brand new and most modern Washington Hospital Center opened its doors on Irving Street, after 15 years of planning. While the location and the building were new, the staff members who walked through the doors that day came from the merger of three of the citys' leading and oldest hospitals: The Central Dispensary and Emergency Hospital, Garfield Memorial Hospital and Episcopal Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital. Each hospital boasted roots reaching back to the previous century, when Washington, D.C., was little more than a sleepy Southern town with fewer than 200,000 residents.

    The opening was greeted with much enthusiasm. A local newspaper carried the headline: “The Sunday Star Welcomes the Beginning of a New Era in the Medical History of Washington...” That same paper noted: “Three historic institutions will shed their worn-out garb and emerge as one, dressed in shining apparel that only modern building and science can design.”

    The new Hospital Center was one of the first completely air-conditioned hospitals in the country, which was seen as a huge advancement at that time. It also offered the most up-to-date X-ray facilities, the area’s first tissue and eye bank and the largest psychiatric service in the Washington area. The hospital featured private and semi-private rooms instead of wards, intercoms linking patient rooms to nursing stations, and beds that could be raised and lowered at the touch of a button.

    Throughout the next 60 years, visionary men and women led the hospital to achieve goals that were unheard of in 1958. They included:

    • The city’s first Code Blue system and Coronary Care Unit
    • A dedicated Burn Center
    • One of the largest concentration of intensive care units in the nation
    • MedSTAR, the Medical-Shock-Trauma Acute Resuscitation Unit
    • One of the country’s busiest Cardiac Catheterization Labs
    • The city’s busiest Cancer Institute

    During its 60-year history, the Hospital Center has responded in times of national and local crises, caring for those hurt in the riots of the late 1960s, treating the police officer injured during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, providing advanced trauma care for an Air Florida crash victim, and saving the lives of patients injured in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, the 2009 Metro train collision and the Navy Yard.

    From those early days to today, the spacious general hospital of 1958 has matured into a sophisticated tertiary care facility, providing the most advanced care. It is an internationally renowned clinical, teaching and research institution that serves a metropolitan area of more than five million people and attracts patients and physicians from around the globe. It is among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation, and is renowned for handling the Washington region’s most complex cases. A pioneer in cardiovascular care, the hospital is home to MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, and literally thousands of Washingtonians and patients from around the country have received the highest level of heart and vascular care at the Hospital Center for the last 60 years.

    While many things have changes since the Hospital Center opened its doors in 1958, one thing has remained the same: our commitment to the community will continue for the next 60 years and beyond.

  • March 06, 2018

    By Rocco A. Armonda, MD

    For many years, the number of people who were dying of strokes in the United States had been decreasing steadily. But as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in its September 2017 Vital Signs report, decreases in deaths from strokes have either stalled or reversed in three out of every four states. Here in Washington, D.C., we’ve actually seen an increase in the number of people dying from strokes, as have 20 states.

    Most strokes are a type called acute ischemic stroke. This type of stroke is caused by a blockage of blood to the brain, usually in the form of a blood clot. In the past, a clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) had been the only approved treatment for this kind of stroke since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1995. This was a huge advance for stroke care, but we needed more. Now, we have a powerful procedure—with more than six level I randomized studies that support its use—that we can use alongside tPA to save more lives and brain function for our patients. It’s called mechanical thrombectomy, and it’s one of the emergency stroke treatments we offer in our Comprehensive Stroke Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and in the Comprehensive Stroke Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    Mechanical thrombectomy can have huge benefits to patients who have had a stroke. Not only can this procedure increase the chance that we can save their lives, but patients are much more likely to avoid some of the devastating complications that can come after a stroke, such as paralysis, being bedridden or being unable to speak.

    LISTEN: Dr. Armonda discusses emergency stroke care on this Medical Intel podcast.

    What is mechanical thrombectomy?

    Mechanical thrombectomy is a minimally invasive stroke treatment we use for large-vessel occlusions, which are large blood clots that block one of the major blood vessels that bring blood to the brain.

    The CDC estimates that about 795,000 Americans have a stroke every year. Of those, about 690,000 are ischemic strokes, or those caused by blockages in a blood vessel. About 15 to 25 percent of all the ischemic strokes are caused by large-vessel blockages. That means mechanical thrombectomy could potentially help between 103,500 and 172,500 Americans each year.

    This procedure has been available to patients outside of clinical trials only since 2014, but it’s revolutionized stroke treatment in that time. As researchers noted at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference in February 2016, the average number of stroke patients who received mechanical thrombectomy more than doubled at hospitals nationwide in just two years.

    The normal procedure for a patient who’s having a stroke is to give them IV tPA medication as soon as possible. For smaller blood clots, the medication is very effective to break them up and move them through the arteries. But for large-vessel occlusions, tPA on its own may break up the clot only about a third of the time.

    That’s where mechanical thrombectomy comes in. This procedure uses a device called a stent retriever, also known as a stentriever, and/or thromboaspiration directly that we insert into an artery in the patient’s groin with a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. We thread the catheter up to the blocked artery and either suction the thrombus directly like a vacuum cleaner or open the stent retriever and remove the clot. The retriever grabs the blood clot, and we remove both the retriever and the trapped clot.

    In most cases, we would start the patient on IV tPA first to begin the clot-busting process and then perform mechanical thrombectomy to finish the job. If the patient gets to us early enough, we’re seeing success rates of 70 to 90 percent in saving lives and brain function using this procedure—far higher than the 33 percent we used to see with tPA alone for these kinds of strokes.

    It’s a dramatic change. You can take a patient who went from the prime of their life, and they’re paralyzed on one side of their body, unable to walk or speak when they get to us. And after this procedure, they’re back to their normal selves. That was basically unheard of before mechanical thrombectomy. It helps us give patients their quality of life back.

    Why where you go for stroke treatment matters

    The common expression when it comes to stroke is “time is brain,” and that’s a fact. The faster we’re able to restore the brain’s blood flow, the more likely a patient is to survive a stroke. Mechanical thrombectomy helps us fight strokes quickly and successfully.

    Dr. Armonda and Dr. Benson discuss a medical case

    Dr. Richard Benson and Dr. Rocco Armonda discuss a stroke case.

    Unfortunately, not every hospital is equipped to provide this procedure. In an emergency, loved ones or emergency medical professionals may take a patient who’s having a stroke to the nearest hospital, which may or may not offer mechanical thrombectomy. And even if some smaller or nonspecialized hospitals do offer the procedure, they may not have vast experience with it. In those instances, the patient will have to be transferred to a comprehensive stroke center like ours, squandering minutes or even hours in transit. Providers at comprehensive stroke centers have ample experience with mechanical thrombectomy and other complex stroke treatments. We have more doctors who perform the procedure and more specially trained nurses and staff members who can assist than most small or nonspecialized hospitals.

    So even though it’s critical to get the patient help fast if they’re having a stroke, it actually can save precious time to bring the patient directly to a comprehensive stroke center, rather than having to transfer that patient from one hospital to another. Mechanical thrombectomy needs to be performed within about six hours of the beginning of a stroke, but the sooner we do it, the better the outcomes. And if we give IV tPA first to help start to break up the clot, that ideally should be given within three hours of the beginning of a stroke. That means we need to get the patient to us as quickly as possible.

    If you think your loved one is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 right away. With the one-two punch of tPA and mechanical thrombectomy on our side, there’s a good chance we’ll be able to save the patient and maintain more of their mental and physical functions.

    Related reading: Learn how to think FAST if you think your loved one may be having a stroke.

  • March 05, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation was established with a simple but powerful mission: to give back. The private family foundation is committed to sustaining vibrant, healthy communities through support of transformative organizations. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is honored to be among these partners.

    As longtime supporters of MedStar Georgetown’s work, the Marriott family has recently deepened its investment in the physical and programmatic future of our care community. This past fall, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation granted $2 million to support the construction of our new Medical/Surgical Pavilion. The Foundation coupled this extraordinary investment with a $1 million Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery endowment. This endowment will increase the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s capacity to maintain technological resources and research infrastructure, as well as attract the most talented physicians and medical students from around the world.

    Under the direction of Richard E. Marriott and J. W. Marriott Jr., the Foundation’s board is composed of descendants of J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, original founders of the hospitality company that bears the family’s name. The Marriott family’s gifts to MedStar Georgetown stem from a commitment to health equity and their personal appreciation for care received at the Hospital. 

    “MedStar Georgetown University Hospital has done so much to support the health of our community, including my family,” explains Richard Marriott. “We believe that every person deserves access to the kind of superior medical care we have experienced here firsthand. Through our philanthropic support, we hope to grow the Hospital’s lifesaving efforts.”

    The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation’s investment will yield tangible results. “We are deeply grateful for the Marriott family’s comprehensive investment,” says Pam Maroulis, the Hospital’s vice president of Philanthropy. “The leadership conveyed by this significant contribution to our Medical/Surgical Pavilion helps to set the tone for our $112 million philanthropy campaign.”

    Bruce Davidson, MD, chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, notes that this gift will increase capacity for medical innovation. “The family’s support of our department will drive further clinical advancement that will help our patients. There is no question that we will see the impact of this generosity for years to come.”

    H. Jeffrey Kim, MD, a neurotologist/otologist who specializes in ear disorders, underscores how important this investment will be to clinician training and patient care. "The generosity of the Marriotts will have significant impact on the medical education and innovative research for our next generation of otolaryngologists at Georgetown, and it will also enable us to support medical missionary work,” he says.

    In addition to these most recent investments, funding from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation is already fueling other important care initiatives. In 2016, the Foundation made a $6 million, five-year commitment to the Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN). Led by MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Children’s National Health System, ECIN works to improve the academic, physical, and mental health trajectories of Washington, D.C.,’s most vulnerable children.

    Inspired by the Marriott family’s donation? There are countless ways that MedStar Georgetown patients can support our efforts to provide world-class care. Be it through gifts of time, talent, or treasure, we all have
    something to give back to our community.

    For More Information

    Visit or call the Office of Philanthropy at 202-444-0721.

    Visit for specific information on the new Medical/Surgical Pavilion.

  • March 05, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Since he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, 44-year-old Ben Wall has worked hard to keep the disease from preventing him from living the life he wanted to live.

    Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition caused when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone used to regulate blood sugar. The disease can often be managed by taking insulin, monitoring blood sugar, maintaining a careful diet, and leading a healthy lifestyle.

    Ben has always taken his health seriously. He and his wife, Kate, have been strict vegans for 15 years and love to walk and bike. Yet, despite the couple’s healthy habits, Ben began to experience more serious diabetic complications about ten years ago. Foot wounds that would not heal, a problem Ben first experienced in his teens, grew worse, making it more difficult to be on his feet. His foot joints degenerated, requiring amputation.

    Kate watched Ben’s health with increasing concern. “Each time Ben faced a new complication, we were waiting for the other shoe to drop,” she says. “As his condition got more complicated, it felt like it was just raining shoes.”

    Eventually, Ben’s diabetes caused kidney failure, a serious condition that requires dialysis or a kidney transplant. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about one out of four adults with diabetes will develop kidney disease. 

    Ben underwent dialysis, a treatment that saved his life but left him feeling drained. Several of his family members and friends volunteered to donate a kidney. Only 10 to 15 percent of patients seeking a kidney
    transplant have a living donor. Transplants from a living donor last longest and work best.

    It turned out that the best donor match was right under Ben’s own roof: Kate. She was more than happy to donate her kidney to her husband. “I love Ben and wanted to do everything I could to help him get healthier,” she says. 

    Quote from Ben Wall, PatientThe MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute is the fifth largest program in the country for overall volume of kidney and pancreatic transplants. Peter Abrams, MD, director of Pancreas and Islet Cell Transplantation, performed the kidney transplant surgery once Ben was cleared for transplant.

    The surgery was extremely successful, with Ben’s kidney function returning to normal within just two days. “I felt better for the first time in years,” he says. “After a bit, I was back at work, getting more active, and taking walks with Kate again.”

    However, another surgery was required to keep him healthy. “Diabetes begins to injure the new kidney as soon as it’s transplanted,” explains Dr. Abrams. “A pancreas transplant, which restores normal glucose regulation, can actually cure diabetes. A healthy pancreas would protect Ben’s new kidney and prevent the development of further diabetic complications.”

    When Ben had fully recovered from his kidney transplant, Dr. Abrams performed the pancreas transplant with an organ from a deceased donor. The MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute performs more pancreas transplants than any other program in the region and achieves patient survival rates that exceed the national average. After recovery, Ben is feeling like his old self again. “I just keep feeling better and better. With my diabetes cured, I don’t need to test my blood sugar or use insulin. I feel free,” he says. 

    Kate is thrilled to see Ben doing so well. “Ben was very sick for a long time and now I feel like he’s whole again. His experience shows that there’s hope in the most dire circumstances. We’re so grateful to the team at MedStar Georgetown. They put us back on the path to a better, healthier life.”

    Request an Appointment

    For more information, visit or call 202-444-3714 to make an appointment.

    Meet Peter Abrams, MD

    Dr. Abrams is director of Pancreas and Islet Cell Transplantation at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Watch Dr. Abrams discuss kidney and pancreas transplant surgery.

  • March 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI) continues to be committed to the engagement of our associates. From the results of the biennial MedStar Associate Engagement Survey, MHRI identified several areas to focus efforts on to increase associate engagement.

    Professional development continues to be an ongoing area of opportunity for MHRI. Several initiatives have been undertaken to help support associates in their growth.

    • Clinical Nurse Career Ladder: The Scientific Center Administrators are working to implement a Clinical Nurse Career ladder, similar to the one that was created in FY17 for research coordinators. The ladder is on track to be released before the end of the fiscal year.
    • Continuation of an MHRI-wide performance goal for career/professional development: This goal is part of each mid-year and year-end review for all associates to help start the conversation with their managers on their professional development goals, experiences and trainings, and use of the professional development fund.
    • Expanding Education Development Opportunities through Technology: The recent lunch and learn leveraged a WebEx to share the presentation with those who could not attend in person. Kelly McNiff, the HR Business partner, presented on different options for professional and educational development as part of the benefits of being an MHRI associate.

    Pulse Survey

    In alternate years of the Associate Engagement Survey, we undertake the “Pulse Survey”. This short, confidential survey serves to let MHRI to “take a pulse” of our associates in terms of engagement and progress on our action plans that are a result of the Associate Engagement Survey.

    The survey is comprised of the 10 multiple-choice questions on associate engagement from the larger survey, and two open-ended questions. The results of this survey will be used to update department action plans and ensure the MHRI is on track for the entity-wide initiatives undertaken.

    New for 2018: The survey will be accessible through the myHR Portal. The myHR portal is accessible both within the MedStar network and on your home computers. To access myHR when at home, please make sure that you have set-up your account.

    • Within MedStar network—visit the StarPort home page and select myHR link under HR Information section; using the StarPort link is single sign-on.
      • When signing in, make sure you include medstar\ before your username or
    • Outside MedStar network—visit from any computer or mobile device. A one-time new user registration is necessary the first time you visit This step allows you to create a password for accessing myHR anytime from any device.

    Be on the look-out for future communications with the date and instructions to complete the survey. Thank you in advance for your time and commitment to helping us make MHRI a great place to work.

  • March 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    The MHRI Office of Research Integrity has been reviewing CITI training requirements for investigators and research staff that must be completed before participating in a research study reviewed by the MHRI Institutional Review Board (IRB). Investigators and research staff have been required to complete human subjects training as well as a Good Clinical Practice (GCP) course.

    As of March 1, 2018, the MHRI IRB will only require GCP training for NIH funded studies. The majority of the research studies reviewed by the MHRI IRB will only require that investigators and research staff complete the human subjects training.

    An updated FAQ document has been posted on the MHRI website and can be accessed HERE.

    If you have any questions about the CITI training requirements for investigators and research staff, please contact