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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 31, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    It is important that all associates understand when it is necessary to encrypt the data we use in our daily work activities. Generally, as long as it is for a permitted business purpose, e-mails containing patient (or research subject) information do not need to be encrypted when sent to another MedStar Health employee at an email address within the MedStar Health email system.

    However, when sending ePHI or information identifying a research subject outside of MedStar’s network for approved business purposes, we are required to protect the information and encryption is one of the best ways to secure that information. Implementing safeguards, such as encryption, for our ePHI can make a big difference between a non-reportable incident and a breach that would require reporting to the Department of Health and Human Services and/or the State of Maryland or the District of Columbia.

    Whenever possible, it is always best to avoid transmitting ePHI and other sensitive information outside MedStar Health’s network. When necessary, only transmit the “minimum necessary” information for the permitted purpose.

    MedStar Health maintains a secure email portal that can be used to send external email securely. Do you know how to send an email securely? Access the instructions on StarPort.

  • March 31, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Research Week kicks off with our annual MedStar Health Research Symposium on May 1. Each year, we celebrate the associates who help to advance health at MedStar through our Research Week.

    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 fundraising events to supporting each other in completing research.

    An Associate Engagement Committee member will distribute appreciation gifts to associates on Associate Appreciation Day: Wednesday, May 3.

  • March 31, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    As a supplement to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, lorcaserin is FDA-approved for chronic weight management in the United States. Lorcaserin is a serotonin receptor subtype 5-hydroxytryptamine 2C (5-HT2C), which regulates satiety and food intake. However, diet pills had a history of causing valvular heart disease.   When lorcaserin was approved, there was an extensive analysis to show it was safe and did not cause heart disease. 

    In this study, led by Neil Weissman, MD, the goal of this research was to evaluate the effects of lorcaserin in patients with pre-existing valvulopathy. In other words, if a patient was prescribed this drug and already had heart disease, would it be safe for them to take this drug and will it cause the valvular heart disease to get worse? Published in Obesity, the research was a pooled analysis of data from three Phase III randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter studies.

    Valvulopathy is a broad term used for diseases and disorders that affect the heart valves. Valvular abnormalities, including aortic or mitral regurgitation, can be induced by certain drugs. Aortic or mitral regurgitation is leakage of blood backward through the valves of the heart. This leakage can lead to thickening of the heart wall or to the buildup of blood volume and pressure within the heart, resulting in a less effective pump and the possibility of heart failure.

    Analyses of the serial echocardiograms obtained at baseline and every 6 months throughout the study (up to 2 years) showed that no association was detected between weight loss and valvular regurgitation. The echocardiograms did show that numerically greater proportions of patients taking lorcaserin compared to the placebo had decreases in aortic (33.0% vs. 28.3%) or mitral (41.3% vs. 36.7%) regurgitation. The researchers concluded that lorcaserin does not adversely affect valvular disease in patients with pre-existing valvulopathy.

    Dr. Weissman is president of MedStar Health Research Institute, professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and co-director of the Cardiovascular Core Laboratories. His research interests include the use of ultrasound in multicenter trials, particularly as they relate to valvular heart disease. 

    Obesity, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/oby.21695

  • March 31, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Thanks to our high-reliability culture, MedStar receives many Good Catches every year, many of which are shared in the Good Catch Monday emails, and through the sharing of Safety Moments and in Safety Huddles. The lessons we learn from these Good Catches are invaluable to our efforts to deliver the highest levels of quality and safety to our patients. At the annual HeRO Luncheon, we celebrate all Good Catches and thank associates for their commitment to our vision and mission.

    Every year, we select one GREAT catch that not only helped prevent patient harm, but also resulted in a lasting change that improves patient safety for all patients moving forward.  We recognize this great catch at the HeRO Luncheon.

    The HeRO Good Catch of the Year began when a patient in a diabetes study checked in for a routine study visit. As he removed his shoes to weigh in, the Research Nurse Coordinator at MedStar Health Research Institute noticed an injury to his foot, prompting her to ask him about it. The patient indicated he had the tip of a toe amputated two years ago. The Research Nurse Coordinator recognized the patient was at high risk for foot injuries and immediately grew concerned about his overall health, given the relationship between diabetes and proper foot care. Although his brief exam for the study did not require a foot exam, she asked the physician to examine him. The physician agreed he required immediate assessment by a podiatrist.

    The physician persuaded the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Foot and Ankle Center to see the patient that day, and they were able to examine, treat and prescribe antibiotics immediately. Given the high level of risk associated with diabetes, any delay could have been serious, potentially leading to infection and further amputation.

    Following this tremendous Good Catch, the diabetes study research team adopted new recommendations and now request that study patients remove their socks during weigh in. The approach provides nurses the opportunity to view the top and bottom of patients’ feet, and the ability to scan for any injuries or breaks in the skin where infection may enter. This simple step may play a critical role in the outcomes of our patients, as it did in this invaluable Good Catch.

    The winner of the 2016 HeRO Good Catch Award is Laurie Want, RN, MedStar Health Research Institute.

    Thank you, Laurie, for your commitment to patient safety. Your efforts had a significant impact on this patient, and countless other patients who will follow. Congratulations and thank you for serving as a MedStar HeRO. 


    About the HeRO Luncheon

    The HeRO Awards Luncheon is an annual event with the purpose of celebrating associates from across the system who were involved with a weekly or monthly Good Catch. Additionally, we present a variety of annual HeRO Awards to individuals and teams who were nominated and selected as a HeRO of the Year in a variety of categories (i.e., Nursing, Provider, Pharmacy, Good Catch of the Year, Super HeRO of the Year, etc.). This year marks the fourth annual luncheon, honoring Good Catches and celebrating associates for their quality and safety efforts in 2016.

    2016 HeRO Good Catch was presented by Maureen P. McCausland, DNSc, RN, FAAN, enior vice president & chief nursing officer at MedStar Health.

  • March 31, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who were published in March 2017. 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, and we look forward to seeing your future research.

    View the full list of publications on here.

    Selected research:

    1. Complication Rate in Minimally Invasive Revision Lumbar Discectomy: A Case Series and Technical Note.
      Clinical Spine Surgery, 2017. DOI: 1097/BSD.0000000000000513
      Felbaum DR, Stewart JJ, Distaso C, Sandhu FA
    2. The Fanny Pack: No Ifs, Ands, or Buts.
      Pediatric Dermatology, 2017. DOI: 1111/pde.13090
      Habeshian K, Kirkorian AY, Marathe K
    3. The effects of framed messages for engaging adolescents with online smoking prevention interventions.
      Translational Behavioral Medicine, 2017. DOI: 1007/s13142-017-0481-5
      Mays D, Hawkins KB, Bredfeldt C, Wolf H, Tercyak KP.
    4. SAFE-HEaRt: Rationale and Design of a Pilot Study Investigating Cardiac Safety of HER2 Targeted Therapy in Patients with HER2-Positive Breast Cancer and Reduced Left Ventricular Function.
      Oncologist, 2017. DOI: 1634/theoncologist.2016-0412
      Lynce F, Barac A, Tan MT, Asch FM, Smith KL, Dang C, Isaacs C, Swain SM.
    5. The epidemiology of NCAA men's lacrosse injuries, 2009/10-2014/15 academic years.
      Injury Epidemiology, 2017. DOI: 1186/s40621-017-0104-0
      Kerr ZY, Quigley A, Yeargin SW, Lincoln AE, Mensch J, Caswell SV, Dompier TP.


  • March 31, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    EdAssist® is now live!  As previously shared, MedStar has partnered with EdAssist® to administer our Educational Assistance program.  The new web-based system will process all tuition benefit requests and make it easier for you to seek approvals and receive reimbursements.  You will now have access to a network of over 220 schools offering discounted tuition rates as well as educational and finance experts for individual education counseling to help you make the right decisions to achieve your educational goals.

    Available system-wide to benefit-eligible associates, the program offers:

    • Full service, online system for assistance, from applications to approvals and tracking;
    • Educational and financial advisors to help you evaluate careers, programs, and financial aid opportunities; and
    • Tuition discounts at more than 220 EdAssist Education Network schools.

    More information is available on the MedStar Health StarPort page or you can log directly into EdAssist today to set up your account, familiarize yourself with the site, access FAQ’s as well as to other resources.

    If you have questions about the program, please contact EdAssist Customer Service (855) 853-3373.


    Professional Development for MHRI Associates

    As previously noted, MHRI associates still have access to the professional development fund that was set in place at the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year. Professional development funds support education activities that may not be covered under this new program, such as certifications, professional memberships or conference attendance. There are no changes to the professional development process for MHRI associates. To apply for these funds, you will still need to submit an application through MHRI Human Resources. You can find the application on the HR StarPort Forms page.