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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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  • July 10, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    What comes to mind when you hear “philanthropy"?

    By definition, it is the Greek word for “love of humankind.”

    When you chose to express gratitude after an exceptional care experience, you serve as a direct example of this definition. Your expression of gratitude can be shown in many ways, for instance, by giving a verbal “thank you” to honoring a nurse, therapist, physician, or other caregiver through a philanthropic gift, or via a simple written thank you note. By expressing your gratitude, did you know that you can often positively impact your caregiver’s day and help deliver a great experience to other patients as well?

    Many people don’t realize the greater impact that simple acts of gratitude can have, and how gratitude matters – to those who express it and those who receive those expressions.

    Why Caregivers Face Burnout

    As with many professionals, caregivers face challenges in their work environment. Not only are they serving people at an often hectic pace, but ensuring positive experiences in the midst of providing the best health care can be stressful at times. In addition, technology is rapidly changing the nature of the healthcare workplace, enhancing quality and safety, but also challenging the interpersonal relationships that are such an important part of care experiences.

    Because of these and other challenges, caregivers often report feelings of frustration and less fulfillment at work. In fact, according to a recent physician lifestyle report by MedScape, a staggering 46 percent of doctors reported that they felt the negative effects of burnout. Common symptoms of burnout include:

    • Appetite changes
    • Depression, or feelings of sadness and loss of interest in normal activities
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

    As burnout often impacts caregivers’ well-being, studies show that it can lead to decreased efficiency on the job, dissatisfaction with work, negative attitudes, emotional exhaustion, and reduced patient satisfaction, among other effects.

    It might be hard to imagine that the caregiver to whom you are grateful is actually experiencing signs of burnout. After all, they may have made a significantly positive impact on your health, healing, and recovery. And yet, through all that positive interaction, they might actually be struggling with burnout.

    It seems logical that one possible way you can help to combat caregiver burnout is by doing something that many patients and families naturally want to do: expressing gratitude during or after a positive care experience.

    Hospital #caregivers often feel pressure at work. A recent study indicated 46% of doctors report feelings of burnout. One way we can help is by expressing gratitude after positive care experiences. Learn how those expressions can inspire caregivers.
    Click to Tweet

    How Showing Gratitude Helps Caregivers

    We’ve heard from countless doctors, nurses, and therapists over the years who indicated that receiving a heartfelt “thank you” brightened their day. When you thank care providers, it puts a smile on their faces, gives greater meaning to their work, and positively impacts them. Your recognition serves as inspiration. And, your expression of gratitude often serves as a reminder to caregivers of why they chose the healthcare profession: to serve others.

    Gratitude matters, and its effects create lasting impact on you and the care team. Many patients have shared that expressing gratitude helped them during their healing process. Check out these gratitude stories from some of our patients.

    Related Reading: Gratitude Matters: Saying Thanks to Caregivers

    Would you like to thank a MedStar Health associate for making a positive impact on your life or a loved one’s life?

    Express Your Gratitude

  • July 09, 2019

    By Steven Abramowitz, MD

    Healthy veins are critical to returning blood from the body to the heart. However, in some cases, scar tissue from blood clots can form in the veins, causing them to narrow or become blocked. This can lead to significant swelling in the legs which may cause wounds. People often develop scar tissue in the veins due to:

    • Anatomic compression
    • Blood clots
    • Prior catheters in veins
    • Radiation therapy for cancer
    • Surgery on adjacent organs or body parts

    The iliac veins, which are responsible for draining your legs, are susceptible to a buildup of scar tissue from blood clots. Iliac veins then merge with veins draining the pelvis to form one large vein called the inferior vena cava, which is responsible for carrying blood from the lower body and kidneys to the heart.

    Endovascular iliocaval reconstruction allows us to repair the veins draining our legs and the inferior vena cava damaged by scar tissue. As a result, people can regain healthy blood flow from their legs to their heart and reduce the risk recurrent swelling or wound formation.

    LISTEN: Dr. Abramowitz discusses endovascular iliocaval reconstruction in the Medical Intel podcast.

    How Endovascular Iliocaval Reconstruction Works

    To understand how endovascular iliocaval reconstruction may work, think of veins with scar tissue as four-lane highways after a snowstorm. If a snowplow plowed a single lane of the highway and only opened a path a small car could drive through, you could imagine the traffic that would result! Now if you think of that narrow path as a blood vessel, it’s too small for blood to flow through—which causes a buildup in pressure. By using stents, or metal tubes, that we insert into the veins from minimally invasive puncture sites behind the knee or in the groin, we push the remaining scar tissue to the side, making sure that you get all four lanes of blood vessel flowing again and alleviating any pressure that has built up in the legs.

    We’ve found that about 87 percent of the veins we open up with a stent remain open after five years—a significantly higher number than surgeons achieved using older techniques, such as open bypass surgery.

    An endovascular iliocaval reconstruction can clear scarring or #bloodclots in the veins that carry blood from the legs to the #heart. Learn how one college student received this treatment after doctors insisted it wasn’t possible. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    How Does This Technique Compare to Traditional Ones?

    Older techniques used to reconnect veins typically bypassed (went around) the blocked or narrowed veins. These surgeries were invasive, requiring a large incision that spread from the bottom of the chest to below the belly button. During surgery, surgeons would make an incision in both groins, take plastic tubing or a donated vein, and use it to make a detour around the blocked area.

    The problem with this surgery is that it leads to many more complications than newer minimally invasive techniques and people experienced recurrent blood clots or scarring in the same veins years after surgery. Compared to bypass surgeries, endovascular reconstructions allow patients to have:

    • Natural blood flow: Following bypass surgery, patients’ blood moves in a new bypass tunnel as opposed to a person’s own vein.
    • Shorter recoveries: Patients return home the same or next day with the new procedure, compared to five to seven days after a bypass surgery.
    • Additional surgeries: If scar tissue recurs after the bypass, many other surgical options aren’t possible after open surgery. Endovascular iliocaval reconstruction usually doesn’t limit future treatment options if a vein becomes narrowed again.

    Expert Care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

    As leaders in the field of vascular surgery, we are always up to date with the latest, most innovative treatments at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. In fact, we were one of the first healthcare facilities in the country to perform an endovascular iliocaval reconstruction. Regardless of your situation, you can be confident that our experts will always offer you the best possible treatments.

    Through an endovascular iliocaval reconstruction, select patients can clear their veins of blood clots or scarring with a significantly higher success rate than in years past. Make sure to speak to your doctor to learn whether you’re a candidate.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a vascular surgeon.

    Request an Appointment

  • July 07, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    In 2017, MedStar Health joined a group of eight institutions, brought together by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), to plan and evaluate strategies to produce coordinated systems for community health.  Over three years, members participated in a series of workshops titled Building a Systems Approach to Community Health and Health Equity for Academic Medical Centers. This topic is closely tied to MedStar Health Research Institute’s mission to advance the health of our community through research.

    With collaborators from Georgetown University, the team investigated medical-legal partnerships as a method to address issues of health equity and community health. A medical-legal partnership is an inter-professional healthcare delivery model that adds legal services to health care to help doctors address “health-harming legal needs”, which encompass social determinants of health that contribute to poor health and health disparities. The research included qualitative and quantitative data centered around patients at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center (MFSMC) and its Family Health Center (FHC) in Baltimore, Maryland. Some risk factors for health-harming legal needs include low socioeconomic status, caring for young children, homeless, and elderly. Legal issues that arise from these social determinants of health include custody, domestic violence, health insurance, and eviction.

    At the end of June, the entire team received an award for their participation at a dinner and the work was presented at the final meeting for participating sites by Deliya Wesley, PhD, MPH (Health Equity investigator),  Angela D. Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA (Assistant Vice President, Healthcare Delivery Research, MHRI) and Vicki W. Girard, JD (Founding Co-Director, Georgetown University Health Justice Alliance and a Professor of Law, Legal Practice).

    The team presented their research at the 2019 MedStar Health-Georgetown University Research Symposium. The poster, “An Empirical Approach to Planning for Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs): Initial Findings from the MedStar Franklin Square Service Area,” can be viewed here.

    While the work the team is conducting under the oversight of AAMC is completed, they will be continuing their work into identifying costs that would be associated with implementing a medical-legal partnership, including potential savings for the system.

  • July 07, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) is a non-profit, charitable and educational membership organization committed to providing education, certification, and networking opportunities to all persons involved in clinical research activities.

    For the 28th year, SOCRA will welcome clinical research professionals from across the world. Located in San Antonio, TX at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, this three day conference will offer current information and tools, best practices, and training to assure that you're up-to-date and compliant in your clinical research practice. The program will feature over 100 academic sessions, a peer-driven poster session, and an exhibit program.

    SOCRA’s Annual Conference Poster Program is an opportunity for individuals to share their research, findings, and achievements with their colleagues. SOCRA offers dedicated times for poster presenters to present and discuss their posters with the diverse group of attendees. Presenting a poster at SOCRA’s Annual Conference is a noteworthy way to share expertise or accomplishment in a specific area while contributing to clinical research. Please consider participating in this great event and becoming an integral part of SOCRA’s Annual Conference.

    Continuing Education Credit Hours:
    SOCRA designates this educational activity for a maximum of 19* Continuing Education Credits for SOCRA CE and Nurse CNE. SOCRA designates this live activity for a maximum of 19 (15 credits Annual Conference, 4 credits pre-conference) AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

    * The Annual Conference offers 15 credits (maximum). Preconference Workshops offer an additional 4 credits (maximum).

    September 27-29, 2019
    Grand Hyatt San Antonio
    600 East Market Street
    San Antonio, TX 78205

    Learn more and register here.

  • July 07, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    The month of June brought together MedStar Health Research Institute associates at three locations for our biannual town halls. Hosted at University Town Center, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the town halls help to engage and connect associates. Thank you to all the Research Institute associates who were able to join us at one of the Spring Town Halls in the last month.

    Thank you to Amy Loveland, Osirelis Sanchez, and Becky Montalvo for presenting our safety moment involving an ongoing research study led by Nawar Shara. It was a great example of how technology is being used in research and what steps our study teams are taking to protect patients who participate.

    The main portion of the Spring 2019 Town Halls was presented by Neil J. Weissman, focusing on the results of the 2019 Associate Engagement Survey. MHRI surpassed our participation goal of 80%, with close to 90% of MHRI associates participating in the survey. The survey looked at 9 key areas: Patient First, Career Development and Training, Communications, Leadership and Direction, Performance Management, Total Rewards, Engagement, Supervision and Teamwork. Overall, we improved in six areas, stayed the same in two and declined in one area.

    At the manager’s meeting in May, the results of the survey were reviewed in detail along with every written comment provided by associates. Managers discussed opportunities for change and feedback will be incorporated into the MHRI operational goals and plans for the next fiscal year.

    During town halls, the interactive Sli.Do tool was used to ask associates specific questions and receive answers in real time. Associates were asked what can be improved in our Communication efforts and what are some areas of opportunity for Career Development and Training. You can view the submissions to Sli.Do from the Spring Town Halls here.

    Mary Anne Hinkson provided leadership updates. We would like to welcome Grant Gonzalez (Director of Finance), Shawana Jackson (SCA Director for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine), and James Boscoe (Director of ORI) to MedStar Health Research Institute and joining us in Advancing Health Through Research.

    Eva Hochberger introduced new professional development tools developed by the Associate Engagement Committee. You can access these resources for Professional Development on StarPort. It's also linked on the MHRI StarPort landing page under the Associates Engagement links.

    Also, the IS Self-Service Portal is available through StarPort as an alternative way of accessing our IS Helpdesk. Select SOM from the drop-down menu when you log in to access it. As a reminder, please be safe and secure when you are checking your email. For more information on phishing emails, check out these IS resources.

    Research would not be possible without our associates and without the patients who participate. Thank you to those who allow us to make the lives of our patients better today and in the future.

  • July 07, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    James (Jim) Boscoe has joined MedStar Health Research Institute as the Director of Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

    Jim joins us from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Office of Human Subjects Research and Institutional Review Boards where he was the IRB Operations Manager. Jim received his M.A. and B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland. He is a certified Institutional Review Board (IRB) professional with a history of administrative, research and clinical experience in hospital, residential, and academic settings.

    Jim will manage the day-to-day activities of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI). He will be responsible for human research policy, oversight, education and training, IRB management, extramural relations, and oversight of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). He will serve as the liaison for MHRI to the Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) IRB office.

    Jim Boscoe can be reached at