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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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  • 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 02, 2019

    By Daniel Marchalik, MD

    Each year, more than 500,000 people visit an emergency room because of a kidney stone. People with kidney stones often experience kidney or back pain, and the kidney pain can be so severe that some people even compare it to childbirth. Other symptoms of a kidney stone include:

    • Blood in the urine
    • Infection in the urine, which can cause urine to smell bad and look cloudy
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Severe pain in the flank or groin

    One of the most effective ways we treat kidney larger stones is through an outpatient tubeless mini percutaneous nephrolithotomy (mini PCNL). This minimally invasive surgery allows us to remove kidney stones through tiny incisions and provides patients with quick recovery times—especially compared to treatments we used years ago.

    For example, we saw one patient with a large kidney stone that was blocking his kidney, causing considerable back pain and nausea. He was concerned because he thought it would require multiple surgeries to remove the kidney stone. However, we were able to perform a tubeless mini PCNL on him. He had surgery at 8:30 a.m. and was home by 1 p.m. with no pain or discomfort.

    LISTEN: Dr. Marchalik discusses how doctors use mini PCNLs to treat kidney stones in the Medical Intel podcast.

    How Does Outpatient Tubeless Mini PCNL Work, and Who’s a Candidate?

    The word “percutaneous” means that surgeons are going through the skin into the kidney, and “nephrolithotomy” means that we’re taking the stone out of the kidney. PCNL begins with us making a small incision in the kidney. Then, through the back, we’ll reach the kidney, use a small scope and instrument to break the kidney stone up into smaller pieces, and suction the pieces out.

    Following surgery, patients generally return home the same day without pain. Unlike traditional PCNL, with a tubeless PCNL, we send patient home without a tube in their back. Side effects are possible, however, as some people experience grogginess and nausea after anesthesia. Patients also can experience blood in the urine, as well as stomach and back discomfort for a few days.

    The perfect candidates for mini PCNLs are people who have intermediate-sized kidney stones—usually slightly larger than a centimeter but less than a full staghorn calculi, which is a stone that occupies the whole kidney. However, individuals with larger kidney stones can still be candidates for tubeless same-day surgery. Meanwhile, people with very small kidney stones may be candidates for techniques such as extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, which is noninvasive and uses a machine to deliver shockwaves to the back to break up kidney stones. Make sure to speak to your doctor to determine which technique is best for you.

    What separates mini PCNL from a standard PCNL is that it’s performed through a smaller opening and with smaller instruments. As a result, patients experience:

    • Less discomfort
    • Less pain
    • No drainage tube in the back
    • Quicker recoveries
    Mini #PCNL is one of the best ways to remove #kidneystones. Compared to past techniques, it leads to less pain, less discomfort, and quicker recoveries. via @MedStarWHC @dmarchalik

    Click to Tweet

    Are There Any Risks Involved with Mini PCNL?

    When having a mini PCNL, there’s minor risk involved with anesthesia, like most any other surgery. Furthermore, because mini PCNL involves surgeons going through the back, there's a small risk of damaging the organs that surround the kidney. There’s also a risk that not all the kidney stone is removed. When you have a considerably large stone, even when using this technique, some of it can be missed. That said, mini PCNL provides patients the greatest chance of completely removing kidney stones compared to other treatment options.

    Expert Care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

    Our urology team performs a high volume of mini PCNLs at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Additionally, our team-based approach to care allows us to review images of kidney stones with interventional radiology partners if it’s a complex case.

    We also look at the whole patient when we remove kidney stones, not just the kidneys. After surgery, we follow patients for years, and we make dietary modifications and other changes that help ensure the patient doesn’t have kidney stones or other kidney conditions in the future.

    We never want patients to have to suffer through the pain of kidney stones. Mini PCNL is the best treatment we have for select patients to not only eliminate the kidney stone but immediately relieve their pain.

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

    Request an Appointment

  • July 01, 2019

    By Jeffrey Shupp, MD

    Hear “summer” and “burns” in the same sentence and “sunburn” probably comes to mind. But that’s not the burn that I think of.

    Between spring and fall, the top reasons for burns are outdoor barbecues, bonfires and fire pits. In fact, July is the leading month for grill-related fires. Most cooking accidents involve a fire accelerant, like charcoal lighter fluid, or a backflash from a leaky gas grill or jet that’s been left on too long.

    Burns Come in Many Forms

    According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 19,000 people went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving gas grills or charcoal fires, and nearly half of those patients treated suffered burn injuries. And while it’s true that being “under the influence” can be a factor, a more common cause is a false sense of security.

    So often, I hear patients say: ‘But I’ve always done it this way.’ Unfortunately, those previous, accident-free experiences can lead to a lack of caution…and a second or third degree burn.

    Nowhere is that more apparent than with home fireworks, the second most frequent source of summertime burns we see at the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Nationwide, almost half of all firework burns affect children.

    Fireworks can produce very serious injuries, sometimes even requiring amputation of the fingers. As a six-year-old, I was prohibited from ever using sparklers after a napkin caught fire at a family celebration.

    The National Fire Protection Association reports that a seemingly innocent sparkler can reach 1,200°F. For perspective, water’s boiling point is 212°F; glass melts at 900°F.

    Fortunately, most burns in the United States are first degree—mild injuries to the superficial layer of the skin, like sunburn, that can be safely treated at home.

    But up to 500,000 Americans each year need medical care for more serious burns that can be debilitating and even deadly.

    LISTEN: Dr. Shupp discusses common causes of summertime burns in this Medical Intel podcast.

    To avoid the emergency room and assure a safe summer for you and your family, follow these simple tips:

    • Wear short sleeves or roll them up when grilling
    • Use long-handled barbecue tools
    • Establish a 3-foot “safety zone” around grills and open fires
    • Never leave a lit grill unattended
    • Be cautious, careful and aware of your surroundings
    • Leave the fireworks in the hands of the professionals

    On behalf of the entire Burn Center team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we wish you a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday weekend!

    If you have any questions about burns or the Burn Center, call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a burn specialist.

    Request an Appointment

  • June 28, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Gratitude matters to you and to us. At MedStar Health, we recognize the positive impact expressions of gratitude can have after a care experience. When caregivers receive expressions of gratitude, they often respond in a humble manner, quickly intending to move the conversation back to being focused on you. After all, it's how we treat people.

    As you express gratitude, our caregivers not only hear you, but they also respect your interest in sharing feelings about care experiences, and those expressions often inspire caregivers–reinforcing that they are making a difference in the lives of others. And, receiving gratitude from patients and families helps validate the most common reason why caregivers have chosen this noble profession: serving others.

    We know gratitude is expressed in a multitude of ways, from a simple (but meaningful) verbal “thank you” to writing a note or choosing to support the work of caregivers by making a gift in their honor. Simple acts of gratitude are impactful.

    Your Gratitude Matters to Us

    To better understand why expressing gratitude feels good, imagine a two-sided scale representing caregivers on one side and patients on the other. When a caregiver provides a positive care experience for a patient, weight is applied to the patient side, causing the scale to be out of balance.

    Expressing gratitude for that care experience is often an opportunity for patients to apply weight to the opposite side of the scale, resulting in an important rebalancing of the scale. Because this scale is representing human life, that need for rebalancing often feels significant.

    At MedStar Health, we recognize the importance of receiving your gratitude for care experiences, enabling a resetting of the scale to a proper balance. And, we encourage you to express gratitude because your words and actions inspire our caregivers every day.

    We recognize that expressing gratitude is human nature and at MedStar Health, we respect your interest in sharing gratitude for your #caregiver. Learn how your #GratitudeMatters to us. via @MedStarHealth

    Click to Tweet

    Tips for Expressing Your Gratitude

    Sometimes expressing your gratitude is not always as straightforward as it seems. Use the following tips to make sure your appreciation comes through loud and clear:

    • Don’t be afraid to say thank you: It’s meaningful for caregivers to hear patients and family members express gratitude, as it makes them feel like they’re making a real difference in people’s lives.
    • Identify a personal and unique way to do it: We all enjoy giving thanks in different ways. While some people enjoy baking brownies and delivering them to nurses’ stations, others prefer to make a philanthropic investment in honor of their caregiver and care experience.
    • Perform acts of gratitude often: Your expression of gratitude is not limited to one time. The more you give thanks, the greater impact you can have on the caregiver and future patients.

    Expressing gratitude to a caregiver can go a long way in not only making us feel good, but also positively impacting everyone’s day. We recognize how meaningful your gratitude is and invite you to express your gratitude.

    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

  • June 27, 2019

    By Glenn W. Wortmann, MD

    Have you been tested for HIV? If you haven’t, you are not alone.

    More than 30 years since the first cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were discovered, it still surprises me how many people do not know their risk of HIV or have never been tested for the virus. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the number of HIV infections is beginning to increase after a five-year decline. It is a trend that is certainly concerning, especially for those of us who see the impact of HIV on patients every day.

    By identifying and treating patients with HIV, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), we can stop further transmission of the virus and save lives.

    Related reading: HIV: Get Tested. Get Treated.

    HIV Rates Have Plateaued

    According to the CDC, approximately 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with HIV this year alone, and without intervention, there will be 400,000 new cases in the next decade. The HIV rates are even more alarming in the Washington, D.C., region. The metropolitan area has one of the country’s highest HIV rates. Each month, we provide care and services to hundreds of patients and families affected by HIV in our outpatient clinic.

    A new government initiative called “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” takes aim at ending HIV in the United States within 10 years by encouraging HIV testing. The strategy is focused on four areas:

    • Diagnosing HIV as early as possible after infection
    • Treating HIV quickly
    • Protecting people at risk of HIV using preventive medication
    • Responding rapidly to HIV infections in communities hardest hit with the epidemic

    This four-pronged strategy gives us a real chance to get people with HIV and AIDS the help they need and prevent the virus from continuing to spread.

    Know Your Risk for HIV

    Men having sex with men and intravenous drug users remain at highest risk for contracting HIV. New infections are also on the rise among minority populations, including:

    • African Americans
    • Hispanics
    • Native Americans

    However, this does not mean that other populations are immune from the HIV virus.

    There is a growing number of women who do not realize their partners are bisexual, putting these women unknowingly at higher risk. Because they do not know they are at risk, many women may not be tested. New CDC statistics show the majority of new HIV infections in the U.S. are transmitted from the 40 percent of people who do not know they have HIV or have not received HIV treatment.

    HIV Testing Is the First Step

    The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested, regardless of your risk. You should have HIV testing at least once during your lifetime or more often if you fall into a higher-risk population. In fact, the CDC recommends individuals between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of a routine health exam or annually for those individuals with more risk factors.

    Fortunately, HIV testing has improved over the years and become widely available at hospitals, community health centers, and medical clinics across the country. In Washington, D.C., multiple sites across the city offer confidential and anonymous testing and counseling services.

    The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. #HIVtesting sites are located throughout D.C. metro area not just on #HIVtestingday but every day. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    There are three types of tests used for HIV testing including:

    • Antibody tests, which check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid. Most at-home and rapid tests, which provide initial results in as little as 15 minutes, are antibody tests.
    • Antigen/antibody tests detect both HIV antibodies and antigens, a part of the virus, in blood.
    • Nucleic acid tests (NATs) check for HIV in the blood.

    Antibody and antigen/antibody tests are the most common types of tests. NATs are expensive and not frequently used for HIV screening except in cases where a person has early symptoms of HIV.

    When an HIV test is positive, a follow-up test is performed to confirm the results. If HIV is confirmed, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is used to treat the virus. This lifesaving medication is taken with one pill, once per day for the remainder of a person’s life. While there is not a cure for HIV, ART can suppress the virus to a point where HIV is undetectable in a person’s body. Once HIV is undetectable, there is evidence the virus can also become untransmissible.

    Most insurance covers the cost of HIV testing and treatment. If you do not have insurance, some facilities offer assistance to help pay for the cost of testing.

    I know people are often nervous about getting tested for HIV because they’re afraid of what the test might find. But even if your test shows that you have HIV, you are not alone. At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we receive federal funding from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the largest federal program geared specifically toward people who have HIV/AIDS. This program allows our outpatient clinic to provide many services for patients and families affected by HIV and AIDS, including:

    • Case management
    • Medical care
    • Peer navigator services
    • Social work

    While there is, unfortunately, some stigma that still exists with HIV, the testing and treatment of the virus are better than ever before. By getting tested and receiving treatment earlier, patients with HIV can expect to live a normal lifespan. That’s the best reason you should get tested for HIV today.

    Get tested for HIV. Today.

    Testing sites are available throughout the Washington, D.C., area or by appointment at our Infectious Disease Outpatient Clinic. Call 202-877-3627.

    Request an Appointment

  • June 25, 2019

    By Timothy R. Shope, MD

    Obesity is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the No.1 cause of death in U.S. adults. However, 2018 research suggests that bariatric surgery can reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks in patients with diabetes by 40 percent within five years.

    Many of the patients we see for bariatric surgery have diabetes, which often goes hand-in-hand with obesity.

    We’ve seen a number of people over the years lose a substantial amount of weight after bariatric surgery, lowering their blood sugar and blood pressure and reducing their heart attack and stroke risk. In fact, the cardiologists of patients who had prior heart attacks often are ecstatic with their rejuvenated heart health.

    LISTEN: Dr. Shope discusses bariatric surgery and cardiovascular disease risk in the Medical Intel podcast.

    Most Effective Types of Bariatric Surgery

    We perform three common types of bariatric surgery to treat patients for obesity, diabetes, and elevated cardiovascular risk.

    1. Gastric Bypass Surgery

    During gastric bypass surgery, we create a small stomach pouch and bypass some of the intestine. This limits the amount of food that can be eaten and the number of calories and nutrients that are absorbed. This is the “gold standard” for bariatric surgery, but is no longer the most commonly performed procedure. It reduces about 85 to 90 percent of patients’ diabetic profile. Most patients are able to achieve healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels within a couple months. However, we’ve seen patients leave the hospital after surgery off of all their diabetic medications and holding some of their blood pressure medication.

    2. Sleeve Gastrectomy

    Depending on how much weight a person needs to lose, similar results can be achieved through a sleeve gastrectomy. This procedure reduces the stomach to about 25 percent of its original size and reduces the hormone responsible for signaling hunger. People then can lose weight more rapidly and lower their medication dosages or eliminate the need of any medication within several months due to their blood pressure and blood sugar levels lowering. Sleeve gastrectomy is now the most common bariatric surgery we perform.

    3. Adjustable Gastric Banding

    An adjustable gastric band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to limit food intake. This procedure has a 50 to 60 percent success rate in curing diabetes or reducing medications. Weight loss is more gradual with a lap band, but in many cases, the procedure allows patients to reduce or eliminate medications, especially if they were recently diagnosed with diabetes. Patients’ blood pressure typically lowers as well following this surgery.

    Interested in bariatric surgery or have more questions? Call 844-978-0687 or click below to join an info session at one of our 4 convenient locations*.

    Sign Up for an Information Session

    Who Is a Good Candidate?

    The American Heart Association considers anyone with a body mass index of 30 or more to be obese. Candidates for bariatric surgery are based on National Institutes of Health (NIH) criteria, which includes:

    • A body mass index that’s greater than 40
    • A body mass index that’s greater than 35, if they have diabetes or other medical problems that can influence weight gain, such as obstructive sleep apnea
    • A body weight that is 100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight
    #Bariatricsurgery generally can help people with #diabetes and a BMI over 40 (or 35 in select cases) decrease their #heartattack and #stroke risk. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center is home to bariatric surgeons who not only deliver superb results but also understand the importance of follow-up care. We always include your diabetes expert and primary care doctor to ensure you receive all facets of care on your way to losing weight, defeating diabetes, and decreasing your heart attack and stroke risks.

    Bariatric surgery can help manage or even cure diabetes. If you are obese, consider a conversation with your doctor to determine whether you are a candidate for a weight loss procedure.

    If you prefer to attend a bariatric surgery seminar in-person, call 844-978-0687 or save your spot in an in-person information session.

    Save My Spot


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