MedStar Researcher’s Power to Heal Associate Support for New MedStar Investigators

MedStar Researcher’s Power to Heal Associate Support for New MedStar Investigators

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As part of the annual Associate Giving campaign, Giving: The Power to Heal, donations made to support research at MedStar Health are used to fund the New Investigator – Associate Giving Grant Fund. This grant is awarded to researchers who are new to MedStar Health in order to help support new, high potential research endeavors and can lead to external funding.

Since launching the New Investigator – Associate Giving Grant Fund in 2015 with the donations to the Power to Heal campaign by MedStar associates, the Research Institute has provided funding to fifteen investigators at MedStar. Here is an update on the research of prior recipients.

Success in Future Funding 

The New Investigator Fund focuses on funding research so that investigators can seek additional outside funding to continue their research. Alexander Kroemer, MD, PhD, was a recipient of a grant from the 2015 Power to Heal campaign. His research, “The Role of Nuclear Oligomerization Binding Domain-2 in Driving Th17-Mediated Allograft Rejection in Intestinal Transplant Recipients,” built on previous preliminary work to test the hypothesis that Th17-mediated immune responses play a major role in the potential for intestinal transplant rejection. As a result of the pilot data collected during his research, he was awarded an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH-NIAID). This is the first-ever NIH R01 grant for our MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute. This project has the potential to help those who could benefit from a life-altering intestinal transplant (ITx), but are unable to do so because of the high risk of immunological complications.

Investigating How Payments Can Affect Care

Jessica E. GalarragaJessica Galarraga, MD, MPH, is investigating the effects of Maryland’s global budgeting payment reform on emergency care quality. “An Evaluation of a Payment Reform Experiment: The Impact of Global Budgets on Emergency Department Return Visits” was funded by the 2016 Power to Heal campaign.

Payment reform has increasingly been at the forefront of the dialogue on health care reform. In an effort to control rising health care costs, the state of Maryland has recently embarked on a large scale payment reform experiment known as the global budget revenue (GBR) program. This study uses data from the Health Services Cost Review Commission’s basic inpatient file, which has comprehensive hospital-based statewide data for Maryland.

The data from this project demonstrated a small, but statistically significant increase in quarterly emergency department return rates with GBR implementation by 0.2%, which suggests that the previously demonstrated GBR-associated decline in emergency department hospitalization rates may be posing a risk for increasing returns to the emergency department after discharge.

These findings have led to a two-year Early Career Research Development Grant by the Emergency Medicine Foundation awarded in June 2018. This funding will support a more in-depth analysis of emergency department returns using Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data that does not have limitations such as time and tracking measures.

Finding Markers to Better Treat Cancer

chukwuemeka-u-ihemelanduChukwuemeka Ihemelandu, MD, was a recipient of a grant from the 2016 Power to Heal campaign. His research, “Establishment of Patient-Derived Tumor Xenograft Models of Peritoneal Metastasis for Preclinical Evaluation of New Imaging Targets: A Translational Platform for Improving Detection of Microscopic Disease to Impact Survival of Patients with Gastrointestinal Cancers,” was to establish a proof of concept for the use of intra-operative optical fluorescence imaging with NIR light using antibodies that specifically target cancer cells in gastrointestinal malignancies.

Results from the research indicated a difference in the expression patterns of the identified target biomarkers between the right- and left-sided colon cancer. Key data points were achieved to better summarize the molecular heterogeneity of human tumor for optical imaging and ensure translatability of pre-clinical labs. Dr. Ihemelandu was awarded a NIH KL2 grant as a result of these findings which will assist in the development of a successful clinical and translational research career.

Connecting Clinicians for Better Patient Outcomes

Shimae C. FitzgibbonsShimae Fitzgibbons, MD, continued her research in better understanding the familiarity in surgical teams on patient outcomes as a recipient of the 2016 Power to Heal campaign.

The goal of “Impact of Familiarity of Surgical Teams on Patient Outcomes” was to utilize a pre-existing database of surgical reports to better understand the factors and relationships that may contribute to the best patient outcomes. With an increasing focus on operating room utilization in healthcare, it is important to assess potential relationships between surgical team member familiarity and patient outcome. Three approaches to familiarity were used: in-role familiarity (familiarity amongst team members within a given role), cross-role familiarity (familiarity between roles), and overall familiarity (combination of both sets of scores). The core surgical team members participating in the procedure were classified into the following categories: surgeon, anesthesiology team member, scrub technician, and circulator.

More than 4500 knee arthroplasty cases were ultimately included in the dataset. When controlling for patient age, gender, hospital and ASA class, a team’s familiarity score during a case was significantly associated with reduced surgery time and patient length of stay in knee arthroplasty cases. The research identified that with respect to the impact of specific dyad familiarity, all team familiarity is associated with a shorter case length and a shorter length of hospital stay.

The results of this study have been presented at several national meetings. For future research, Dr. Fitzgibbons has proposed two directions that have the potential to generate external funding.

Our Power to Heal

MedStar Health has launched the 2018 Giving: The Power to Heal Campaign. This campaign, which runs through Friday, Oct. 20, invites associates and physicians to invest through philanthropy and support research across the system.

“Associates throughout the MedStar family can have a powerful impact and have the Power to Heal through their support of research among our new investigators,” says Neil Weissman, MD, president of MedStar Health Research Institute. “We remain committed to our investigators and this is a chance to invest in the future of research across the wider MedStar Health community.”

We invite you to discover your Power to Heal and choose to make a difference today! Visit to learn more. To support the New Investigator fund, select Research at MedStar in the drop-down menu when you make your donation.

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