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  • January 06, 2022

    Christine R. Wray announces Jan. 2022 retirement after 42 years of service in healthcare

    CLINTON, Md.Christine R. Wray, FACHE, president of MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital who also serves as a senior vice president for MedStar Health, announced that she will be retiring on January 28, 2022.

    Wray was named president of MedStar Southern Maryland in September 2014, two years after MedStar Health acquired the hospital located in the Clinton area of Prince George’s County. With Wray at the helm, MedStar Southern Maryland saw the development and growth of several new service lines.

    In 2016, the hospital received national recognition from U.S. News & World Report, having ranked among the top 50 of best hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery. In 2017, MedStar Southern Maryland joined the prestigious MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute-Cleveland Clinic Alliance. Wray also helped facilitate the opening of the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center in February 2020. This 25,000 square foot facility offers unmatched medical expertise, leading-edge therapies, and access to robust clinical research, all under the same roof.

    Moreover, the construction of MedStar Southern Maryland’s new Emergency Department (ED) expansion project took place under Wray’s leadership, and remained on schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The $43 million ED expansion project has been deemed the largest construction project in the hospital’s history. The new emergency department opened its doors in April 2021 to provide local residents with seamless access to the most advanced care.

    Wray’s focus on providing quality care has helped MedStar Southern Maryland build a foundation of excellence that will serve local communities for decades to come. MedStar Southern Maryland is grateful for the innumerable and lasting contributions that Wray made throughout her 42-year healthcare career.

    “I have so cherished working with all of you in our commitment and service to our wonderful communities. It has truly been an honor and a privilege,” Wray said in an announcement that was emailed to hospital associates. “Please always be proud of the work you do and how you care for each other as you care for our patients. It is incredibly important work and you are the best of the best!

    Dr. Stephen Michaels, who currently serves as the chief operating and medical officer for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, will take over as president of MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.

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  • August 25, 2016

    When Emergency Department (ED) nurse Cathy Ruffin heard of the catastrophic flooding ravaging Louisiana, she sprang into action.  Because of her experience at MedStar Southern Maryland, her immediate concern was for her fellow medical professionals, many of whom were rendered homeless, but were providing care and comfort to others during this disaster.

    Ruffin decided to start a “Scrub Drive,” posting social media messages asking her fellow nurses for donations of scrubs and other items that could be sent to the five hospitals and more than 5,000 employees of those hospitals who were suffering through the flooding.  She received an outpouring of support, collecting scrubs of all colors and designs and food and school supplies.  She even enlisted her kids to make snack packs with handwritten supportive messages.

    ED secretary Tita Ball was one of the first to respond to Ruffin’s request.  She also called Ochsner Medical Center, located in the heart of Baton Rouge, wanting to send pizzas to the nurses, but since the flooding ravaged every type of business, there weren’t any pizza places where she could place an order.  Ball next thought of a friend in the t-shirt business, enlisting the friend to help send additional shirts down south.

    The first donation of 80 pounds of scrubs and supplies sent by Ruffin should arrive by the end of the week.  She already has 200 pounds of items ready for the next shipment.  Ruffin plans to continue sending scrubs, non-perishable and lightweight food and snacks, and hygiene items, such as deodorant, for several more weeks, as Louisiana continues to deal with the devastation caused by the flood.

    Thank you, Cathy, for making a difference! 

    You can help, too! For more information or to make a donation, please call 301-877-5700. 

  • August 24, 2016

    VHQC Honors Hospitals for Reducing Infections

    MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital is among only seven hospitals in Maryland and Virginia to receive VHQC’s 2015 Quality Innovation Award. The award recognizes hospitals that are achieving reductions in hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and creating a culture of patient safety. All hospitals enrolled in the VHQC Maryland-Virginia HAI Improvement Network were eligible based on 2015 calendar year performance.

    “Everyone who works at our hospital is committed to providing the highest quality of care for our patients and their families,” said Stephen Michaels, MD, chief operating and chief medical officer of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.  “Our associates work diligently every day to reduce the possibility of infections, and I am proud that their hard work has been recognized by VHQC.”

    Hospitals were evaluated using data from two sources: the Targeted Assessment for Prevention (TAP), developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). The top 10 percent of hospitals in each state received this award.

    For nearly two years, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital has participated in the HAI Improvement Network, led by VHQC. As the Medicare Quality Innovation Network for Maryland and Virginia, VHQC convenes patients, partners, clinicians and other partners to rapidly spread best practices for improving health quality.

  • August 23, 2016
    MedStar National Rehabilitation Network will host the 13th annual Super H 5K Run, Walk & Wheel on Sunday, September 18 for runners, walkers and adaptive athletes.
  • August 22, 2016

    WASHINGTON, D.C., — A unique MedStar Health fellowship challenged four young professionals to create an innovative solution for improving outcomes for people living with type 2 diabetes. For 10 months, beginning last September, the Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellows, Dan Hoff, Amanda Newman, May Paquete, and Jake Vildibill, immersed themselves in all aspects of the chronic disease, including simulating living with diabetes and eating meals they prepared on a food-stamps budget for two-week periods. After four months of study and interaction with patients and clinicians, the team created WellRooted, a unique food delivery and education service tailored for type 2 diabetes needs.

    “The HFA fellows consistently heard about the nutrition challenges people with type 2 diabetes face as we experienced more than 50 educational events, and countless interactions within the healthcare community,” said Amanda. “We recognized an opportunity to bridge an educational gap between clinics and kitchens, while giving people easier access to diabetes-friendly, cost-conscious meals they’ll want to enjoy with others.”

    This latest HFA fellowship term ended in July. Two fellows have committed to stay on to help transition WellRooted to its next stage. MedStar continues to offer the service to patients and associates while pursuing a long-term strategy to sustain and grow it with Power Supply, a meal delivery company with hubs in the Washington, D.C., region and California.

    WellRooted offers two diabetes-friendly options through its website, wellrootedfoods.comCook-at-Home offers free recipes plus an easy connection to affordable ingredient delivery. Ready-to-Eat provides deliveries of fully-prepared meals via Power Supply.

    To make it onto WellRooted’s menu, meals must include cultural variety and contain 350-600 calories, 30-60 grams carbohydrates, and less than 750 mg sodium. Cook-at-Home meals contain no more than seven to 12 ingredients and can be cooked within 20-35 minutes. Step-by-step instructions with photos are included, and the recipes use basic cooking equipment and methods. Each recipe comes with “bite size” nutrition education messages. Recipes are free and available on the WellRooted website. Cook-at-Home recipe ingredients cost $6-10 per person per meal, and Ready-to-Eat prepared meals start at $13 per person per meal.

    The HFA fellowship program, housed in the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2), tackles America’s most pressing healthcare challenges through diverse next-generation talent, innovation, and distinctive learning experiences centered on health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership. HFA was founded in 2012 and integrated into MI2 in 2016. MI2 collaborates with 1776, a Washington, D.C.,-based global startup incubator and seed fund, to provide educational, business, and investment opportunities, as well as mentorship and workspace.

    HFA fellows work closely with MedStar physicians and other clinical experts. This year’s group was led by Michelle Magee, MD, director of the MedStar Diabetes Institute, based at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Dr. Magee and her team piloted WellRooted with patients and associates at the Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    During the upcoming 2016-17 term, HFA fellows will focus on stroke care. The new class arrives in September and will work under the mentorship of Amie W. Hsia, MD, medical director of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Comprehensive Stroke Center; Michael Yochelson, MD, MBA, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer of MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital; and William J. Frohna, MD, chairman, MedStar Emergency Physicians. Applications were received from more than 250 young professionals, representing more than 100 U.S. undergraduate institutions and having an average 3.5 on a 4.0 grade point scale. This year’s program had a 2 percent acceptance rate.

    By design, the fellows bring diverse academic backgrounds and interests. This year’s class is:

    • Stephanie Guang, a public health-focused biomedical engineer from Brown University
    • Michael Mezher, a bioengineer and aspiring entrepreneur from George Mason University
    • King Pascual, an aspiring mental health physician from Teach for America
    • Ekaterina (Katia) Vlasova, a Watson Fellow who investigated international practices of integrative medicine

    “We know that the tyranny of the daily trumps the pursuit of the remarkable, absent a countervailing force,” said Mark Smith, MD, MedStar’s chief innovation officer and director of MI2. “Health for America was created to be such a force. It immerses the best and brightest young professionals in health innovation. Everyone benefits—our patients, the fellows themselves, the whole MedStar Health system, and the greater Washington-Baltimore region. It is an optimistic bet on the future.”

    About Health for America Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health, a past fellowship program embedded in the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2), has concluded. Learn more about the history and successes of the program here.

    About MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) The MedStar Institute for Innovation is unique among innovation centers that are embedded in health systems. MI2’s approach is to create an innovation ecosystem across MedStar Health that fosters the vast creative talent and energy of its 31,000 associates and 6,000 physicians. MI2 itself has developed deep technical expertise in human factors engineering, health influence and engagement, innovative learning and simulation, and digital health and data science. MI2, chartered in 2008, also serves as the portal for engaging outside startups and entrepreneurial collaborators to apply new ideas and innovative approaches to care for people and advance health. For more information, see mi2.medstarhealth.org.

  • August 22, 2016

     

    “Sometimes you really have to stand up for yourself and say, ‘no, I want a colonoscopy!’” said Wyatt Smith, a 33-year-old patient with colon cancer.

    At age 28, Smith was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that spread to his liver.  He suffered from abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements for two years before he sought help from doctors. One doctor thought Smith had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colitis. Another doctor blamed his symptoms on diet. Later, a colonoscopy exam revealed a tumor at the bottom of Smith’s rectum. It was colorectal cancer (CRC), a condition normally associated with an aging population.

    “Cancer was nowhere on my mind. I was dumbfounded!” said Smith.

    Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Cancer Institute’s researchers predict a 90% increase for colon cancer incident rates in young people ages 20- to 34-years-old by 2030, based on patient data from 1975 to 2010. 

    Current guidelines call for colon cancer screening to begin at age 50. Many doctors encourage people who are at increased or high risk for colon cancer to get screened earlier.  Patients at high risk include those who have a family history of colon cancer, advanced polyps or a history of IBS.IMG_0387

    “When I went to medical school, I was taught that colon cancer is a 50 and older disease, but on any given day more than half of my clinic is filled with patients under the age of 50,” said John Marshall, MD, chief of Hematology and Oncology at MedStar Georgetown, and Wyatt Smith’s current physician. “The lack of early detection has lead to some young people under the age of 50 presenting with more advanced disease.”

    According to the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA), an advocacy group dedicated to prevention, patient support and research, young-onset cancer usually begins in the rectum or in a part of the colon that is located near the rectum. Finding cancer in this area can be difficult without a colonoscopy, which means the cancer would then present at a later stage if patients wait to turn 50 to be screened for colon cancer.

    The CCA also estimates that 15-50% of young-onset colon cancer patients suffer from misdiagnoses and unrecognized symptoms, which is one reason Mark Mattar, MD and gastroenterologist at MedStar Georgetown, urges young people to get evaluated if they have symptoms or risk factors. He says performing a diagnostic colonoscopy better determines whether a young patient has IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease or cancer.

    “The goal of screening is to catch the precancerous polyp before any symptoms,” said Dr. Mattar. “Once you have a tumor, you may have a change in your stool caliber, blood in the stool, weight loss, chills or abdominal pain that does not improve.”

    Regardless of age, Dr. Mattar recommends that all patients make a prompt appointment with a gastroenterologist if they experience the following symptoms:

    • Blood in the stool
    • Unintentional weight loss
    • Change in stool caliber
    • Abdominal pain

    While Smith’s care team continues to treat his cancer and focus on his quality of life today, he continues to advocate for other young patients.

    “Age 50 seems like an arbitrary number,” said Smith, thinking about screening guidelines as he received one of his recent chemo infusions at MedStar Georgetown. ”My advice to young people is to listen to your body and be your own advocate with doctors and insurance.”

    IMG_7123Joining Smith’s mission to encourage screening for colon cancer at a younger age is colon cancer survivor Austin Thomas. Dressed in her colon-cancer-blue t-shirt and running shoes, she lead the warm up on stage at the Scope it Out 5K held in D.C. this past March.

    “When I had symptoms, it was easy for me to think ‘no pain, no gain,’ but I want young people to know that if you’re not feeling well, your body is telling you something,” said Thomas. “Don’t dismiss your symptoms! As uncomfortable as a rectal exam is, it’s quite simple. Why risk it? Get checked!”

    Thomas, a nutrition and fitness enthusiast was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 27. Her symptoms included severe stomach pain and intermittent rectal bleeding. Doctors thought she had IBS or a ruptured ovarian cyst. A colonoscopy eventually revealed complete blockage due to a tumor. Other tests showed that the cancer had spread to her liver.


    For over a year, Thomas took her chemo drugs for treatment, but she continued to train by biking and swimming as a distraction from her cancer. She ran a half marathon after one infusion goal, and, after her final infusion and having no evidence of the disease (NED), she ran the Army 10-Miler. 

    Similarly, Smith refused to let his treatments stop him from working and traveling. Hours after he got the news about the aggressive cancer returning, Smith and his fiancé took off to Rome for a week. He said it was what he needed to escape for a bit. One of his goals is to step foot on every continent.  The couple plans to marry in Cape Cod by the end of the year.IMG_7127

    “My only advice is to listen to your body,” Smith emphasized. “If you feel like your symptoms are being dismissed by your doctor, say something!”

    Providers suggest getting a second and third opinion to better understand alternative options for care. To help with navigation through colon cancer care, doctors encourage patients to ask the following questions:

    • How much experience do you have treating my type of colon cancer?
    • How will this affect my health insurance?
    • What should I say to my health insurance company?
    • How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
    • Will this treatment affect my daily activity?
    • What is my cancer’s stage and what does it mean?
    • Should I be thinking about genetic testing?
    • What are my options? Would I be a candidate for a clinical trial?
    • Will I be able to work?
    • Will I be able to have children in the future?

    Like many other health conditions, prevention and early detection are key to fighting colon cancer.

    “Do whatever you can to stay out of my office!” said Dr. Marshall.

  • August 18, 2016

    It takes only a few minutes talking with Jean Marie Haggerty, MD, to realize she is someone who truly loves what she does. Dr. Haggerty, a board-certified pediatrician with MedStar Georgetown Pediatrics Primary Care in Leonardtown, moved to St. Mary’s County a year ago after practicing in Northern Virginia the previous 10 years.  

    “Caring for a child from birth to adolescence is a privilege,” she said. “There is always a challenge every day in pediatrics – it keeps you fresh, it keeps you young, it keeps you on your toes.”

    Always interested in medical sciences, it was her experience working closely with children that steered her toward a career in pediatrics.

     “The year after college, I worked with abused and at-risk children,” Dr. Haggerty said. “One day, I was on the phone with my dad and he said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a doctor – a pediatrician?’ It was as if a light bulb went on and I realized that being a pediatrician could combine the clinical aspects of medicine with advocacy and care of children.”

    Dr. Haggerty graduated with honors from Cornell University, then earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School and was named to AOA Honor Medical Society. She completed her pediatrics residency at Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts in 2003. Named a Top Doctor by Washingtonian Magazine in 2015 and Washington Parents magazine in 2012, she is a firm believer that patient care extends beyond the office visit.

    “Children are not just our patients for the 15 to 20 minutes they are in the office,” she said. “Phone calls to make sure things are going well after you leave the office, asking if there are any questions after the visit - that’s important follow-up care.”

    Before moving to St. Mary’s, Dr. Haggerty was working as a pediatrician in Reston, Virginia, and was hoping to incorporate teaching and academic medicine into her practice.  

    “I saw MedStar Georgetown’s job posting and I thought it would be a great fit because Georgetown has a reputation of clinical excellence,” she said. “I met the staff and felt a connection with them. The staff is wonderful to work with and I feel MedStar Georgetown supports providing optimal care to patients.”

    Fostering a good relationship with her patients and their parents is a critical component of thorough care, according to Dr. Haggerty.

    “Compassion and understanding blended with providing excellent medical care is essential  because a patient is not just a body,” she said. “They have feelings and emotions and making sure there is a relationship between the doctor and the patient improves outcomes and care for everyone involved.”

    Parent Perspective

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    My son, Robbie, was having a lot of medical issues and no one knew what to do. We started seeing Dr. Haggerty last summer, and she ordered several tests - she wasn’t going to give up until she found out what was going on with him. She really felt it was sleep apnea and sent him for a sleep study. He had his tonsils out a few weeks ago and all of the issues we had been having with him are gone. It was all his tonsils. After the surgery, she called three times just to check on him. I have never had a pediatrician give my kids so much effort and care. 

    - Ginny Gretton, mother of Robbie, 6

     

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    The Monday after our son, Cameron, was born, Dr. Haggerty received a frantic voicemail from us. Cameron was born with a cleft palate. As new parents, we were stunned and didn’t know what to do. She came to the hospital to let us know everything would be okay and she would be with us through this journey. From the time he was born until now she continues to research information for Cam, see him whenever needed, and has always been available for a phone call. After we selected our craniofacial surgical team, she has continued to work closely with them to ensure her medical plan remains in line with theirs. We are truly grateful to have found such an amazing advocate for our son. 

    - Robin Gatton, mother of Cameron, 7 months

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