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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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  • March 18, 2019

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval today of atezolizumab (Tecentriq®, Genentech) in combination with chemotherapy for the initial treatment of extensive-stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC) marks the end of numerous failed attempts to improve survival for people with the deadly disease.

    “This is monumental for lung cancer patients,” says Stephen Liu, MD, an oncologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital who specializes in treating lung cancer and co-led the clinical trial leading to today’s approval through the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Atezolizumab allowed us to achieve what for we thought for decades was beyond reach: an improvement in survival for these patients.”

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    Small cell lung cancer makes up about 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancers in the United States.  Almost all people who develop small cell lung cancer have a history of smoking, and, according to the American Cancer Society only about six percent of people with the disease survive five years or more.

    “Since the 1980s, our standard treatment for small cell lung cancer has been platinum-based chemotherapy. This regimen reliably provides an initial response that is often dramatic, but almost always short-lived,” says Liu.

    The regimen of carboplatin, etoposide and atezolizumab was first explored in an investigator-initiated trial at Georgetown Lombardi in 2016. It soon gave way to the global phase III IMpower 133 trial. Liu and Leora Horn, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, served as co-principal investigators of the study.

    Results were first presented by Liu at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in September 2018 and simultaneously published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    The international, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, compared standard chemotherapy alone or given concurrently with atezolizumab, an anti-PD-L1 antibody. The addition of atezolizumab extended overall survival for a median of 10.3 months to 12.3 months without notably increasing side effects. As of now, there has only been about one year of follow-up so the full potential of atezolizumab is not yet known, Liu says.

    “In the context of over 40 failed phase III clinical trials, the improvement in survival seen with atezolizumab represents an important achievement,” Liu says.  

     “As SCLC is an unforgiving disease,” says Liu, “our first attempt at treatment is often our only chance to impact the natural history of this highly lethal cancer.”

    The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has added atezolizumab to its treatment guidelines as the preferred treatment for extensive stage SCLC.

     “With the addition of atezolizumab to chemotherapy, we have finally moved the needle in SCLC,” says Liu. “It is now our charge to build upon these results and ensure that the next major advance is not another 20 years away.”


    Disclosure: Liu reports having received advisory board/consulting fees Apollomics, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Genentech, Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Regeneron, Taiho, Takeda.

    Click the video below to watch Dr. Stephen Liu talk about cancer of the lung, head & neck and explain why getting involved in clinical trials for these conditions can be of great benefit for some patients, regardless of the stage of their disease.

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  • March 13, 2019

    WASHINGTON  — Laboratory analysis from the first arm of a phase II clinical trial testing the use of nilotinib in patients with Parkinson’s disease demonstrates precisely how the agent increases levels of dopamine in the brains of study participants, says a research team at Georgetown University Medical Center. Symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as motor dysfunction, are a result of a dopamine loss.

    In the journal Pharmacology Research & Perspectives, investigators report that a single low dose of the leukemia drug, nilotinib (Tasigna® by Novartis), reduces levels of a toxic protein that prevents the brain from utilizing dopamine that is stored in tiny vesicles, or pockets, in brain areas that may control movement.

    The researchers say nilotinib appears to rev up the ability of immune cells within the brain to reduce the constant flow of the misshapen alpha-synuclein protein produced by damaged neurons, allowing normal alpha-synuclein to facilitate release of stored dopamine. 

    “We detect the drug in the brain producing multiple effects, including improving dopamine metabolism reducing both inflammation and toxic alpha-synuclein. This is unprecedented for any drug now used to treat Parkinson’s disease,” says the study’s senior author, Charbel Moussa, MBBS, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism, and scientific and clinical research director of the Translational Neurotherapeutics Program at Georgetown University Medical Center.

    The research team examined cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and plasma collected from patients participating in the clinical trial to examine Parkinson’s disease biomarkers. The CSF was collected after a single dose of nilotinib or placebo was administered.

    Researchers examined levels of dopamine breakdown products, 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA) in the CSF that bathes the brain and spinal cord of patients, after nilotinib or placebo. They also looked at levels of TREM-2, which reflects the immune response to inflammation.

    Without nilotinib treatment, DOPAC and HVA were at low levels in the CSF of all patients. These molecules are produced when dopamine is broken down, or metabolized. A low level suggests a low level of dopamine is being used in the brain.

    Investigators divided participants into five groups to test different drug levels (150, 200, 300 or 400 mg.) or a placebo. After a single dose of nilotinib, they found DOPAC and HVA were elevated in patients who received nilotinib compared to placebo, suggesting the brain was utilizing substantially more dopamine. The optimal dose of nilotinib for elevating DOPAC and HVA, they found, was 200 mg.

    “When the drug is used, levels of these breakdown molecules quickly rise. This is what we also found in our preclinical studies and proof of concept clinical trial,” says Moussa. “This is exciting because this kind of potential treatment for Parkinson’s could increase use of a patient’s own dopamine instead of using or periodically increasing drugs that mimic dopamine.”

    They also found 150 mgs dose of nilotinib treatment led to a significant reduction of alpha-synuclein in the blood, outside of the CSF. Alpha-synuclein is typically very high, and may be toxic, in the blood of Parkinson’s disease patients.

    In addition, the single dose of nilotinib (200 mg.) significantly increased the CSF level of TREM-2 in patients. “This suggests an elevated beneficial immune activity that targets misfolded alpha-synuclein for destruction.

    “The TREM-2 findings fit neatly with DOPAC and HVA findings,” Moussa says.

    He explains that under normal circumstances, the brain stores as much dopamine neurotransmitter as it can and uses it regularly to transmit messages across neurons. Research suggests that normal alpha-synuclein helps maintain the vesicles that dopamine is stored in and helps release the neurotransmitter when needed. But in Parkinson’s disease, dopamine-secreting neurons produce alpha-synuclein that is folded up (misfolded), and so cannot mediate dopamine re-cycling and breakdown. Eventually, more and more dopamine-secreting neurons emit the tangled protein and die.

    In preclinical studies, Moussa says nilotinib appears to trigger brain cells (including immune cells and neurons) to attack the misfolded protein that is being produced, allowing normal alpha-synuclein to access and release dopamine from storage vesicles. Hence the increase in TREM-2 and dopamine breakdown chemicals in the central spinal fluid, Moussa says. Dopamine produced in the brain is then recycled, stored in vesicles and available for future use. The cycle repeats itself over and over.

    Dr. Fernando Pagan
    Dr. Fernando Pagan

    Fernando Pagan, MD, principal investigator of the clinical trial and first author of the paper says the scientific evaluation of nilotinib’s effect suggest it can reduce toxic alpha-synuclein and brain inflammation, while protecting dopamine and dopamine-secreting neurons. Pagan is medical director of Georgetown’s Translational Neurotherapeutics Program and director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

     “Whether or not, or how much, the drug demonstrates improved clinical outcomes will be determined when the phase II clinical trial results are in,” he says.

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    Additional study authors included Michaeline L, Hebron, MS, Barbara Wilmarth, CRNP, Yasar Torres-Yaghi, MD, Abigail Lawler, MD, Elizabeth E Mundel, MD, Nadia Yusuf, MD, Nathan J Starr, DO, Joy Arellano, RN, Helen H. Howard, RN, Margo Peyton, Sara Matar, BS, Xiaoguang Liu, MD, PhD, Alan J. Fowler, Sorell L. Schwartz, PhD, and Jaeil Ahn, PhD.

    Georgetown holds an issued US patent for the use of nilotinib for the treatment of certain neurodegenerative diseases and has other pending patent applications in US and foreign jurisdictions. Moussa is also the named inventor on this related intellectual property.

    This study was supported by the Lasky-Barajas Family Fund and other donors. Novartis, the maker of nilotinib, provided nilotinib and matching placebo free of cost to Georgetown University for all participants while on the study.

  • February 26, 2019

    WASHINGTON – The first cancer patient to be treated as part of a CAR-T cell clinical trial at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital through Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is still in “complete remission” six months after receiving the treatment.

    Diggs receiving her car-t cell therapy
    Daisy Diggs

    Daisy Diggs, 67, of Laurel, Maryland volunteered for the experimental treatment after a lengthy battle with stage-three non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Following her diagnosis in 2015, the mother of two and grandmother of four developed several tumors that could not be eliminated with chemotherapy alone.

    “I had tumors in my lymph nodes, hip, pelvis, neck and right kidney. They couldn’t get a handle on it,” Diggs says. “I’ve been getting chemo for two and a half years. Each time I would have some [tumor] shrinkage and then they would grow. I thought, ‘Well, the chemo isn’t working for me, let me try this.’ I’m glad I did. I see these T-cells as Pac-Men circulating in my body and eating up the cancer.”

    “We don’t know if others will have the same or similar response or for how long the treatment will be effective,” says Pashna N. Munshi, MD, associate clinical director of the Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program, a joint program between MedStar Georgetown and the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack/Meridian Health.

    “Still, hers is exactly the early result we had hoped for. The fact that she is still in complete remission six months after her CAR-T infusion signals a promising chance for a long-term remission for Ms. Diggs.”

    “I feel great,” says Diggs. “I’m so relieved to receive this latest news. For me, the CAR-T cells were 100 times better than chemo in terms of how I felt during the treatment. I’m just so happy. I thank God and I thank Dr. Munshi.”

    Ms. Diggs receiving CAR-T cell infusion
    Ms. Diggs receiving CAR-T cell infusion on July 23rd, 2018

    Diggs joined the phase 2 CAR-T cell (axicabtagene ciloleucel or KTE-C19) clinical trial to test its safety and effectiveness, which had only become available two years after her diagnosis of follicular lymphoma. Starting in the summer of 2018, she began receiving the experimental therapy, which uses her own immune system to destroy the cancer.

    CAR-T cells are made in a medical lab using a component of the patient’s white blood cells. There, the patient’s natural, disease-fighting T-cells are genetically modified to express synthetic receptors that target proteins commonly found on the lymphoma cells.  About two weeks later, the patient receives lymhodepleting chemotherapy for three days and the CAR-T cells are then infused into the patient. Thereafter, the CAR-T cells are expected to attack the tumors. The goal is that the CAR on the T cells will bind to and kill cells that express CD19, a protein that is found on B-cell lymphomas.

    “Once the CAR-T cell engages the tumor, it gets activated and proliferates multifold thereby eradicating the lymphoma rapidly,” says Dr. Munshi.

    CAR-T cell therapy carries many risks. Patients can experience drops in blood pressure, high fevers, neurological problems and even death as the body reacts to major changes in the immune system.  For Diggs, the risks of the experimental treatment were outweighed by the potential benefit.

    “While we’re very pleased with the results of Ms. Diggs’ treatment through this clinical trial, it’s important to remember that this is only a single experience of the 80 participants who will be enrolled nationwide. We have enrolled an additional five patients in this study here at Georgetown.  

    “I had to meet all the criteria for this - go to the dentist, get all these tests done, biopsies,” Diggs recalls. “At first I was nervous because I didn’t know how it would turn out. They explained the risks and told me all the bad things that could happen. But I figured that nothing else was working and that whatever happens, happens but if it’s good, it’s going to be wonderful.”

    Diggs has reported few side effects limited to only muscle pain. After her first PET scan in October, doctors could no longer find any evidence of cancer. In only three months, her tumors had disappeared.

    Ms. Diggs hugging Dr. Munshi after learn that her cancer is in “complete remission” thanks to her car-t cell treatment.
    Ms. Diggs learns that her cancer is in “complete remission” on October 18th, 2018.

    Diggs has reported few side effects limited to fevers and muscle pain. After her first PET scan in October 2018, doctors could no longer find any evidence of cancer. In only three months, her tumors had disappeared. Her second PET scan in January 2019 also found no evidence of cancer.

    “We’re giving it the ol’ one-two punch,” Diggs says. “I always say we’re shutting that party down. Now it’s hopefully going to be shut down for good.”

    Axicabtagene ciloleucel, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as Yescarta for relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, transformed follicular lymphomas and primary mediastinal B-cell lymphomas, but is not approved for low grade lymphomas (follicular lymphoma, marginal zone lymphoma) that this clinical trial tests.

    Very common side effects include cytokine release syndrome with symptoms including fever, nausea, headache, rash, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and trouble breathing. Most patients have a mild reaction, but sometimes, the reaction may be severe or life threatening. Anemia (lack of cells that carry oxygen) and neutropenia (a decrease in white blood cells) are also very common.

    This clinical trial is sponsored and designed by Kite Pharmaceutical, a Gilead Company. Dr. Munshi occasionally serves as a paid scientific consultant for Kite Pharmaceutical.

    For more information about this trial, please contact Julie Verna at 202-444-0960.

  • February 22, 2019

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute Hosts National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day Flagship Event to Increase Awareness about Heart Valve Disease

    Washington, D.C., February 22, 2019 – In recognition of National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day on Feb. 22, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute hosted a flagship event at MedStar Washington Hospital Center to raise awareness about heart valve disease, which affects thousands of people in the Washington, D.C., area and millions nationwide.

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute physicians, along with U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH and WebMD Chief Medical Officer John Whyte, MD, MPH, spoke at the event to discuss the importance of early detection and effective treatments available to repair or replace malfunctioning heart valves, often without open surgery.  

    Heart valve disease involves damage to one or more of the heart’s four valves. While some types are not serious, others can lead to major complications, including death. Fortunately, heart valve disease can be successfully treated with valve repair and replacement, often using minimally invasive techniques. 

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is home to some of the latest technologies available for heart valve procedures. It was one of the earliest sites in the United States to test some of the advancements in the valve procedures.

    “MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute has been the site for every major clinical trial, including testing the effectiveness of transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, which is a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrowed heart valve without surgery,” said Stuart F. Seides, MD, physician executive director, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. “We have performed more than 2,000 TAVR procedures and because TAVR is less invasive than open-heart surgery, patients recover faster and typically go home in two to three days, compared to a week for surgery.”

    “We are the only provider within 50 miles of the greater Washington area that offers all of these latest treatments for heart valve disease. With all of the latest technologies available to us in the numerous trials, we have the capability to sometimes treat patients who are otherwise untreatable,” added Vinod H. Thourani, MD, chairman of Cardiac Surgery, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “As always, the earlier in the disease that we start treatment, the more likely it is that patients can avoid surgery and prevent the disease from becoming severe.”

    Heart valve disease can be there at birth, or develop from damage later in life from calcification, radiation to the chest, other cardiovascular diseases and conditions, or infection. It is estimated that as many as 11 million Americans have heart valve disease and each year, more than 25,000 people in the U.S. die from the disease. 


    Watch the video of the Valve Disease Day kickoff event at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center or click here.

    About MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute:
    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is a national leader in the research, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. A network of 10 hospitals and 150 cardiovascular physicians throughout Maryland, Northern Virginia and the Greater Washington, D.C., region, MedStar Heart also offers a clinical and research alliance with Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute, the nation’s #1 heart program. Together, they have forged a relationship of shared expertise to enhance quality, improve safety and increase access to advanced services. MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute was founded at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, home to the Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital. Opened in July 2016, the hospital ushered in a new era of coordinated, centralized specialty care for patients with even the most complex heart and vascular diagnoses.


  • February 15, 2019

    New Algorithm May Aid in Adoption of Better Heart Pacing Method

    BALTIMORE—(February 15, 2019)—An algorithm created by cardiac electrophysiologist Aditya Saini, MD, of MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, may pave the way for a superior method of installing pacemakers to become more widely adopted around the world.

    In an article published in the medical journal Circulation- Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology released last week, Dr. Saini proposes an algorithm that solves a practical barrier to the adoption of a method of pacemaker installation, known as His bundle pacing (HBP). His bundle pacing takes advantage of the natural conduction fibers to pace the heart, allowing a coordinated and perfectly timed contraction of the heart, as opposed to traditional pacing, which simply paces from one spot in the heart, leading to an uncoordinated contraction. This electrically coordinated- or synchronized- contraction makes all the difference when it comes to mechanical properties of the heart pump.

    Recent studies have found HBP to be a safe, feasible and superior pacing technique, reducing the combined endpoint of death, hospitalizations for heart failure or need for future pacemaker upgrades when compared to traditional cardiac pacing.

    However, HBP increases the complexity of routine patient follow-up, adding time and effort and disrupting busy clinics because lengthy device interrogations are needed while correlating them with simultaneously recorded electrocardiograms (ECGs). Moreover, no existing device algorithms specific to HBP can accurately diagnose device malfunction or guide adjustment of pacemaker settings, making remote monitoring of patients challenging.

    The algorithm, which was developed as part of a multicenter effort and in collaboration with Medtronic, which manufactures His Bundle Pacemakers, can be incorporated into the devices. It can also be used immediately in clinics, allowing doctors to ensure the devices are performing properly –even without an EKG. When the algorithm is incorporated into the devices, doctors can monitor patients remotely and accurately diagnose and treat potential pacemaker problems. The application of the algorithm may help make patient follow-up safe and efficient, removing a principal obstacle to widespread adoption of HBP.

    “As His Bundle Pacing becomes prime time, there were certain challenges, including the time-consuming and cumbersome nature of the follow up,” said Dr. Saini, who is the first author on the Circulation article. “Those challenges definitely acted as a barrier for His Bundle Pacing to become widely adopted. This study is the first novel step toward an algorithm that can resolve those issues.”

    Pacemakers control slow heart rhythms by generating electric currents. The traditional device is implanted in the chest and sends current through wires embedded in the upper and lower chambers of the heart. With a His Bundle pacemaker, one of the wires that would normally be implanted in the right ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart is implanted into the bundle of His, a collection of cells which are part of the normal electrical wiring of the heart.

    With a traditional pacemaker, the constant electrical current can cause the heart to wear out, resulting in heart failure and also increase risk of development of atrial fibrillation. His Bundle Pacing, by comparison, results in a more natural method of restoring regular heart rhythm by essentially ‘rewiring the heart’ .

    “The electrical activation is natural, and in the ideal case can look exactly like it would without a pacemaker,” Dr. Saini said. “It should not give you heart failure that can develop with a traditional pacemaker, and is also a superior pacemaker if you already have heart failure.”


    About the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is a network of highly acclaimed and nationally recognized cardiac experts and care programs spanning all 10 MedStar Health hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region. In the Baltimore area, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute experts are accessible at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, MedStar Harbor Hospital, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and more than a dozen community locations.  MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is allied with the Cleveland Clinic, the nation’s #1 heart program, giving patients accelerated access to the most advanced research, technologies and techniques in cardiology and cardiac surgery. This alliance also strengthens excellent clinical care and enables high-level collaboration on research.


    About MedStar Health

    MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit

  • February 14, 2019

    Collaborative Care That Puts Your Patient First

    WASHINGTON, D.C., — In an instant with the crack of a bullet, the spin of a car, or the sudden burst of vessels in the brain, lives are irrevocably changed.  For U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise, the innocence of a baseball game was shattered when a gunman aimed his weapon at the field where members of Congress were practicing for an annual game scheduled for the next evening.

    His grave bullet wounds and his difficult journey through multiple surgeries and infection have been well documented. But like so many other patients with complex injuries, survival is just the first step in a recovery that may continue for months or years.

    When the Congressman left his stay at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, he was immediately admitted to MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (MedStar NRH). His eight week stay at MedStar NRH demonstrates the critical importance of acute rehabilitation for patients who have suffered serious injury and who continue to have complex medical needs, as well.  

    For Congressman Scalise—and other patients with more complicated injury or illness—rehabilitation begins even before they enter the doors of MedStar NRH, explains John Aseff, MD, the physiatrist who cared for Rep. Scalise while in acute rehab.

    “I visited the Congressman at the Hospital Center before he came to us. That’s an important element in creating continuity of care for our patients,” he says. “It’s good for patients and families to know what to expect during the next steps in the recovery process. When patients have multiple organ, nerve and blood vessel injury like the Congressman, we complete assessments before they are discharged from acute care to better understand their continued medical needs, as well as begin to map out their rehab.”

    The shared electronic medical record systems among MedStar Health hospitals helps smooth transition of care from one facility to another, he adds. “We also have MedStar NRH physiatrists at our sister MedStar hospitals across the region to provide support and counsel,” Dr. Aseff explains. 

    Multidisciplinary Care Team

    When the Congressman arrived at MedStar NRH, a team of rehabilitation experts had already been assigned to his care and provided an initial review of his immediate needs. 

    Every patient has a multidisciplinary care team that works collaboratively with one another, the patient and the family throughout hospitalization. Physiatrists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, recreation therapists, neuropsychologists, case managers and dietitians work in concert to develop an individualized treatment plan to help ensure the best possible recovery.

    The care team meets weekly to share updates on the patient’s progress—and to address problems that may impede recovery. “Family meetings are also held to provide the patient and loved ones with a more global picture of the present—and the future,” explains Social Worker Joan McKinon Reeves, LICSW, MedStar NRH director of case managers.

    “From the very beginning of a patient’s hospitalization, we provide an evaluation and create open communication between us and the patient and family,” she adds. “With patients who have more complex injuries, it’s important to understand what kind of support system they have at home and even begin to look at what they may require when they are discharged.

    “Acute rehab is about planning a patient’s future daily life. Our goal is to help patients return to their work, their life, and their passions after a life altering event, and help ensure that the progress they have made during inpatient rehab is sustained. Case managers act as a bridge to services in the community—to the best next steps in a patient’s rehabilitation.” McKinon Reeves says.

    “Unlike some other facilities, an acute rehab facility like ours is equipped to provide a full-range of medical services, 24/7, especially for patients with more complicated issues,” says Nailah Campbell, BSN, RN, Nursing Manager. “We are trained to care for sicker patients and prepared for all kinds of special needs from patients requiring kidney dialysis or wound care to assistive devices.”

    Rigorous Therapy, Six Days a Week

    Working with patients who have an array of issues, care teams included therapists with special expertise working with patients suffering some type of neurological injury.

    “Some patients need to relearn to walk,” says Meaghan Minzy, PT, DPT. “Our goal in physical therapy is to improve endurance, strengthen a patient’s upper body and help them use their legs.”

    Amanda Summers, MS, OTR/L, ATP, says patients who present with physical weakness need to be mindful of overexertion. “Occupational therapy is focused on improving cardiovascular fitness and strengthening the upper body so that daily living tasks can once again be performed.”

    For three hours-a-day, six-days-a-week, the Congressman pushed himself and his body, moving from wheelchair, to a walker and onto crutches.  “In time, he went from walking 20 feet to 200,” says Minzy.

    Progress like this is the result of a patient’s determination, the skill of rehab experts—plus the latest technology, such as FES, functional electrical stimulation to muscles, and the ZeroG® --the robotic body weight support system first developed at MedStar NRH.

    Dr. Aseff visited Rep. Scalise twice a day and watched him during his therapy. “That’s typical for patients who have had critical trauma,” says Dr. Aseff.  “It’s important to understanding their medical needs and to assess their progress.”

    He also says most people are impatient about recovery—and Scalise was no exception.

    “Too much therapy can be harmful—rest is important. Using energy efficiently and effectively is very important to recovery.”

    Patients with very complex injuries face enormous challenges as they learn to “accept the injury and adjust to a new normal,” says Minzy.  “For us, it never gets old to watch as patients improve and leave us able to move on with their lives.”

    # # #

    About MedStar National Rehabilitation Network
    The MedStar National Rehabilitation Network is a regional system of rehabilitation care that offers inpatient, day treatment and outpatient services in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia.

    The Network’s interdisciplinary team of rehabilitation experts provides comprehensive services to help people recover as fully as possible following illness and injury. Rehabilitation medicine specialists, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists work hand-in-hand with other rehab professionals to design treatment plans tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Rehabilitation plans feature a team approach and include the use of state-of-the-art technology and advanced medical treatment based on the latest rehabilitation research.
    The Network provides comprehensive programs specifically designed to aid in the rehabilitation of adults and children recovering from neurologic and orthopaedic conditions such as amputation, arthritis, back and neck pain, brain injury, cancer, cardiac conditions, concussion, fibromyalgia, foot and ankle disorders, hand and upper extremity problems, post-polio syndrome, stroke, spinal cord injury and disease, and sports and work-related injuries.

    Inpatient and day treatment programs are provided at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital located in Northwest Washington, DC and at more than 50 outpatient sites conveniently located throughout the region. MedStar National Rehabilitation Network is fully accredited by The Joint Commission, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), with CARF accredited specialty programs for Amputations, Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury and Stroke.

    For more on MedStar National Rehabilitation Network and to find a location near you, log on to

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