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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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  • April 23, 2018

    What causes a migraine?

    Migraines have a strong genetic component with 70 percent of patients having a first degree relative with a history of migraines. More women than men suffer migraines, and many associate their migraines with factors such stress, hormonal changes, contraceptive use, pregnancy, ovulation, lack of sleep, head trauma, changes in weather, smoking, ingesting red wine and exposure to computers or bright lights.

    What are the treatments you offer?

    If you experience the worst headache of your life, you should not delay going to the ER for evaluation. If you experience a headache that is likely triggered by the components mentioned above, it is likely a migraine attack. There are numerous medications that can help, from aspirin to much stronger drugs, including antidepressants, anti-seizure medications or calcium blockers. If a headache cannot be stopped, IV medications may be needed and the patient may need to be hospitalized. Narcotics are never a good treatment for a headache. New innovations in treatment include occipital nerve stimulation, external trigeminal nerve stimulation and the Gammacore handheld device, which all work to relieve migraines by sending electrical stimulation to the brain. New medications for migraines include new drugs and antibody therapies.

    What else should we know?

    Sleeping in a dark, quiet room, doing relaxation exercises, yoga, acupressure treatment and short courses of steroids have proven helpful to some individuals. Lifestyle change can also help patients with migraines, including avoiding or learning how to deal with stressful situations, eating healthy, and sleeping at least eight hours per night. Of course, avoiding the inciting agent is key. If you have a headache from constant computer exposure, relax your eyes and your brain to prevent progression of the headache. A headache diary may be helpful in documenting what activities/ food/etc. triggers the headache.

    For more information visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Migraine or call 301-877-4540 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Constantino.

  • April 23, 2018

    At age 13 Erik Weihenmayer lost his eyesight due to a condition called retinoschsis, characterized by the abnormal splitting of the retina’s neurosensory layers.
    Determined not to let his blindness become him, Erik learned to rock climb. Through time, he took that determination further – from simple rock formations to daring challenges very few humans would try – conquering all seven summits of the world and boldly attempting kayaking down the roiling rapids of the Colorado River.


    Erik recently spoke to MedStar NRH Team Members at a special event, held at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C.,
    Weihenmayer talked about his book No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon. He said that he was not going to let his disability prevent him from his daring feats. “Some people are campers,” said Weihenmayer. “I’m a climber.”


    Some facts about Erik Weihenmayer:
    • May 25, 2001 – Erik became the only blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest
    • At age 13, he developed a condition known as retinoschsis (an eye disease characterized by the abnormal splitting of the retina's neurosensory layers, usually in the outer plexiform layer. Most common forms are asymptomatic, some rarer forms result in a loss of vision in the corresponding visual field) which robbed him of his vision
    • He was a wrestler in high school despite being blind and represented his home state of Connecticut in a national junior wrestling championship in Iowa
    • He discovered rock climbing as a teenager and developed the ability to scan aspects of rock formations with his hands and feet as he climbs
    • Graduated with a double major from Boston College
    • Was a middle school teacher and wrestling coach


    For more information about Erik, check out his website - https://touchthetop.com/index.php

    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, D.C., 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 MedStarNRH.org.

  • April 18, 2018

    Washington, D.C., April 18, 2018 – Clinical trial planning is underway at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute to determine whether a novel stem cell therapy will improve heart function for patients with heart failure. MedStar Heart, in partnership with CardioCell, a subsidiary of Stemedica Cell Technologies, pioneered the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine. The trial will use CardioCell’s proprietary mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), manufactured by Stemedica. The goal is to improve outcomes in patients with heart failure and left ventricular assist devices (LVAD).

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute has been studying the causes of the progressive deterioration of heart function that patients with heart failure experience over time, as well as the potential therapeutic role of stem cells. “We have developed compelling evidence that one of the major mechanisms leading to progressive myocardial dysfunction in patients with heart failure is the presence of persistent and inappropriate inflammation," said Stephen Epstein, MD, director of Translational and Vascular Biology Research at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. "Of great therapeutic relevance is the fact that mesenchymal stem cells have marked anti-inflammatory effects.” Dr. Epstein and his colleagues demonstrated in mouse models of heart attack and of heart failure that intravenously administered MSCs lead to a magnitude of improved heart function that is unprecedented.

    “This study, if successful, will lead to pivotal trials that, in turn, will have the potential to alter strategies of treating LVAD patients that could markedly improve their symptoms and outcomes,” added Steven Boyce, MD, surgical director of the Advanced Heart Failure program at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute.

    There are nearly six million Americans with heart failure, and about 650,000 new cases occur each year. Each year 200,000 to 250,000 heart failure patients need heart transplantation, but with the very low supply of donor hearts, LVADs are being used with increasing frequency. An LVAD is a small pump that helps circulate the patient’s blood when their heart becomes too weak to pump effectively on its own. Although highly effective in alleviating symptoms and improving longevity, patients with LVAD support still have a high incidence of serious complications, including a high mortality rate. Persistent inflammation is also a probable major cause of deterioration of LVAD patients.

    “If we are successful in showing stem cells improve outcomes in LVAD patients, the results would extend to the general population of heart failure patients and, in the process, fundamentally transform current paradigms for treating heart failure patients,” Dr. Epstein concluded.

     


    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.

     

  • April 17, 2018
    Mary Hart, second from right, was recently named the 2018 Auxilian of the Year. Hart stands with MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital President Christine Wray, right, close friend Ernestine Pence, and daughter Kim after the luncheon on April 13.

    Leonardtown, Maryland – Honored for her spirit, responsibility, and selflessness as a volunteer, Mary Hart was named the 2018 Fayrene Mattingly Auxilian of the Year at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

    At a luncheon for members on April 13, Hart received a plaque and accolades from Christine Wray, president of MedStar St. Mary’s.

    “Nominated by her fellow members, Mary is described as responsible, hard-working, and always willing to lend a hand,” said Wray. “She is helpful to all during her time volunteering in the Gift Shop, and can be counted upon to pick up a shift with a friendly smile.”

    Hart is co-chair of the hospital’s annual brown bag auction and the organization’s secretary. “Her note-taking and organization are incredibly valuable to her fellow members — many of whom note the fantastic job she does in keeping everything on track,” Wray said.

    The Fayrene Mattingly Auxilian of the Year Award was created in 2005 to honor Mattingly, a longtime hospital volunteer. It is presented to one Auxilian each spring.

    Established in 1916, the Auxiliary has funded more than $4 million in hospital improvements over the last century. Recently, Auxiliary members approved funding for 13 new rocking chairs for the Women’s Health & Family Birthing Center; a portable ultrasound machine for the Intensive Care Center; and $100,000 toward the complete renovation of the hospital’s Atrium, expected to reopen this summer.

     

    MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary

    The MedStar St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary coordinates and participates in many activities that generate funds to enhance hospital facilities and services. Auxilians staff the hospital's Gift Shop seven days a week. They hold fundraisers, such as the annual Auxiliary Golf Tournament and Holiday Bazaar.

    Founded in 1916, the Auxiliary has played a key role in the acquisition of many vital improvements for the hospital throughout its 100-year history. Patient comfort has been its primary focus since the very beginning. It has donated funding for projects both small and large, from breast pumps to building renovations. It is likely, that at some point during the hospital’s history, the Auxiliary has touched almost every department at the hospital. In fact, the Auxiliary has donated more than $5 million to the hospital during the past 100 years.

    ► Learn more.

  • April 17, 2018
    Neurologist Aabha Shah, MD, with patient Adrian Knight.

    A trip to Golden Corral began like any other lunch for Adrian Knight, a trim, previously healthy, retired IRS worker, and father of two grown daughters who live in Capitol Heights. He headed into the restaurant but began to notice his left foot was dragging as he walked. He shrugged it off, thinking because it was rainy out, his foot was slipping.

    As he headed to the buffet, he realized the numbness on his left side wasn’t going away and was, in fact, getting worse. He began to worry, thinking it could possibly be a stroke, remembering the stroke his mother suffered when he was a child. He left, calling his girlfriend to meet him at home. When she saw how weak he was, she insisted they visit a local urgent care facility.

    When Mr. Knight was seen there, they quickly realized he needed an Emergency Room, and transported him by ambulance to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC). At the hospital, MSMHC Emergency Department associates took his vitals, determined he was experiencing a stroke, immediately put him on IV medication, and began running numerous tests.

    “Everything went right for Mr. Knight because we were able to help him in a prompt fashion,” said MSMHC Neurologist Aabha Shah, MD. “The benchmark for best possible stroke recovery is to be administered thrombolytic therapy within sixty minutes, and he was. Because of this, he had the best possible outcome for a stroke patient and he’s now at home, able to return to normal activities.”

    Dr. Shah stresses when stroke patients come to MSMHC, not only do they receive excellent care from the team here, but physicians also have access to on-call stroke specialists. This can come in the form of telemedicine, which provides virtual consultations, much like using FaceTime, with stroke specialists from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. In addition, patients have an entire multidisciplinary stroke network here to help them, which includes neurologists, physical, occupational and speech therapists, and stroke-trained nurses.

    “I learned if I had not gotten to the hospital when I did, if I had been even an hour later, I would not have recovered,” said Knight. “I’m now 100 percent restored and I’m following all recommendations, like watching my diet and using the patch to quit smoking. I feel better now than before the stroke and I’m reducing the stress-related causes.” During testing when he was an admitted patient, Mr. Knight was also found to have untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

    “What I’d tell people is, your health is so important and you need to monitor that,” said Knight. “I never thought I’d have high cholesterol, but I do, so I keep it in check. I take high blood pressure medication and I practice yoga and meditation. I tell everyone to listen to your body and remember that your health is so important. I’m learning to accept life on life’s terms. I keep my aggravation down and let problems roll off my back like water off a duck.” Mr. Knight credits the entire MedStar team for his recovery, but specifically his neurologist, Dr. Shah. “She was awesome,” said Knight. “She walked me through everything, step-by-step, keeping me in the loop about everything. It was so personal that I really felt comfortable with her. The whole staff was awesome, but she sat with me and took her time to make sure I understood. She genuinely showed her care and concern.”

    To recognize stroke symptoms, learn the acronym BE FAST (right). Call 9-1-1 as soon as stroke symptoms start. Acting quickly is very important and means the difference between recovery and suffering debilitating consequences from a stroke, as stroke treatment must be administered within four and a half hours of the onset of symptoms.

    Please visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Stroke to learn more.

  • April 17, 2018

    Dr. Brain Collins with MedStar Georgetown’s first patient to receive proton therapy.(Washington, D.C.,) April 17, 2018- For the first time, cancer patients in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region have access to the latest cancer-fighting technology, proton radiation therapy, now available at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Proton Therapy Center.

    Martha Ramos, 53 of Maryland became MedStar Georgetown’s first patient to receive proton therapy.  Ramos is being treated for recurrence of a brain tumor.  

    “It’s encouraging to know that this kind of radiation will result in less damage to the healthy area of my brain,” says Ramos. 

    Proton therapy is more precise and targeted than conventional radiation. It works by using pencil beam scanning, similar to a 3D printer, to match the tumor’s exact shape and size with superior accuracy that eliminates the exit dose of traditional radiation, and spares healthy tissue.

    MedStar Georgetown is the first and only proton center in the world to offer the Mevion S250i with HYPERSCAN™ technology, producing beams that are sharper than previous proton systems. Proton therapy with HYPERSCAN is also faster than other proton systems, benefiting patients whose treatment includes holding their breath.

    “I am extremely excited to be able to offer this latest advancement, proton therapy, to my patients,” says Brian Collins, MD, a radiation oncologist and clinical director of the new proton therapy center.  “It’s clear that this treatment will help to improve the clinical outcomes for our cancer patients and decrease their side effects when radiation is needed.”

     “In certain cases, proton therapy can be a game changer,” says Keith Unger, MD, radiation oncologist at MedStar Georgetown.  “It allows us to treat cancers where traditional radiation might not even be possible."

    How Protons Destroy Cancer

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    “Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation that can destroy cancer cells,” says Peter Ahn, MD, a radiation oncologist at MedStar Georgetown.  “A machine called a cyclotron speeds up protons to two thirds the speed of light and they become highly charged.  These high energy protons are then delivered to the tumor as an invisible beam that eradicates the cancer.  Because we can more tightly control the protons than we are able with traditional radiation, proton therapy can be given without damaging critical tissues and structures near the tumor because the beam conforms  precisely to the tumor’s size and shape, sparing healthy tissue.”

    Advantages of HYPERSCAN™

    HYPERSCAN is an FDA-approved proprietary technology that has advantages over existing proton therapy systems. In addition to producing a micro beam that is sharper than many current proton systems and reducing damage to nearby healthy tissue, HYPERSCAN is also faster than other pencil beam scanning systems which can reduce the margin of error in treating tumors that are affected by breathing or organ motion.  This improves both treatment accuracy and patient comfort as patients need to spend less time lying still.

    “HYPERSCAN is currently the most precise type of proton therapy in the world,” says Dr. Ahn. 

    “Proton therapy with HYPERSCAN can be given from head to toe,” says Dr. Collins.

    Cancer Treatment for Patients with Fewer Side Effects

    Proton therapy is beneficial for pediatric cancer patients because it lowers their exposure to radiation avoiding unnecessary exposure to healthy tissue and resulting in less growth impairment as they grow up.  Children are less likely to develop a secondary cancer later in life when treated with proton therapy as it treats tumors while keeping health surrounding tissues unharmed.

    proton therapy patient with doctorProton therapy is also effective in treating re-current tumors.

     “There are also certain types of cancer where you have to deliver a very high dose of radiation right next to a critical structure like the spinal cord or brainstem,” says Sonali Rudra, MD, radiation oncologist at MedStar Georgetown. “With proton therapy we can deliver a high dose to the area we are trying to target and minimize the radiation beyond the tumor.  So for some patients, proton therapy might be their only radiation treatment option.”

    “Proton therapy can also be a good option for patients with left-sided breast cancer, which is close to the heart,” says Dr. Rudra. “When indicated for breast cancer, using proton therapy instead of traditional radiation means more control over the radiation itself and less potential damage to the heart and lungs.”

    Proton Therapy Closer to Home and Under One Roof

    “The addition of proton therapy is a logical next step for a center like MedStar Georgetown as part of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, dedicated to and recognized for providing the latest cancer treatments and access to clinical research trials,” says Dr. Collins.

    Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 49 sites in the nation and the only center in Washington, D.C., to earn the prestigious Comprehensive Cancer Center designation by the National Cancer Institute.

    “All the multiple specialties and disciplines involved in cancer care are here helping to support patients through their treatment, in one location, under one roof,” says Dr. Unger. “They no longer have to travel outside of our area to receive this advanced treatment.”

     “The addition of proton therapy means MedStar Georgetown offers the full range of radiation treatments for cancer that are available,” says Dr. Collins.  “For patients that means we take an individual approach when considering radiation therapy. Whether it’s CyberKnife, proton therapy or conventional radiation, we will choose the optimal treatment to achieve the best outcomes with the fewest side effects.”

     

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