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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 10, 2018

    When an expectant mother arrives at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, she will undergo a variety of tests prior to delivering, including a screening for drugs and alcohol. If a mother’s results are positive, her newborn child will also be tested.

    “We are seeing episodes of babies testing positive for opioids much more frequently than several years ago,” said Jeanne Hill, MSN, RNC, director of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s Women’s Health & Family Birthing Center. Babies born to drug-addicted mothers are the youngest victims of what continues to be a nationwide crisis and they are not difficult to identify, said Jeanne. “They have a high-pitched cry, they can’t calm themselves down, they have tremors, they often have diarrhea and tensed muscles,” she said. “It is just heartbreaking.”

    MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital is among 30 birthing centers in Maryland joining forces with the Maryland Patient Safety Care Center to standardize care for babies suffering neonatal abstinence syndrome. As part of the hospital’s efforts, mothers are presented with information about how and where to get help with substance abuse. Although Jeanne feels their work is making a difference, there is still plenty to be done.

    Fighting the Addiction 

    “We need every single person in the community to recognize addiction is an illness, it is a brain disease and it requires an evidenced-based approach to treatment,” said Meenakshi G. Brewster, MD, MPH, St. Mary’s County Health Officer. The Health Department, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital and Sheriff’s Department are among the many community organizations coming together to offer a comprehensive response to this epidemic. “It is a challenge like we have never seen before in the treatment community,” said Kathleen O’Brien, PhD, chief executive officer of Walden, which provides crisis, behavioral health, trauma, and recovery services to Southern Maryland. “Certainly, here, historically most of our treatment was related to alcohol and a mixture of some other drugs, but prior to about six years ago, we weren’t seeing opioids or heroin as a presenting problem. Now, that is about 70 percent of the primary substance abuse cases coming through our doors.”

    Harry Gill, MD, PhD, medical director of Behavioral Health for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital and president of Axis Healthcare Group, says he believes the opioid epidemic has gotten worse due to the prevalence of more lethal synthetic opioids. “Most patients have co-occurring disorders − they have a psychiatric disorder and addiction,” said Dr. Gill. “Going through substance abuse treatment provides temporary relief, but if the psychiatric condition is not treated, relapse is highly likely.”

    Dr. Gill said many people who turn to opioids also have anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders, all of which are treatable. In his work with the hospital, Dr. Gill is called in for psychiatric consultations with patients suspected of intentionally overdosing on opioids. These patients are typically discharged to outpatient substance abuse programs such as those provided by Walden, but often need treatment for co-occurring disorders. Support from their family and their community also plays a large role in the recovery process. “Family support is critical because it is such an isolating illness, such an isolating disorder that re-engaging with the world and, in particular, the people who love you unconditionally is a critical component of recovery,” said Dr. Gill.

    Changing the Conversation

    Winning the battle against opioid addiction means making sure those fighting their addictions know that assistance is available and they can receive help to access it. In addition, the community as a whole needs to accept that addiction is a disease, not a choice or a moral weakness, said Dr. O’Brien, and that treatment works and recovery is possible. “This disease doesn’t affect others, it affects all of us, and we all could possibly be afflicted by this disease,” said Dr. O’Brien. “In all my years in doing this, people think it’s the other who gets impacted, but we are all vulnerable.”

    WHERE TO FIND HELP

    Call the Maryland Crisis Hotline
    at 1-800-422-0009 or visit
    MedStarStMarys.org/Opioids
    for information and links.

    Note: This article concludes a four-part series on the opioid epidemic in our community. 

  • April 06, 2018

     

    Washington, D.C., June 4, 2018 – MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is pleased to announce that William O. Suddath, MD, is the new chairman of Cardiology and medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.

    Dr. Suddath is a highly experienced interventional cardiologist, having spent the last 22 years as an integral member of the renowned interventional cardiology team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He is the program director for the interventional cardiology fellowship program, which trains physicians in advanced cardiac catheterization skills. Dr. Suddath was instrumental in the start-up and growth of CodeHeart, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute’s regional program, which expedites the transport and treatment of patients with heart attacks. Dr. Suddath is a Maryland native, and has worked closely with physicians and EMS providers in the southern Maryland area for more than two decades. 

    “Bill Suddath will be able to build on the outstanding work already underway by our MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center physicians, leadership and staff,” said Stuart F. Seides, MD, physician executive director, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. “His proven leadership skills and clinical expertise will be invaluable in his role as the new team leader for our cardiovascular colleagues practicing in this region.”    

    Late last year, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center was invited to join the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute-Cleveland Clinic alliance, after meeting the high quality standards required of all members. This alliance between two nationally-recognized cardiac programs has accelerated improvements in heart care and research, and resulted in even better outcomes for the patients served by the participating healthcare organizations.

    “We are very pleased that Dr. Suddath is taking the leadership role in cardiology at our hospital,” said Chile Ahaghotu, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center. “He has an impeccable track record as a top notch clinician and teacher. His leadership will complement our unrelenting commitment to provide best-in-class cardiovascular services for the Southern Maryland community.”

    Southern Maryland residents have local access to physicians who specialize in cardiology, interventional cardiology, cardiac electrophysiology (heart rhythm experts), vascular surgery and vascular access surgery at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center located in Clinton, Maryland and at MedStar clinical offices throughout the Southern Maryland peninsula.


    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.

    About MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center:
    MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, located in Clinton, Maryland, is a 182-bed acute care hospital serving the Washington, D.C., metro and Southern Maryland area. The hospital is focused on caring for patients and their loved ones utilizing advanced technology under the guidance of expert clinicians. Quality, Safety, Wellness, and Patient Satisfaction are achieved through a spirit of patient-centered services that connect MedStar Southern Maryland to the community it serves.

     

  • April 06, 2018

    Patients Meet MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Team via Telehealth

    BALTIMORE, Md.—(April 6, 2018)— Baltimore-area patients in end-stage liver failure, or with an advanced liver disease are benefiting from the expertise of the lauded team at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute (MGTI)– without driving to Washington, D.C., Using teleconferencing technology, patients engage in real-time dialogue with the full range of experts necessary for liver transplant evaluations and post-operative visits at the MedStar Franklin Square Center for Digestive Disease.

    MedStar Franklin Square began offering pre-transplant evaluation once a week with an on-site hepatologist and the MGTI team via telehealth last year. Full-time in-house patient consultation with one of the Institute’s premier liver specialists, Dr. Thomas Faust, was made available in January. 

    The liver transplant program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., is among the nation’s top liver transplant centers for patients of all ages. Compared to other transplant programs in the region, it boasts superior one-year survival rates across all types of organ transplants and has the highest adult one-year patient survival in the Baltimore and Washington metro areas. MedStar Health patients on the organ wait list are transplanted in a shorter time frame than patients anywhere else in the region – eight months, compared to more than 14 months on average.

    “Liver transplantation is a very complex, rigorous procedure, where positive results rely on meticulous screening and evaluation,” said Anne P. Weiland, vice-president of Surgery, Orthopaedics and Neurosciences for MedStar Health. “The process is a commitment for all parties, and the patient-expert dialogue that must take place can be challenging for patients. The added convenience of the new site at MedStar Franklin Square facilitates patients’ personal interaction with the team and ensures close management of the myriad details involved in their clinical care.”

    Patients on the wait list for a liver transplant typically need multiple pre-operative appointments, scheduled at intervals ranging from every two weeks to every three months depending on the degree of liver impairment - to monitor their liver function. With the new services at MedStar Franklin Square, patients need only travel to MedStar Georgetown for the transplant itself, and for initial post-operative follow up. All other visits can take place locally.

    The highly experienced MGTI team transplants a high proportion of the very sickest patients and performs some of the most complex procedural approaches in the country. It has one of the highest volumes of liver transplants in the US, performing 125 procedures in the calendar year 2017, with superior outcomes.

    MedStar Health has about a dozen patients awaiting a liver transplant at this time. Patients may be candidates for liver transplant based on a variety of causes, including cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, infection, autoimmune disease, and overdose on certain medications.

    About MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is a not-for-profit 378-bed community teaching hospital located in the White Marsh section of eastern Baltimore County, Maryland. MedStar Franklin Square provides many medical and healthcare services, including a broad range of healthcare specialties, advanced technologies, and treatments not traditionally found at community hospitals. The hospital is ranked third in admissions among all Maryland hospitals and is first in Emergency Department visits with more than 108,000 visits annually. MedStar Franklin Square is accredited by the Joint Commission, certified as a Primary Stroke Center and has earned some of the nation’s most prestigious quality awards including Magnet Designation for excellence in nursing, the Excellence Award for Quality Improvement from the Delmarva Foundation and inclusion in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospital specialty ranking for four consecutive years. With more than 3,300 employees, MedStar Franklin Square is one of the largest employers in Baltimore County. Visit medstarfranklin.org for more information.

    About MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute

    MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute is part of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, providing hope and life-restoring care to patients with end-stage organ failure. As one of the highest volume transplant programs in the United States, liver, kidney, small bowel, and multi-organ transplants are all performed at MGTI.  It is also a leader in hepatobiliary surgery, as well as offers auto islet cell transplantation for those patients suffering from the pain of chronic pancreatitis.

    Its one-year adult and pediatric graft survival rates are higher than any other transplant center in the mid-Atlantic region.  The Transplant Institute’s multidisciplinary team of nationally known surgeons and medical specialists, transplant coordinators, social workers and dieticians is committed to guiding and supporting patients and their loved ones through the transplant process and offering patients their best chance for recovery and an improved quality of life.

     MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute has outpatient sites for kidney and liver transplant evaluation across the Baltimore-Washington including at its area hospitals as well as in Fairfax, Virginia and in Frederick, Ellicott City and Annapolis, Maryland. Visit www.medstargeorgetown.org/transplant for more information.

  • April 06, 2018

    Locals Regaining Health, Embracing New Lifestyle after Newly-Offered Bariatric Surgery in Leonardtown 

    The tipping point came in the form of a toddler. 

    Paul Horner’s two-year-old grandson  David, affectionately called “Junior,”  and big sister Jamie wanted to play with their grandpa. Paul wanted that, too — but his weight made participating in everyday activities difficult. 

    The 56-year-old aircraft mechanic says he has been heavy his whole life.  A U.S. Navy veteran, Paul had to lose weight in order to join the military at age 17. He served eight years in the Navy before being honorably discharged for failure to meet body composition standards. 

    Decades later, the father of two and grandfather of seven reached his heaviest point: 467 pounds. 

    Interacting with Junior only reinforced how restricted Paul was.  Knee pain made walking difficult and painful. He stopped shopping in stores, choosing to stay in his truck while longtime girlfriend Rose ran the errands. Sleep apnea prevented  Paul from getting adequate rest  — especially challenging given his schedule; he’s worked the night shift for 25 years. 

    And there was the mental pain, too:  stares and comments from strangers.  “Kids would say, ‘Oh, he’s fat.’ It hurt,”  Paul said. “Of course it did.” 

    Previous attempts at weight loss had been unsuccessful. And traveling to medical centers in Washington,  D.C., to explore surgical options and find support was inconvenient for the California, Maryland-based mechanic. 

    Through Health Connections at  MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in  Leonardtown, Paul met nutritionist  Catherine Dowling, RDN, LDN. In  May 2017, he committed to following a bariatric menu: smaller portions that are high in protein, low in carbohydrates. 

    Catherine shared information on a bariatric support group that meets monthly at MedStar St.  Mary’s. There Paul found a wealth of resources and support: through medical professionals, yes, but also from attendees standing in the same shoes. Paul’s goal was to get prepared — physically and mentally  — for the sleeve gastrectomy that would be performed by Nicholas  Tapazoglou, MD, a board-certified bariatric and general surgeon at  MedStar St. Mary’s. 

    Also known as a gastric sleeve procedure, this technique involves removing the outer margin of the stomach so only a “sleeve”— roughly the size and shape of a banana —  remains. 

    Paul was determined to get into “the right mindset” before his surgery.  With the camaraderie and resources offered by his nutritionist, support group, Dr. Tapazoglou, and his staff, he lost 112 pounds in five months simply by following the bariatric menu.  The extensive pre-planning made him feel “ready and prepared” by October  2017, he said, when Paul became the first patient to undergo a sleeve gastrectomy at MedStar  St. Mary’s. After one night in the hospital,  he was sent home with a smaller stomach  — and a new lease on life. 

    Now a self-professed “label reader,”  Paul pays close attention to the protein and carbohydrate content of everything he consumes. He still eats three meals a day, but they’re 4 ounces of lean,  healthy foods, with protein shakes in between. 

    The Navy veteran reports to Naval  Air Station Patuxent River when most people are going to bed. His “lunch,”  then, comes at 2 a.m. Paul brings small,  healthy selections like Greek yogurt,  salad, and light soup for his breaks. 

    Gone are the medications he was taking to combat high blood pressure and depression. His knee pain has disappeared. Most notably, weight loss has lessened the pressure on  Paul’s airways; he has not used a BiPAP machine for sleep apnea since last fall. 

    The financial savings have been considerable, too. He estimates he was spending $20 to $25 on fast food daily.  Rose, Paul’s girlfriend, now prepares most of the couple’s meals with an emphasis on vegetables. He loves  Fairlife milk (“the best milk,” Paul enthused), and bread and pasta have been eliminated from his diet completely.  With his increased mobility and energy, Paul pursues a passion shared with his best friend, Gene: working on antique cars.  Navigating the workshop is much easier these days.  The two are restoring a ’23  Ford T-Bucket, Gene’s dream car, while Paul is fixing up a ’67  Chevrolet Nova. 

    By late December, Paul had dropped an additional 48 pounds — 160 and counting. He plans to reach 220 before shifting to maintaining his weight.  Paul attributes his success, in part, to the support of nutritionist Catherine,  MedStar St. Mary’s patient services coordinator Jennifer McDermott,  and nurse Rita Michelle McDonald,  CMA. He also speaks highly of Dr.  Tapazoglou, who impressed Paul and his family greatly by always making the time to answer questions and follow up on Paul’s care. 

    The bariatric support group attendees have been a tremendous resource,  too. The group has a private Facebook page to stay in touch between meetings. “When I’m feeling down,  maybe stalling in my weight loss, I  go there and find encouragement,”  said Paul, recently scrolling through inspirational words from friends — some with surgeries behind them, others with surgeries to come. 

    Considering the advice he would give others thinking about this “life-changing”  procedure, Paul said, “Make sure your mind is straight. You have to be ready to do this mentally. The  surgery is just a tool; if you don’t use  the tool right, you’re not going to get  the job done.” 

    Junior and Jamie see the difference in their grandfather, who moves more and smiles easily. “Now I’m doing the chasing,” Paul said. “Junior doesn’t  chase me; I chase him.” 

    The Happy Struggle 

    For Rashida Blake, the weight came on gradually. 

    A mother of three and new grandmother, Rashida has lupus; a  decade’s worth of weight fluctuations were a source of frustration. When she reached 384 pounds, the Lexington  Park woman knew she needed to seek a solution to be there for her family. 

    “I started noticing I wasn’t doing things like I used to. I had small kids, and I  wanted to be able to do physical activities with them — being so tired,  dealing with back pain . . . it was time for a change,” she said. 

    With the help of Dr. Tapazoglou and dietitians at MedStar St. Mary’s,  Rashida began a journey that started with reframing her thoughts about eating. 

    “The nutrition counseling was really inspiring,” she said. “I didn’t think you could look at food in that sense: measuring it, considering protein  . . . it was very educational.” 

    Eight months of preparation set Rashida up for success, she said,  when she started 2018 by undergoing a sleeve gastrectomy on Jan. 2. 

    “Nutrition counseling literally broke everything down day by day and gave me confidence going into that procedure,” she said. 

    After just two days at MedStar St. Mary’s, Rashida was released to continue her progress at home. “Recovery has been really good.  The pain was not as severe as I thought it would be,” she said.  “Dr. Tapazoglou is very in tune with his patients; he’s very thoughtful,  and wanted to make sure I felt OK to go home. Dr. T wanted me  to walk [in the hospital], and I started walking around literally that  evening [post-surgery].” 

    And Rashida just keeps going. “When my Fitbit says to move, I move,”  she said, noting that a three-story townhouse and young children at home help keep her hopping. “Going up and down the stairs is a constant. I just started walking on a treadmill, and that has  been great.” 

    A few weeks after her procedure, Rashida was down 29 pounds toward her personal goal weight of 220. She’d already noticed her  feet were no longer swollen and her legs felt “looser.” 

    “This is more mental than anything else,” said Rashida. “You have to prepare and be ready to make the lifestyle change. But to anyone dealing with obesity, tell yourself: this is needed. This is a healthy decision. It will be a struggle, but it turns out to be a happy struggle. 

    “Go for it!” she said. “It’s your life. Life is too short to waste it. Just go  for it.” 

    Visit MedStarStMarys.org/Bariatrics for more information or to schedule a consultation. 

    Schedule a Consultation 

    To schedule an appointment with Nicholas Tapazoglou, MD, General & Bariatric Surgeon, call 240-434-4088.

    Dr. Nicholas Tapazoglou is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. He is board-certified in general surgery and is able to coordinate patient care through a wide range of specialty physicians available through the MedStar Health system. He offers care and treatment for various conditions, including abdominal wall/hernia, gallbladder, morbid obesity, skin and soft tissue, small intestine, spleen, stomach, surgical treatments of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and thyroid.

    Learn More:

    Eating Right After Surgery 

    Complete dietary changes are at the heart of the bariatric journey. Depending on insurance requirements, patients will meet with a nutritionist for two to seven months prior to surgery. "Four ounces of food — half a cup, about the size of your fist — is roughly what the stomach will hold after a sleeve gastrectomy,” explained Wendy Chatham,  RDN, LD, a dietitian at MedStar St. Mary’s  Hospital.  

    After the initial liquid and soft food diet stages post-surgery, patients can expect a few things:

    • Consume a protein-rich diet that is low in carbohydrates and fat. Proteins are the priority: meat, fish,  poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, soy,  nuts, and legumes. 
    • Drink all fluids separately from meals. Fluids must be calorie-free,  non-carbonated, and caffeine-free. 
    • Avoid sweets, alcohol, and high-fat foods. 
    • Take a daily vitamin/ mineral supplement. 

    For appointments With Wendy Chatham, RDN, LD, dietitian, call  301-475-6019

  • April 05, 2018

    After being shot multiple times four years ago, Baltimore Police Sergeant Keith Mcneill is determined to recuperate and return to duty. Learn about his journey of rehabilitation and how our team at The Curtis National Hand Center is helping. Read more in the Baltimore Sun.

  • April 05, 2018

    While it affects more than 12 percent of the U.S. population, often women between 20 to 40 years of age, Graves’ disease is a serious condition you should take note of. The autoimmune disease causes the thyroid to become overproductive and can lead to vision problems, swelling in the leg, and a host of other issues. Thankfully, you can treat Graves’ disease upon diagnosis. Find out what endocrinologist, Paul Sack, MD, recommends for treatment in this article from the Baltimore Sun.

    Learn more about thyroid disorders.

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