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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 01, 2017

    When Two Areas of Science Aimed at Beating Cancer Come Together

    (Washington, D.C.,) – A Maryland woman is benefiting from the intersection of two promising fields of science: precision medicine to genetically profile cancer and immunotherapy to unleash the immune system to fight it.

    It’s a case her doctors are calling “remarkable.”

    Diane Lucey, 49 of Leonardtown, Maryland was living in Georgia in 2014 when she noticed a small bump in her mouth.  The two centimeter tumor was determined to be a rare type of cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoma. She had it surgically removed, received six weeks of radiation and thought she was cancer free. But in the summer of 2016 a scan revealed cancer in her liver and her right lung.  

    “It came from out of the blue,” Lucey says.  “I thought I was done with my cancer when it came back.”

    By then Lucey was working as a chemist for Calvert County and living in Leonardtown, Maryland. Her oncologist at nearby MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital sent her to MedStar Georgetown where she would have full access to the latest treatments as well as clinical trials through the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    “This was a rare disease in a young, healthy person,” says Amir Khan, MD, medical director of Cancer Care and Infusion Services at MedStar St. Mary’s and Lucey’s oncologist.  “I wanted to have her treatment plan formalized quickly and to see if there were other options for her beyond standard therapy, which is chemo therapy.”

    Lucey next met with Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and Georgetown Lombardi, the research arm of MedStar Georgetown. “Here at Georgetown, we partner with Caris Life Sciences to perform detailed molecular profiling of patients’ tumors. In Ms. Lucey’s case we sent part of her liver tumor to Caris and found the cancer cells had the right target, PD-L1 expression, that clinical trials have shown make cancers sensitive to certain immunotherapy drugs.”

    In October 2016 Lucey began receiving injections of the immunotherapy nivolumab, sold under the brand name Opdivo, one hour every two weeks for 12 weeks. Because Georgetown Lombardi is part of the MedStar system, Lucey was able to receive her treatments closer to home at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

    Her first scan in January 2017 showed her liver tumor had shrunk by half and the lesions in her lung were shrinking as well.

    “My doctors were thrilled and of course I’m thrilled at the results,” says Lucey. “And the best part is that I’ve been able to work and live my daily normal life with no pain or fatigue, no hair loss, no nausea or loss of appetite. Compared to the radiation I had before, this immunotherapy was nothing.”

    Born and raised on the Florida coast, Lucey is an avid boater, loves to fish and spend time on the nearby Chesapeake Bay. “I’m at the beach and on the water as much as I possibly can,” says Lucey. “With this treatment I’ve been able to continue to make plans to enjoy the things I’m passionate about including a big fishing trip to Florida with my family this year. I’m also pursuing my other hobbies like golf, restoring old furniture, painting and making jewelry.”

    “Ms. Lucey’s case is a perfect example of what those of us who worked on former Vice President Joseph Biden’s Cancer Moonshot believe is the future of beating cancer,” says Dr. Weiner who served on the National Cancer Institute’s blue ribbon panel working group on immunotherapy as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

    “Of the 13 critical areas we recognized, this case satisfies three: delivering cutting edge cancer care to patients where they live, capturing the benefits of precision medicine to treat the right cancer with the right medication at the right time, and to harness the immune system to control and attack the cancer.”

    Nivolumab is FDA approved for advanced melanoma, advanced non-small cell lung cancer, advanced renal cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, and urothelial carcinoma or bladder cancer.

    “The only side effect I had was a small rash on my belly, but that went away with a course of Prednisone,” says Lucey.

    Side effects, sometimes serious ones, occur in fewer than 10 percent of patients taking immunotherapy. Immunotherapy does not work in all patients.

    “Ms. Lucey’s situation is also a great example of how MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute, a network of hospitals linked with clinical and research priorities, uses the resources available at our NCI-designated Comprehensive Center to work collaboratively to provide patients in somewhat distant areas access to the latest advances in world class cancer care. She received tomorrow’s treatments today, without leaving her hometown,” says Dr. Weiner.

    “Ms. Lucey is very lucky,” says Dr. Khan.  “Immunotherapy is another tool in the hands of physicians and it will impact some patients more than others. We don’t know how long it will work for her but more and more people are living better and longer with cancer these days.  I wish all my patients could benefit this way.”

    Dr. Weiner says research shows that when immunotherapy works rapidly, as in Lucey’s case, the results tend to be more long lasting.

    “My daily life is normal.  I don’t think about having cancer.  I just keep living my life being very grateful and hoping for continued good news,” says Lucey.

  • February 27, 2017

    WASHINGTON  – Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) today announces the launch of a phase II clinical trial to study the safety of the cancer drug nilotinib and its effects on clinical outcomes and biomarkers in people with Parkinson’s disease.  

    GUMC is recruiting volunteers for the study in collaboration with its clinical partner, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. 

    The clinical trial is a phase II, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of low doses of nilotinib, the efficacy on disease biomarkers, and clinical outcomes in people with mid-stage Parkinson’s disease. Fernando Pagan, MD, medical director of the GUMC Translational Neurotherapeutics Program and director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital will serve as principal investigator on this study.

    As part of the year-long random ascending dose trial, a third of the participants will receive 150mg of nilotinib, another third will receive 300mg of nilotinib and the final third will receive a placebo (inactive drug). Clinical outcomes will be assessed at six and 12 months and compared to assessments at the start of the trial. A one-year open-label extension trial, in which all participants will be randomized to 150mg or 300mg nilotinib, is also planned upon completion of the placebo-controlled trial to evaluate nilotinib’s long-term effects.

    The clinical trial follows a proof of concept study conducted at Georgetown (published July 11, 2016 in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease) providing molecular evidence that nilotinib significantly increased brain dopamine (the chemical lost as a result of neuronal destruction) and reduced toxic proteins linked to disease progression in Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies. Twelve participants were enrolled in the initial study; one patient withdrew due to an adverse event. Researchers say the drug appeared to be safe and well tolerated in the remaining 11 participants who completed the study.

    “The early proof of concept study conducted in 2015 and published in 2016 provided encouraging results, but we won’t know the exact effects of nilotinib on Parkinson’s disease until larger trials like this new one are complete,” says Pagan.

    “I am pleased to offer this study to my patients, which demonstrates the importance of teaming Parkinson’s care with academic research. Only through clinical trials will we be able to move the field forward so that we can offer better treatments to our patients in the future,” he adds.

    Nilotinib is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at much higher doses for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewed Georgetown’s investigational new drug application (IND) for the nilotinib study in Parkinson’s disease and informed GUMC investigators that the trial could proceed.

    Human BrainThe Parkinson’s study and the recently announced Alzheimer’s clinical trial with nilotinib build on research from the GUMC Translational Neurotherapeutics Program led by Charbel Moussa, MB, PhD. He and his colleagues are examining tyrosine kinase inhibitors, like nilotinib, in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Tyrosine kinases appear to play a role in neurodegeneration, protein clearance and inflammation. (Moussa is an inventor on a US patent owned by Georgetown University and on other pending US and foreign patent applications for use of nilotinib and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases).

    The Parkinson’s study is funded by the generous support of donors. Novartis, the maker of nilotinib, is providing nilotinib and matching placebo free of cost to Georgetown University for all participants while on the study.

    More information can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov. Patients and families can sign up here to receive more information about the Parkinson’s study and other Georgetown neurodegenerative clinical trials.

     

  • February 24, 2017

    Precision Medicine and Immunotherapy: Tomorrow’s Cancer Treatments Today at MedStar Georgetown

    (Washington, D.C.,)  – A Maryland woman is benefitting from the intersection of two promising fields of science: precision medicine to genetically profile cancer and immunotherapy to unleash the immune system to fight it.

    It’s a case her doctors are calling “remarkable.”

    Diane Lucey, 49 of Leonardtown, Maryland was living in Georgia in 2014 when she noticed a small bump in her mouth.  The two centimeter tumor was determined to be a rare type of cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoma. She had it surgically removed, received six weeks of radiation and thought she was cancer free. But in the summer of 2016 a scan revealed cancer in her liver and her right lung.  

    “It came from out of the blue,” Lucey says.  “I thought I was done with my cancer when it came back.”

    Diane during treatmentBy then Lucey was working as a chemist for Calvert County and living in Leonardtown, Maryland. Her oncologist at nearby MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital sent her to MedStar Georgetown where she would have full access to the latest treatments as well as clinical trials through the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    “This was a rare disease in a young, healthy person,” says Amir Khan, MD, medical director of Cancer Care and Infusion Services at MedStar St. Mary’s and Lucey’s oncologist.  “I wanted to have her treatment plan formalized quickly and to see if there were other options for her beyond standard therapy, which is chemo therapy.”

    Lucey next met with Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and Georgetown Lombardi, the research arm of MedStar Georgetown. “Here at Georgetown, we partner with Caris Life Sciences to perform detailed molecular profiling of patients’ tumors. In Ms. Lucey’s case we sent part of her liver tumor to Caris and found the cancer cells had the right target, PD-L1 expression, that clinical trials have shown make cancers sensitive to certain immunotherapy drugs.”

    In October 2016 Lucey began receiving injections of the immunotherapy nivolumab, sold under the brand name Opdivo, one hour every two weeks for 12 weeks. Because Georgetown Lombardi is part of the Medstar system, Lucey was able to receive her treatments closer to home at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

    Her first scan in January 2017 showed her liver tumor had shrunk by half and the lesions in her lung were shrinking as well.

    “My doctors were thrilled and of course I’m thrilled at the results,” says Lucey. “And the best part is that I’ve been able to work and live my daily normal life with no pain or fatigue, no hair loss, no nausea or loss of appetite. Compared to the radiation I had before, this immunotherapy was nothing.”

    Born and raised on the Florida coast, Lucey is an avid boater, loves to fish and spend time on the nearby Chesapeake Bay. “I’m at the beach and on the water as much as I possibly can,” says Lucey. “With this treatment I’ve been able to continue to make plans to enjoy the things I’m passionate about including a big fishing trip to Florida with my family this year. I’m also pursuing my other hobbies like golf, restoring old furniture, painting and making jewelry.”Diane golfing

    “Ms. Lucey’s case is a perfect example of what those of us who worked on former Vice President Joseph Biden’s Cancer Moonshot believe is the future of beating cancer,” says Dr. Weiner who served on the National Cancer Institute’s blue ribbon panel working group on immunotherapy as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

    “Of the 13 critical areas we recognized, this case satisfies three: delivering cutting edge cancer care to patients where they live, capturing the benefits of precision medicine to treat the right cancer with the right medication at the right time, and to harness the immune system to control and attack the cancer.”

    Nivolumab is FDA approved for advanced melanoma, advanced non-small cell lung cancer, advanced renal cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, and urothelial carcinoma or bladder cancer.

    “The only side effect I had was a small rash on my belly, but that went away with a course of Prednisone,” says Lucey.

    Side effects, sometimes serious ones, occur in fewer than 10 percent of patients taking immunotherapy. Immunotherapy does not work in all patients.

    “Ms. Lucey’s situation is also a great example of how MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute, a network of hospitals linked with clinical and research priorities uses the resources available at our NCI-designated Comprehensive Center to work collaboratively to provide patients in somewhat distant areas access to the latest advances in world class cancer care. She received tomorrow’s treatments today, without leaving her hometown,” says Dr. Weiner.

    “Ms. Lucey is very lucky,” says Dr. Khan.  “Immunotherapy is another tool in the hands of physicians and it will impact some patients more than others. We don’t know how long it will work for her but more and more people are living better and longer with cancer these days.  I wish all my patients could benefit this way.”

    Dr. Weiner says research shows that when immunotherapy works rapidly, as in Lucey’s case, the results tend to be more long lasting.

    “My daily life is normal.  I don’t think about having cancer.  I just keep living my life being very grateful and hoping for continued good news,” says Lucey.

  • February 23, 2017

     

    "Goldilocks" Exercise and Sleep

    Exercise and good rest are healthy habits, right?  What is the right amount for optimal cardiovascular health? For exercise, brisk walking is good enough - 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week does the trick!  Women who exercise moderately and regularly experience fewer than half as many heart attacks as those who don’t. And, research in healthy women shows that the optimal sleep duration is seven hours.  Less than seven hours is associated with increased heart risk.  Now here’s the interesting part:  you can get too much of a “good thing.”  Exercise and sleep research also suggests that long-duration intense exercise actually reduces some of the benefits seen with moderate exercise. And, excessive sleep duration is also associated with higher heart risk. So, good sleep, and daily exercise - not too little, not too much - shoot for “just right!”

    Are you Inflammatory?

    Everyone should “know your numbers.” Blood pressure (below 140/90 mm Hg) and cholesterol (lower is better) are among the most important to know. But do you know your inflammatory number?  Here’s the idea:  All of us have a certain level of an “inflammatory” response in our bodies at all times - it is there to be ready to fight infections, but also can be slightly stimulated by chronic inflammation in our bodies:  that chronic joint problem; a chronic illness (like rheumatoid arthritis); bad teeth and gums and so on. Doctors can measure your level of inflammation using a test known as C-reactive protein. It is a simple blood test that can be added to your cholesterol measurement test, and it indicates the level of inflammation in your body. Research in healthy women shows that optimal heart health is achieved when cholesterol and inflammation are BOTH at low levels. Interestingly, inflammation alone creates heart risk no matter how well your cholesterol is controlled. Thankfully, common cholesterol medications known as statins not only reduce cholesterol, but also reduce inflammation. So, the next time you have your cholesterol checked, ask your doctor if they can also check your CRP- you’ll learn more about your heart risk!

    “Take an Aspirin and Call Me in the Morning?” - Not Quite

    Do you take aspirin?  If you do, but don’t have a history of heart disease or stroke, you should think about re-evaluating your treatment with your doctor. Recent advice on the use of aspirin in healthy women suggests that MOST women without prior heart disease should probably not be taking a “preventive” dose of aspirin. The reason is that the benefits, while real, are generally small and offset by the risks of aspirin - mainly bleeding. The decision can be a complicated one, based upon your individual heart risk.  So, certainly ask your provider if preventive aspirin is for you. And, if you are on aspirin, it is worth a double check to make sure this treatment remains a good choice!

    Should You Take a Cholesterol Pill?

    To make this decision, it depends on your risk for heart disease and stroke. A detailed calculator is available to measure your heart risk. It depends on several factors such as your blood pressure, your cholesterol levels, inflammation, family history, age and smoking behavior. Recent guidelines say that if your risk is at least 7.5 percent, then there is a 7.5 percent chance of developing heart disease or stroke in the next 10 years, and a statin would be indicated. Statins are among our most effective and safest medications for heart disease prevention. And, here’s the good news: research across the last two decades show us that women who take a statin when indicated benefit at least as much, if not more, as men! 

    So, live well first, but when medications to treat your cholesterol are indicated, medications can be very helpful! You can check out your heart risk at www.reynoldsriskscore.org.

    By Dr. Allen Taylor
    Chief, Cardiology Division
    Medstar Georgetown University Hospital
    Medstar Washington Hospital Center
    Medstar Heart and Vascular Institute


    Dr. Allen J. Taylor, Chief of Cardiology, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

  • February 17, 2017
    Don’t let the cold weather and snow stop you from going running during the winter. To be prepared, there are several things you can do and consider before putting on your running shoes and stepping out in the frigid weather.
  • February 15, 2017

    An exciting partnership between MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center and Prince George’s County Paramedics educates EMT’s on the basics of airway management, saving lives in the field.

    To gain valuable airway management experience, Prince George’s County paramedics have partnered with MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center for training that gives them ongoing education on mask ventilation, laryngoscopy (using a metal instrument to visualize the airway) and intubation (placement of a breathing tube in the trachea).  Since paramedics often employ these life-saving methods out in the field, the ongoing experience they can gain at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center helps increase their skill level and confidence, says MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center Anesthesiologist Clyde Pray, MD.

    “It’s going great,” says Dr. Pray, of the program.  “They’re a great group, very motivated, very respectful.”

    This program brings paramedics in to train several days per week and the goal, says Dr. Pray, is to perform two intubations during one shift, though one enterprising paramedic was able to perform six during one day spent in the Operating Room.  Dr. Pray or one of his associates explains the training program to each patient, who gives consent before a paramedic practices, and these patients know they are helping paramedics and EMT’s maintain a vitally important skill.

    “The experiences that our students receive at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center are invaluable in their development as competent paramedics, says Jonn A. Mack, Assistant Professor of PG County’s Paramedic Program at PG Community College.  “Being the primary training facility for paramedics in PG County is a task that we do not take lightly and the team at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center allows our students to expand their knowledge, hone life-saving skills, and perfect patient care techniques.”

    In 2016, U.S. News & World Report named MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center the #2 Hospital in the Washington Region and the #5 Hospital in the State of Maryland, in its Best Hospitals edition.  MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center also ranked in the top forty hospitals in the nation for Neurology & Neurosurgery.  In addition, the hospital rated as a high-performing hospital in the areas of Diabetes & Endocrinology, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics and Nephrology.  The hospital was also rated as high-performing with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Heart Failure procedures. 

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