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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 17, 2019
    MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary names Mary Pfeiff 2019 Auxilian of the Year at the Auxiliary’s annual spring luncheon.
  • April 12, 2019

    For healthcare industry executive Sean Hawkins, prostate cancer runs in the family. After his own diagnosis last year, the then 49-year-old already knew the potential challenges of treatment -- including losing control of his bladder. However, a breakthrough method of prostate surgery known as Retzius-sparing is now eliminating continence issues for many men treated at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    MedStar Georgetown Patient Sean Hawkins“You go through all sorts of mental gymnastics when you’re confronted with cancer,” he says. “My main concern was the ability to get back to normal.”

    After consulting with MedStar Georgetown urological surgeon Keith Kowalczyk, MD, Hawkins learned that he was a candidate for radical prostatectomy – or removal of his entire prostate. Despite the possibility of temporary (and sometimes permanent) continence issues, Hawkins was willing to make difficult sacrifices for another chance at a cancer-free life.

    “The first thing people do is go to the store and buy the 300-count diapers,” he says. “I had diapers under my desk and meetings were spaced out to allow for bathroom breaks. I built in contingencies to anticipate a lot more frequency. I was also sort of budgeting coffee and fluid intake.”

    After a successful surgery, Hawkins returned to work only 2 weeks later. He sat through his first round of meetings without a continence problem.

    “I didn’t really have any major issues. I kept waiting and wearing the diapers and pads as a precaution. I worried about getting up or sneezing,” he says. “I was tempted to text Dr. Kowalczyk and ask if there was something going on, because I wasn’t having the control problems I anticipated. It was startling for sure.”

    During his prostatectomy, Hawkins was one of the first patients to undergo the new Retzius-sparing approach; a more technically advanced, robotically-assisted technique. Kowalczyk, who specializes in robotic surgery, learned the approach from urological surgeons in Italy. He says Retizus-sparing removes the prostate by way of an alternate route, preserving attachments to the bladder and urethra that may play a key role in continence preservation. He is part of a small group of urological surgeons in the United States now performing the procedure on a regular basis.

    “The big advantage is that these patients become continent much earlier, sometimes immediately” says Dr. Kowalczyk. “Patients getting the standard approach do well -- but it tends to be a much slower process, sometimes up to a year, in regaining their continence.  This is likely due to the need to cut through crucial suspension ligaments that seem to be important in maintaining continence.”

    Kowalczyk says traditionally, prostatectomy patients can wait from 6 months up to a year to regain continence, if it comes back at all. In patients who have undergone the Retzius-sparing surgery at MedStar Georgetown, 96% of patients regained adequate urinary continence after only 6 weeks, with only 23% wearing one “safety” pad just for reassurance even if not needed.

    “I can really confidently tell my patients now that this should not be a problem,” Kowalczyk says. “They’ve just been doing astonishingly well.”

    For some patients, like Hawkins, incontinence is never a problem at all. Aside from a healing incision scar, he reports no other side effects or complaints from the surgery. Considering all possible outcomes, Hawkins says his journey from the prostate cancer diagnosis to recovery has been a smooth one.

    “I’m very fortunate and thankful. From the minute I walked into the hospital to the minute I was wheeled out, I couldn’t have asked for faster, better treatment. To be able to say that out loud in an affirmative manner is -very important to me.”

    Watch the video below as Dr. Kowalczyk answers commonly asked question about prostate cancer and the use of robotic surgery to treat prostate cancer. 

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  • April 05, 2019

    BALTIMORE (April 2019) – A home healthcare nurses recently received awards for heroic actions that saved people’s lives. RNs at MedStar Visiting Nurse Association Heather Fitzhugh-Boehm and Jennifer Shrader were awarded MedStar Health’s 2018 Safety HeRO awards for taking charge in separate, critical moments that without intervention could have led to disastrous consequences.

    * * *

    Fitzhugh-Boehm’s heroic story occurred last January when she helped rescue a family from a house fire. After finishing a home visit, Fitzhugh-Boehm noticed dark smoke in the sky. As she drove closer to it, she realized a rowhome was on fire.

    Fitzhugh-Boehm immediately called 911. Then she heard someone scream.

    A woman on the second floor of the house needed help. She had a baby inside and wanted to drop her out the window.

    Fitzhugh-Boehm acted fast. She asked the woman to drop down a blanket she could use to catch the baby. Neighbors arrived, and with their help, Fitzhugh-Boehm was able to catch the child safely. Soon after, firefighters arrived and rescued the mother.

    For her heroic actions and commitment to safety, Fitzhugh-Boehm received the 2018 Super HeRO award. 

    * * *

    Shrader’s safety moment happened in the fall. During a home visit, Shrader’s patient told her he had been feeling particularly unwell that day. She urged him to go to the hospital, but the patient was hesitant. Shrader respected her patient’s wishes and instead asked him to text her later that evening when he made it upstairs safely.

    After not hearing anything for several hours, Shrader returned to the house. She found the patient unconscious and bleeding from his head.

    Shrader quickly tended to the patient and called an ambulance. The patient was taken and admitted to the hospital with diagnoses of sepsis and staph infection.

    For her dedication to patient care and safety, Shrader received the 2018 HeRO Good Catch of the Year award.

    * * *

    Both Heather Fitzhugh-Boehm and Jennifer Shrader received their awards during MedStar Health’s annual Hero Awards ceremony. The awards honor MedStar Health associates who exemplify an unwavering commitment to safety.

    About MedStar Visiting Nurse Association

    MedStar VNA provides home healthcare services for homebound, disabled and chronically ill patients in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. A nonprofit, Joint Commission-accredited organization, MedStar VNA treats patients through skilled nursing and physical, occupational and speech therapies. MedStar VNA is a proud member of the MedStar Health system. For more information about MedStar VNA, call 800-862-2166 or visit

  • April 01, 2019

    WASHINGTON D.C., – A novel clinical trial aims to study a treatment for a common problem among older women––accidental urine leakage––by using a patient’s own muscle cells. The study, now underway in the Washington area, is for women with stress urinary incontinence that has not been addressed by conservative treatment such as behavior modifications and pelvic-floor muscle exercises.

    Stress urinary incontinence, or SUI, often occurs when the tissues that support the bladder and/or the muscles that regulate the release of urine weaken, and can have a negative impact on a woman’s quality of life. The condition is especially common after childbirth. For patients with SUI, leakage can be triggered by physical activity or stressors such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or heavy lifting.

    In the new study, conducted by Georgetown University at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, researchers will examine the safety and effectiveness of an investigational product (autologous muscle derived cells for urinary sphincter repair or AMDC-USR) derived from a woman’s own muscle cells that are collected, processed, and then injected into the tissues of the urinary passage.

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    “Being able to use a woman’s own cells as a treatment for stress urinary incontinence holds promise, and we’ll know more about whether this treatment is safe and effective for these women after this clinical trial is completed,” says the study’s principal investigator, Elizabeth Timbrook Brown, MD, MPH, assistant professor of urology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and a specialist in the medical and surgical management of urinary incontinence at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.


    The clinical study lasts two and a half years and participation includes approximately 8 to 11 office visits and 3 to 5 scheduled phone calls. The study will consist of a screening period, which may last up to 8 weeks to determine eligibility.

    If eligible, Brown will perform a biopsy to collect muscle tissue from the thigh. Local anesthesia will be used for the office procedure.

    “The muscle tissue is then grown in a laboratory until there are enough cells to be injected into the urinary passage as a second office procedure,” Brown explains. “It is believed the cells will become part of the tissue where they have been injected. In theory, we think this may help women have more control over urine storage and urination and may decrease urinary leakage.” Current conservative treatment options are available for women with SUI and include external collection devices (diapers and pads) and pelvic floor exercises. Some examples of surgical treatments include injection of bulking agents into or around the urethra, a synthetic mesh midurethral sling, or creation of a sling using a woman’s own tissues, as well as other surgical procedures.

    Women ages 50 to 75 with SUI are invited to volunteer in this phase 3, randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled study. Participants will be “randomized” into one of two study groups––half will receive AMDC-USR (injections with cells) and the other half will receive a placebo (injections that look and feel exactly the same but will have no cells). Randomization, is done by computer. Neither the volunteers nor the researchers will know what group you are in (double blinded). If the participant receives the placebo injection, the participant will still have the option of receiving a second injection with their own cells (the AMDC-USR product) after 12 months.

    Based on information from similar clinical studies using AMDC therapy, urinary tract infections are very common. Other less common risks will be explained to each participant. Up to 320 subjects at 25 study centers across three countries will take part in this study; approximately 15 subjects per year will participate at Georgetown. There are no study-related charges for the participants.

    Cook MyoSite, Incorporated is the sponsor of this study. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is being paid by Cook MyoSite, Incorporated, to conduct this study. Brown reports having no personal financial interests related to the study.

    To learn more about this clinical trial, please click here. Women who are interested in volunteering for the clinical trial should call Kelsey Morgan, BSN, RN at 202-444-7513 or email her at


  • March 20, 2019

    The goal: To provide a platform that connects patients and providers as people through the health-related stories that give meaning to our lives—all in the spirit of wellness.

    Columbia, MD Please See Me, an online literary journal dedicated to highlighting creative writing and artistic expression through photography and digital media by patients, family members, caregivers, and providers alike was published for the first time by the Center for Healthcare Narratives with support from the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety on March 15th. The founding editor-in-chief of Please See Me, Tracy Granzyk, MS, MFA is a writer, filmmaker and healthcare content developer working to increase awareness around a culture of safety, health equity, and patient engagement through the creative arts.

    Inspiration for the journal came from Please See Me, a short, award-winning film co-written and directed by Granzyk for MedStar Health, and that was used by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at their annual Quality Conference in 2016 as the keynote centerpiece to inspire conversations between patients and providers. “The main purpose in founding the literary journal was to create an open space for anyone who touches healthcare to explore their health-related stories and creative abilities without academic constraints,” said Granzyk. “I wanted to create a platform accessible to everyone; a place where patients, family members and providers alike feel welcome to tell their stories together, through poetry, essays, short stories, or visual arts. Please See Me is a place where all can reflect upon the health and healthcare experiences that are such a vital part of contemporary life.”

    The journal will publish twice a year with each issue centered on a particular theme related to healthcare. The theme for the first issue is “conversation,” which yielded over 100 submissions. “For the first issue, we chose to focus on anything related to, or surrounding, a conversation between patients and providers, among family members, or even with one’s self,” said Granzyk, “The number of submissions we received confirms the need for this platform, and I was impressed by the high quality of creative content submitted in all genres.” One example is Cat Gwynn, a gifted photojournalist, mindfulness coach, and author whose book, 10-Mile Radius: Reframing Life on the Path Through Cancer, presents her way of coping with a Triple Negative breast cancer diagnosis through mindfulness and photography. Her interview in this issue demonstrates an artistic conversation with the self that inspired her healing. Cat is now 5 years cancer free, and teaches others how to remain in the moment through artistic expression, no matter the challenge – health related or otherwise.

    Please See Me is a project supported by the Center for Healthcare Narratives at the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety. Our second issue will be published in September 2019, and we are taking submissions on the topic of “Pain.” Submissions for Please See Me can be made through the journal’s website via the Submittable platform. For those familiar with literary publications—online or print, think of Please See Me as a cross between the creative environment of Tin House and the healthcare-narrative focus of The Intima. We accept poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, short films, and digital media.


    About MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety
    The mission of the Medstar Institute for Quality and Safety (MIQS) is to partner with patients, their families, and those that take care of them to improve patient care outcomes and reduce the global burden of preventable harm. Established by Medstar Health, the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, MIQS provides a global infrastructure in which leaders, front-line care givers, patients and family members jointly develop, educate, assess, and advocate for patient safety and clinical quality initiatives. For more information, visit  

    About the Center for Healthcare Narratives

    The mission of the Center for Healthcare Narratives is to provide a creative and safe space for patients, families and providers to explore their own health-related stories via print, web and film. Our over-arching goal is to inspire a culture of safe, equitable and patient-centered care for all. The Center is both a resource and repository for the creation of healthcare narratives in any format, for any entity. All are welcome to learn more about how to best share their story in the spirit of MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy…in the spirit of compassion and customer service. For more information, visit or contact Tracy Granzyk at

    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

  • March 19, 2019

    Leonardtown, Maryland — Children expect to share many memories with parents as they grow older. What they never plan to share? Diagnoses of cancer — or pre-cancer, in Janet Langley’s case.

    Janet, 46, began experiencing stomach pains last summer. She saw multiple doctors to puzzle out what was causing them before arriving at the office of U.K. Shah, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist at MedStar Shah Medical Group. Dr. Shah ran multiple tests to ascertain the source of her discomfort.

    “At the same time I was experiencing this, my father had similar symptoms,” said Janet, of Solomons. “He went in for a colonoscopy and found out he had colon cancer. I had a colonoscopy myself just to make sure that had nothing to do with what I had going on.”

    Regarded by many adults as an uncomfortable but necessary rite of passage, colonoscopies are procedures in which a clinician uses a flexible instrument to examine images of the colon and rectum. This view can reveal swollen and irritated tissue, ulcers, and polyps — common growths involving the lining of the bowel.

    An estimated 15 to 40 percent of adults may have polyps, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and most are not dangerous. However, some polyps will turn cancerous over time — and removing them can help prevent colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

    Testing revealed a large polyp in the bend of Janet’s colon. Due to its location, it could not be removed during the colonoscopy or an additional procedure known as a polyp resection.

    Janet was referred to Tushar Samdani, MD, colorectal surgeon at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. Dr. Samdani was simultaneously treating Janet’s father, J.C. Tubbs, for colorectal cancer.

    For those at average risk, colorectal screenings are recommended to begin at age 50 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. At 46, Janet — with no known history of colon cancer until her father’s concurrent diagnosis — would not have been flagged for testing.

    Janet had surgery to remove the polyp in 2018. A biopsy confirmed it was an adenoma — a precancerous growth.

    “If I had waited, it would have definitely been cancer,” said Janet. “And I feel very fortunate because I probably would not have followed up attempting to remove the polyp if my dad hadn’t been going through the same thing. I would have procrastinated, and it’s a good thing I didn’t.”

    “Around 10 to 20 percent of patients who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it. Patients with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at twice the increased risk,” said Dr. Samdani. “The risk is even greater if the relative was diagnosed when they were younger than 45, or if more than one first-degree relative is affected.

    “It is important that patients with colorectal cancer or even precancerous (adenomatous) polyps inform their close relatives so that they can talk with their doctor about starting screening at an earlier age,” he continued. “With regular screening, colon cancer can often be found early when it is most likely to be treated successfully.”

    Today, Janet and J.C. are both doing well. They will continue to undergo regular screenings to monitor any polyps that may develop.

    “The colonoscopy itself was simple compared to the preparation for it,” said Janet. The cleansing process necessary to ensure a clear view during a colonoscopy can be challenging for patients, but Janet said the discomfort is “well worth it.”

    “If I could convince somebody to just get beyond that preparation, the rest is just to breathe,” she continued. “It’s all worth it if you consider what could happen if you didn’t catch a problem in time.”

    March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Visit to learn more about the risk factors for colorectal cancer, including recommended screenings.