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  • Lucy De La Cruz
    January 20, 2022

    The renowned 39-year-old breast surgeon becomes youngest Latina woman to lead breast surgery program in U.S. at major academic medical center

    WASHINGTONLucy Maria De La Cruz, MD, has joined MedStar Georgetown University Hospital as chief of its Breast Surgery Program and director of the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center. Dr. De La Cruz is a fellowship-trained breast surgeon who specializes in advanced breast surgery procedures, including wireless lumpectomies, hidden scar technique, oncoplastic breast conservation, and nipple-sparing mastectomy. She has been published in more than two dozen peer-reviewed scientific journals, and her pivotal papers on nipple-sparing mastectomy and oncologic outcomes have been cited worldwide. She will also direct the hospital’s breast surgery fellowship program.

    Lucy De La Cruz

    “I am honored and excited to lead the breast surgery program and the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital,” said De La Cruz. “It has been my life-long dream to bring my passion for medicine, helping others and building a state-of-the-art breast surgery program to advance breast health. I look forward to working with our multidisciplinary team of breast health experts to compassionately care for, educate and empower my patients in their health journey.”

    Dr. De La Cruz is an academic breast surgeon who conducts outcomes-focused research, and among her special interests are the impact of genomic mapping to guide breast cancer treatment and male breast cancer treatment. Her work is guided by a long-standing commitment to promoting equity and efficacy in breast cancer care delivery, using the principles of value-based health care.
      
    “The Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital are thrilled to have Dr. De La Cruz lead the breast surgery program. Her commitment to patients, their journey, and their outcomes are unmatched; and her expertise in novel surgical techniques brings new and beneficial options to patients,” said David H. Song, MD, MBA, FACS, Physician Executive Director, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Professor and Chair Department of Plastic Surgery, and Interim Chair, Department of Surgery, Georgetown University School of Medicine.
     
    Dr. De La Cruz’s story

    Dr. De La Cruz, 39, started her journey towards becoming the youngest Latina woman to lead a breast cancer surgery program at a major academic medical center at young age. As the daughter of international physician researchers, she spent a lot of time in labs where her parents worked, sparking her passion for medicine and “making a difference in people’s lives.” She grew up in Cuba, Mozambique, Spain, and Miami.
     
    In college, she studied abroad in the Dominican Republic at the Universidad Central Del Este School of Medicine, where students were involved in patient care very early in their education and training. There, she completed her medical degree, founded an American Medical Student Association chapter and raised scholarship funds to help those who couldn’t afford tuition.

    After graduation, she was told becoming a surgeon would be nearly impossible as a foreign medical graduate and a female. Despite this, De La Cruz obtained research fellowships from the University of Miami and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She continued her journey by obtaining a one-year residency internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she earned the Intern of the Year award and an AOA medical honor society membership for her dedication to medical student teaching. During her residency, she worked on an award-winning oncologic outcomes research project for nipple-sparing mastectomy that continues to be cited worldwide.
     
    That same year, Dr. De La Cruz started her breast surgery fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Following graduation, she worked in private practice for a year before returning to the University of Pennsylvania as a faculty member in the associate program director of the breast cancer surgery fellowship program.
     
    After relocating to Washington, D.C., to be close to her family, she founded the breast cancer fellowship program curriculum at the Inova Health System. Now at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and The Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center, she continues to teach residents and fellows, pursue research, and care for patients – the fulfillment of her lifelong dream. 

    About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

    About the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center


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  • January 14, 2019

    Hyattsville, MD—MedStar Health Research Institute has awarded five early-career investigators designated grant funding through the New Investigator ‐ Associate Giving Grant Fund. This fund is supported through designated funds contributed by the associates of MedStar Health during the associate giving philanthropy campaign.

    “MedStar Health is committed to growing as an academic health system,” said Neil Weissman, MD, chief scientific officer for MedStar Health and president of MedStar Health Research Institute. “Early-career funding can have a lasting impact on both researchers and the patients we care for by changing the way we treat them. Our ability to support this work is through the commitment of our associates to help us reach our vision of advancing health for our community.”

    Associate gifts designated for research during the 2018 MedStar Health Associate Giving Campaign, the Power to Heal, were used to support the work of new investigators through the New Investigator—Associate Giving Grant Fund. These grants are awarded to new MedStar Health investigators who have joined MedStar Health in the previous five years, with the goal of supporting research focused on advancing health for patients in the communities we serve. This initial funding can have the potential to lead to external grant funding for their research.

    The following five physician-investigators have been awarded funding for their research.

    • Ankit B. Shah, MD, MPH, FACC (MedStar Sports & Performance Cardiology Program)
      “Atrial size, function and fitness level among endurance runners with known paroxysmal atrial fibrillation”
    • Leila Shobab, MD, FRCPC (MedStar Washington Hospital Center)
      “Sex-Specific Immune Landscape of Differentiated Thyroid Cancer”
    • Pashna M. Munshi, MD (MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center)
      “We're in This Together: Health-Related Quality of Life, Self Preparedness, and Caregiver Burden in Patient/Primary Caregiver Dyads in the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Setting”
    • Shashwati Geed, PT PhD (MedStar National Rehabilitation Medicine)
      “Identifying a signal for critical period plasticity: Function of PV+ interneurons post stroke”
    • Yasar Torres-Yaghi, MD (MedStar Georgetown University Hospital)
      “MicroRNA in Neurodegenerative Diseases: Parkinson Disease, Lewy Body Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease”

    Thank you to all associates who contributed to the 2018 Power to Heal Campaign. In 2018, over 3,200 associates, physicians, and board members across the MedStar Health system chose to participate in philanthropy.  Please consider making a gift online to support MedStar Health Research Institute and our new investigators. Select “MedStar Health Research Institute” from the drop-down menu to direct your gift to this fund.

     


    About MedStar Health Research Institute
    The MedStar Health Research Institute is the research arm of MedStar Health, the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region. MHRI provides scientific, administrative and regulatory support for research programs throughout the MedStar Health system. MHRI’s expertise includes translational research into disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. These programs complement the key clinical services and teaching programs in the 10 MedStar hospitals and other MedStar entities. Visit us at www.MedStarResearch.org

    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 31,000 associates, 6,500 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 www.MedStarHealth.org.

  • January 13, 2019

    BALTIMORE, MD – In front of the team’s home crowd on Mother’s Day, the Baltimore Orioles honored two Maryland women who stepped up to the plate against breast cancer. The O’s named Harford County resident Ann Laughton a Birdland Community Hero for her work overseeing MedStar Health’s Survivors Offering Support program, a volunteer group offering help to new breast cancer patients. Melanie Vohs of Bel Air was chosen to serve as the team’s Honorary Bat Girl for 2019 on her first Mother’s Day as a mother herself. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl earlier this year in the middle of her fight against the disease.

    Last year, Laughton took over the Survivors Offering Support group at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center where she worked as a nurse for 24 years before retiring. The goal of SOS is to offer help to every recently diagnosed breast cancer patient. Laughton is now cancer free after receiving her own diagnosis seven years ago.

    “Younger cancer patients have unique issues to deal with, such as young children, so it helps to connect with someone whose journey and experience is similar,” Laughton said. “We have about 25 mentors serving as support persons for people who have had a similar diagnosis. All the mentors volunteer.”

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    Laughton also helped launch the Transition to Wellness support workshop and dinner at MedStar Health’s Bel Air campus in November 2018. There, patients within six months of completing treatment come together to discuss important topics like resuming normal activities, positive affirmation, the possibility of recurrence and more. As Birdland Community Hero, the Orioles provided Laughton with four game tickets, VIP parking, an award medal, and an in-game ceremony on the video board during the May 12th matchup. The Orioles Charitable Foundation will also make a $2,500 donation to Survivors Offering Support.

    As part of Major League Baseball’s Mother’s Day festivities, each team selected an Honorary Bat Girl to support the annual “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” initiative. The Orioles’ 2019 Bat Girl, Melanie Vohs, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and celebrated at Camden Yards just three days after her final chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

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    “It’s been a wonderful experience.  I am honored to be here and to have been nominated has just been absolutely amazing.  It’s wonderful to be here to celebrate,” Vohs said.

    Vohs was diagnosed late last year after finding a lump in her chest while 22 weeks pregnant with her first child. Despite concerns about how cancer treatments would affect her baby, Vohs’ care team at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center developed a plan to shrink her tumor without impacting the pregnancy. Her healthy daughter, Morgan Olivia, was born earlier this year without any complications. One day later, Vohs got the good news that her cancer had not spread elsewhere in her body. Doctors are now recommending mastectomy to remove the remaining part of the tumor. As part of the treatment process, Vohs was not allowed to nurse her newborn but she says other new moms in the community were there to offer support. They donated their own breast milk to feed baby Morgan.

    “The support and encouragement I’ve had from other moms has been great,” Vohs said. “I didn’t know what to expect because she’s my first child, but she is keeping me focused on my treatments.”

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    On Mother’s Day, 2019 Honorary Bat Girls were recognized at Major League Baseball games across the country. In addition to free tickets, they also enjoyed a meet and greet with players, a commemorative jersey, a name engraved baseball bat, a handbag in addition to other memorabilia designed to raise breast cancer awareness.

  • January 12, 2019

    Triton showing is surgery scarsWhen Jessica Fritz noticed an unusual yellowing tint to her then 6-year-old son Triton’s complexion one day in 2017, she was wary of the clinicians in her town in Wyoming who were dismissing her concerns. 

    “I demanded blood work to get to the bottom of it,” says Fritz. “I just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Testing showed that Triton’s jaundiced appearance was due to a cancerous liver tumor called Rhabdomyosarcoma.  The tumor was blocking one of the ducts that usually empties bile into the liver. The tumor was so extensive it involved the pancreas as well as the liver and bile ducts. The backup of bile was turning his skin yellow.

    Triton underwent a year of chemotherapy. While his tumor responded, it would never go away completely.

    “It came back on his liver in the exact same place,” says Fritz. “We were devastated.”

    Desperate Search for a Treatment

    Fritz and her husband Daniel Fritz began to search for someone who would treat Triton’s cancer. They were running out of options. Running out of time. 

    “All of the doctors were telling us that Triton’s case was too high risk,” says Fritz. “He needed surgery, but they didn’t have the expertise to handle such a surgery. We knew the risks of not doing anything were that our son would lose his life.”

    Triton in the Hospital

    That’s when one of her physicians recommended they travel to Washington, D.C., to the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute to see its executive director, Thomas Fishbein, MD. 

    “We saw Dr. Fishbein who told us, ‘of course there is something we can do for your son,’” says Fritz.

    “Triton had a lethal tumor for which there really is no cure,” says Fishbein.  “Standard approaches could treat a tumor confined to the liver or pancreas, but never one that invaded both organs. He needed a complete liver transplant along with a very complex procedure to remove the pancreas, all without violating the tumor. We believed that if we could give him a new liver, removing at the same time his old liver, bile duct and pancreas,  Triton would have a good chance of survival. This had never been done before for such a rare tumor, but it was his only option.”

    This second part of the procedure, called a Whipple is an operation where a surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct. The remaining organs are then reattached to allow food to digest normally. Fortunately, as Chief of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Transplantation, Dr. Fishbein was in a unique position of performing both operations commonly.

    Traveling to MedStar Georgetown, Waiting for a New Liver 

    On November 9, 2018 Jessica Fritz, her husband and her younger son left their two other children with grandparents, traveled several hundred miles and checked Triton into MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. 

    “Our strategy was to take care of Triton and manage his medical needs, while we listed him for a liver transplant,” says Fishbein.

    Triton spent many months between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C., where his mother and father traded days watching Triton at the hospital. 

    Caring for the Whole Family

    The timing of Triton’s hospitalization meant that the family would be separated over hundreds of miles during the holiday season.

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    “That’s where Georgetown’s amazing Child Life program kicked in,” recalls Fritz. “Triton and his younger brother attended a Grinch cupcake decorating party in early December, followed by a big party welcoming Santa right before Christmas and a Valentine’s Day craft and cupcake party. The staff treated us more like family than anything. Our younger son was included in all the fun events and that helped us feel like we were keeping the family somewhat together. Even if we were so far from home.”

    During Triton’s wait for a new liver he even landed a small role in the new commercial for MedStar Health where he is seen on camera meeting an “astronaut.”

    “Triton just thought that was hilarious, the coolest thing ever,” says Fritz.

    Triton meeting the astronaut

    The Call Comes

    Then on February 24, 2019, Triton’s parents got the call.  A liver was available.  And it was compatible with Triton’s blood type.

    The next morning, Dr. Fishbein performed the liver transplant and Whipple procedure simultaneously, removing the whole tumor and both organs intact. To add to the complexity, the liver Triton became available for was a small portion split from an adult liver, from which the other side was also transplanted into another adult patient.

    “He recovered insanely fast,” says Fritz. “He was awake two hours after surgery, he was walking around after just four days. Then we attended the St. Patrick’s Day Party, the Easter Party and a Super Heroes Party put on by the Hope for Henry Foundation.”

    Then in early April, Triton and his family returned home to Wyoming. Now, once a week, they make a five-hour trip each way to Salt Lake City, Utah for Triton’s maintenance chemo therapy.

    Triton with Dr. Kaufman and care team

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    Hope for Other Children

    “With Triton’s success, a second patient has already found our program, and is currently awaiting transplant,” says Fishbein. “As more people hear about this new treatment, I hope it will change the outlook for children across the country with this previously incurable childhood cancer.”

    Triton’s New Life

    “Triton is energetic and lively now.  He has a new lease on life because of people reaching out to him and to us.  We learned that you should never give up on your child.”

    Triton’s 43-thousand followers on his Facebook page, “Triton Tough,” have tracked his progress and his new adventures thanks to his mom who tries to post as many updates as she can. “We can’t believe how many wonderful people we’ve met and have been directly in touch with us. We’ve met so many people along the way.”

    Triton enjoying life after his transplant. Left to right: Triton eating a snow cone, Triton with his little brother at the beach, and Triton celebrating his 9th birthday

    Because Triton’s siblings missed a lot of school, all of them will repeat the past year at a new school in Wyoming this fall. Triton will get home schooling this year, then be off to school in the fall of 2020. 

    “He won’t be able to do all the activities he used to like wrestling and we’re a little nervous about sending him back to school but we’ll be ready.  The important thing is that Dr. Fishbein and all the people at Georgetown saved our son’s life when so many other doctors said, ‘no.’ Despite the ups and downs, you can’t help but smile.”

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  • January 11, 2019

    Washington, D.C., – For kids who spend time in the pediatric hematology clinic at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, it’s not uncommon to see Washington Capitals decorations, art projects, giveaways or even players hoping to help in their recoveries. But a Caps-themed breakfast treat? This was something new.

    “I actually had my appointment here today, and it was a surprise!” said 10-year-old patient Nathan Job.

    Breakfast of Champions

    The excited group of clinic patients burst into smiles and rushed to the door as their mystery delivery person, all-star center Alex Ovechkin, walked in to share his new honey-nut cereal ‘Ovi O’s.’ The clinic’s art table soon became the breakfast table as Ovechkin sat down to hang out with the kids, serve bowls of cereal and pour milk.

    “I like the honey,” Job said. “It’s actually really good!”

    Each child received their own box of Ovi’s O’s to take home, and Ovechkin ended up autographing each one.

    A portion of the proceeds from the cereal, available at local Giant Food stores starting Sept. 17, will benefit the Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc. a Maryland-based non-profit committed to funding pediatric cancer research.

    It’s How We Treat People

    As the official medical team of the Washington Capitals, MedStar Health routinely teams with Ovi, the Capitals and Monumental Sports to create special experiences for these youngsters, many of whom have been treated for cancer, organ failure and other illnesses.

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    “They enjoy it, we enjoy it and we all have a great time,” said Ovechkin.

    The team stops by the hospital to visit every holiday season, and Ovi personally carried the Stanley Cup into the clinic last June as the team celebrated its historic championship win.

    “We give kids happiness, a smile on their face and hope it helps them do well and get better,” Ovechkin said.


    An Unforgettable Moment

    For kids and families who have been through so much, spending time with one of their heroes, like Ovechkin, is a chance to temporarily set aside treatment regimens, recovery and stress.

    “It makes me feel a lot more happier about going to the hospital,” said patient Joe Miller.

    “That makes me come here more, and I like the art, so it’s good for me too,” adds brother James Miller.

    MedStar Health partners help to build especially festive atmospheres for families in the pediatric hematology oncology clinic. For Ovechkin’s most recent visit, Tracy’s Kids art therapy program organized a Capitals themed art project, and Hope For Henry made sure that every child left with Caps t-shirts, hats and other pieces of memorabilia.

  • January 11, 2019
  • January 09, 2019

    MedStar Health has been awarded a contract by the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support AHRQ in developing additional capacity related to understanding and improving diagnostic safety. Led by Dr. Christine A. Goeschel and and Dr. Hardeep Singh, MedStar Health will partner with Baylor College of Medicine to develop novel resources, tools and programs aimed at reducing diagnostic errors and related patient harm.  Read more.