January 20, 2022MedStar Georgetown University Hospital names Lucy M. De La Cruz, MD, chief of Breast Surgery Program and director of the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center
The renowned 39-year-old breast surgeon becomes youngest Latina woman to lead breast surgery program in U.S. at major academic medical center
WASHINGTON – Lucy 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.
“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.
March 14, 2018
A joint MedStar NRH-Georgetown University program has been awarded a five-year, $3.5 million grant to promote career development of the next generation of academic rehabilitation clinician-scientists.
One of just four networks nationwide to receive the National Institutes of Health award, the MedStar NRH-Georgetown program is the only one in the nation designed to foster the independent research of a multidisciplinary group of researchers who will develop future treatments.
These scholars will include individuals with any advanced neurorehabilitation-related degree including physicians (neurologists, neurosurgeons, geriatricians, physiatrists), as well as physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, bioengineers, and others.
Multidisciplinary Research Focused on One Issue
“Our grant has been designed to attract faculty-appointed rehab clinicians across disciplines focused on a single issue—disabling chronic neurological disorders,” explains Alexander Dromerick, MD, MedStar NRH chief research officer, who serves as program director with Barbara Bregman, PhD, professor of Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Medicine.
The MedStar NRH/Georgetown program, named the Neurorehabilitation and Restorative Neuroscience Training Network (NRNTN), also includes an executive committee made up of some of the nation’s most successful investigators with a track record of interdisciplinary research training. “We’re creating a community of scholars and mentors focused on approaching these diseases and injuries from many angles,” Dr. Dromerick adds.
In addition to the coordinating sites of Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, NRHTN includes these additional sites: John Hopkins/Kennedy Krieger Institute; Harvard University Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Maryland/Kernan; and Cornell/Burke Rehabilitation Hospitals.
The program has three goals:
- To provide outstanding research training and mentorship for clinical scholars in neurorehabilitation
- To create a community of scholars
- To prepare rehabilitation clinician investigators for sustained and productive academic careers in neurorehabilitation
Career Development and Networking
“The program provides more than money,” says Dr. Bregman. “These young faculty members will have access to a nationally respected group of mentors and other scholars—an environment that encourages an exchange of ideas among clinicians and researchers from across the U.S. and across disciplines, from basic science to clinical trials.“
Grantees and mentors will meet at least twice a year, once at the American Society of Neurorehabilitation and another spring meeting held at a major institution. “As the network grows, the meetings will become a fertile ground for a cadre of hundreds of scientists—and a way to jump-start new interventions for neurorehabilitation,” says Dr. Dromerick.
Grantees are required to have a faculty appointment and be supported by a strong institutional commitment to neurorehabilitation. Four awards will be made in the first round of funding for two years of support. The grantees may come from any institution in the country—and from any discipline as long as the research is focused on disabling neurological conditions.
“The program will ultimately help set the stage for the translation of basic and clinical research into a better understanding of the recovery of function after central nervous system injury,” says Dr. Dromerick. “The bottom line is to improve the quality of life of individuals with neurological injury and disease.”
March 08, 2018
‘It Came On With No Warning’
Gloria and Francis Bean were walking on July 4 — a typical sticky summer day, like many in Southern Maryland — when, without warning, Francis went into cardiac arrest.
They’d just completed a walk around Francis’ brother’s farm: a pleasant routine for the Valley Lee couple. Francis typically joins his wife for an hour before Gloria completes another 30 minutes on her own.
The two stood chatting on Independence Day when, as Gloria recalls, Francis suddenly collapsed, grasping at his wife’s shirt as he fell. He was not breathing.
“There were no warning signs,” Francis says. “You know how, with heart attacks or cardiac events, there are symptoms or warnings? There were none.”
Gloria has spent 36 years as a registered nurse at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, but this patient in sudden distress was her husband. They were just a five-minute walk from their own home, but it might as well have been miles. “We didn’t take our cell phones,” she says.
Driven by adrenaline, Gloria began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): the technique of administering chest compressions and giving breaths to assist a person who has stopped breathing or is experiencing a cardiac event. CPR restores oxygenated blood flow to the vital organs by pumping blood through the body, and/or giving breaths to oxygenate the blood being pumped.
“I was probably out there for 15 minutes,” Gloria says, “but then I really thought I needed to get help.”
She sprinted to find her brother-in-law and call 911, then returned to continue CPR. It took an additional 10 minutes of mouth-to-mouth before first responders could arrive.
“You’ve never been so happy to see anyone in your life,” Gloria says.
Members of the Second District Fire Department and Rescue Squad — where Francis has also volunteered — revived him using a defibrillator. He was then transported to the Emergency Department at MedStar St. Mary’s, where he was seen by Dr. Daniel Geary, medical director of the Emergency Department, and the emergency staff before being flown to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
The Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute determined Francis had a 100 percent blockage in one artery. Surgery was required to clear it and place a stent to keep the artery open. Francis was able to be discharged after just two days with a LifeVest — a wearable defibrillator — providing protection and peace of mind while he recovered at home.
Three months later, Francis smiles at his wife of 35 years. The pair has four grown children and three grandchildren. How grateful they are that Gloria was by Francis’ side that day.
“It’s so important that CPR was started immediately. Your chances of recovery drop with every minute until help arrives,” he says.
Francis started a supervised exercise program at the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at MedStar St. Mary’s, where his vital signs are monitored during low-impact routines. The intensity of his workouts has been gradually increased to safely return him to an active lifestyle.
The couple advocates strongly that everyone take a CPR course to be able to assist others in a crisis. At least 10 of the Beans’ family members have become certified since July.
“You never know when you’re going to need CPR,” says Gloria. “You think the skills aren’t going to come back to you, but they do. You never know whose life you’re going to save — it could be your loved one.”
Today, the Beans are back to walking again: an hour around the farm and home again.
“But we take a cell phone now,” Gloria smiles.
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February 23, 2018
Lucky To Be Alive
In mid-August, Jennifer’s husband drove her to the Emergency Department (ED) of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital where she was diagnosed with sepsis, a deadly infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and all too often, death.
“There was a point when I was in the Emergency Department and I remember feeling like I was not going to make it out of there. I have never felt so sick in all of my life,” said Jennifer, 49, who survived a battle with breast cancer 13 years ago.
A few days before she was admitted to the hospital, she noticed an infected, ingrown hair on her leg. She treated it and thought nothing more of it, but that small infection would lead to much bigger problems. Still recovering from a flu-like illness the previous week, she started to feel sicker over the weekend and stayed home from work Monday.
“I could not get out of bed,” Jennifer, a California, Md., resident said. “I stayed in bed all day Monday, and that’s not like me.” Tuesday, Jennifer went to work, but her symptoms worsened and she began having chills and uncontrollable shaking. Her coworkers called her husband who drove her to the hospital.
“The ED was full, but by the time my husband got back from parking the car, I was in a room and they were hooking up IVs,” Jennifer said.
When Jennifer arrived in the ED and was being triaged, the nurse recognized her symptoms and a Code Sepsis was called. In September 2016, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital instituted the Code Sepsis, a treatment protocol designed to quickly diagnosis sepsis patients so that life-saving medications can be started. Antibiotics are effective in battling sepsis, but because the infection spreads rapidly delayed treatment increases the risk of death.
“My doctor said it would take a lot of time for my body to recover,” she said. “And he told my husband, if I had stayed home by myself, my husband probably would have come home to find me in a coma or dead.”
Although it has taken several months for Jennifer to regain her strength, she has made a full recovery. For Cheryl Douglas, of Chevy Chase, the outcome was very different.
Education Can Save Lives
In 2006, Cheryl, who had recently retired, returned home one afternoon and suddenly started feeling ill like she had the flu. She sat in an ED for hours waiting to be seen. Two months later, she woke up from a coma with no recollection of what had happened.
While she was unconscious, her husband, Paul, and her doctors had to make the painful decision to amputate her hands and feet to save her life. It has taken years of physical therapy and relearning basic life skills such as walking and cooking, but Cheryl has regained her independence. She loves to cook and travel with her husband and is determined to help others survive sepsis.
“Two hundred and fifty thousand people die each year in this country due to this totally treatable health condition,” said Paul, who with Cheryl recently shared their story at the Southern Maryland Sepsis Collaborative hosted by MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Paul and I had never heard of sepsis and we had no idea what to do,” said Cheryl. “If people know the symptoms, they are more likely to go to the doctor.”
Cheryl and Paul believe that education of healthcare workers and the public is the key to reducing sepsis deaths. “We could save so many lives in such a relatively easy way,” said Paul.
Visit MedStarStMarys.org/Sepsis to learn more.
Know The Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis
S ► Shivering, fever, or very cold
E ► Extreme pain or discomfort
P ► Pale, discolored, clammy or sweaty skin
S ► Sleepy, confusion or disorientation
I ►" I feel like I might die."
S ► Shortness of breath
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