Improving Breast Health: One Ward at a Time

Screening tests are a powerful weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Mammography is a breast cancer screening tool used to help doctors pinpoint when a change has occurred in a woman’s breast. In spite of these benefits, and in spite of having health insurance, too many women in Washington, D.C. are forgoing their annual mammograms out of fear. For the last two years, breast health navigators at MedStar Washington Hospital Center have been working passionately to reverse the trend. After first focusing on women in the District’s Ward 5 neighborhood, the hospital’s Get2Breast CARE program is expanding across the city into Wards 7 and 8, thanks to a generous $100,000 grant from the AVON Breast Cancer Crusade.

“Early detection and early treatment of breast cancer increases the chance of survival,” said Elmer Huerta, MD, MPH, director of the Cancer Preventorium at the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “It is shocking to see that 97 percent of women with advanced breast cancer treated at the Hospital Center have health insurance. This validates the need to offer breast health education in the community.”

Research led to a Successful Partnership

During Phase I of the program, as part of the Get2Breast CARE (Cancer Awareness & Resource Education in Ward 5) program, which was funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, breast health navigators surveyed 1,091 women over the course of a year, to find out what they know about breast cancer and breast cancer services and to know why they were postponing their mammograms in spite of having health insurance. Of the 1,336 personal opinions that were analyzed from the 31-question survey, 22.7 percent noted fear and 23.5 percent noted personal factors as reasons for delaying or skipping routine mammograms, the first line of defense to look for early signs of breast cancer. In their opinions, many respondents indicated fear of cancer, treatment, receiving bad news and abandonment, as well as personal reasons such as a busy lifestyle, no time to see a doctor, laziness and lack of preventative health education in their answers.

During Phase II of the study, also funded by the Avon Foundation, women told us that having more access to mammography facilities and more educational programs were important factors to increase the number of women getting checked.

Those successful outreach efforts have led the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade to award the Washington Cancer Institute another grant for the third year in a row, to provide more education, screening and patient navigation services to women not only in Ward 5, but also in Wards 7 and 8. The team will host educational events, mammography services and follow up care, if needed.

“Empowering women with life-changing knowledge about prevention, and teaching them how to use their health insurance coverage will make a difference,” added Dr. Huerta.

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For more information, please call 202-525-9281.

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5 Top Things Pharmacists Want You to Know

MedStar Washington Hospital Center pharmacists play a vital role in the healthcare team and are involved in monitoring safe and effective use of medications. They counsel patients and  provide vital drug information to health professionals. Pharmacists are educated and trained to work in direct patient care environments, including hospitals, clinics, and a variety of other healthcare settings.  Celebrated in October, Pharmacy Week acknowledges the contributions that pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy support staff make to enhance patient care.

To help everyone use medications wisely, here are 5 Top Things Pharmacists Say You Need to Know:

1. Here’s how to dispose of old medications.  

As a rule, don’t flush your leftover medications  down the toilet. Find a local drug “take back” program (visit or call 1-800-882-9539 for locations). If  no medicine take-back programs are available, you can also follow these simple FDA-approved steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash.

  1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
  3. Throw the container in your household trash;
  4. Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container. 

2. Why choosing to take expired meds, even OTC, is a bad idea.

Just throw them away. Expired medicines may be less effective. An infection – sinus, ear, skin or other – may not respond to old antibiotics. Worse, the expired antibiotic can allow the infection to progress, which could land you in the hospital. Further, old medications are an accident waiting to happen when they are discovered by children or taken by someone for whom they were not prescribed.

3.  You can’t split every pill.  

Splitting a tablet, especially if it is not scored, could result in a different dose than what was intended. In addition, it is completely unsafe to split capsules or time-released drugs. Always check with your pharmacist prior to splitting medicines.

4. Get medications filled by a single pharmacy or pharmacy network, if possible.

Pharmacists understand how drugs interact with each other. If the person who fills your latest prescription can see a record of all the medications you are taking, that healthcare professional can flag safety concerns BEFORE you take any new drugs. Countless times, pharmacists catch errors when they call a doctor or nurse to verify that a drug or dosage has been prescribed correctly. Also, the pharmacy counter is your place to ask any and all questions on exactly HOW to take a medication safely (With food? At bedtime? Can you drive while taking it? How to avoid constipation as a side effect? All very important things to know.) 

5.  Drink the whole glass of water after swallowing a pill.

Drinking more than a few sips of liquid after you take medicine helps ensure that the tablet, capsule or pill does not harm the lining of your esophagus by not going down all the way. In the stomach, the liquid helps the medication be digested, absorbed and moved through your system efficiently. Also, because some medication have a drying effect on the body, getting in a full glass of something that hydrates you is a smart move from the beginning.                        

Have any questions?

For more information on safe, effective drug use? Visit

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High Rate of Advanced Colon Cancer Found Among African Americans in Ward 5

Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood Program Launched, Part of White House Cancer Moonshot

Washington, D.C., October 17, 2016
– Colon cancer is one of the very few preventable cancers, but too many residents from the District of Columbia’s Ward 5 are diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. Today, MedStar Washington Hospital Center is launching its “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood” program, to increase early detection and prevention of colon cancer. The program focuses on African-Americans in the Ward 5 neighborhood, where a crisis of late-stage colon cancer exists. “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood” is part of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot efforts to ensure cancer care is equitable throughout the nation.

Of 1,314 men and women treated for colon cancer from 2006 to 2011 at the Hospital Center, 892 of them, or 68 percent had stages 2 through 4 colon cancer. Of those, nearly 50 percent of stage 3 and 4 colon cancer patients were from Ward 5, echoing a number of studies that consistently show the highest yearly prevalence of colon cancer in the District is among Ward 5 residents. The data also revealed 91 percent of those with stage 3 and 4 colon cancer were African-Americans. Even more alarming, 97 percent of those presenting with advanced colon cancer had health insurance at the time of their diagnosis.

“It is shocking to see that this many residents who have insurance coverage are presenting late, with a disease that could have been detected earlier with screening,” said Elmer Huerta, MD, MPH, director of the Cancer Preventorium at MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Washington Cancer Institute. “This data validates the need to offer accessible colon cancer screening and education in the community.”

The “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood” program will deploy patient navigators to work with Ward 5 residents, building community-based partnerships to deliver colon cancer education, perform risk assessments and distribute easy-to-use fecal immunochemical (FIT) tests that can be done at home. The FIT test measures tiny amounts of blood in the stool that can be a sign of cancer or large polyps. The program will also offer services to connect patients with colonoscopy services, supporting the goal of significantly increasing screening rates among Ward 5 residents. The community-based program is supported by the Herb Gordon Foundation for Gastrointestinal Cancer, the American Cancer Society and private donors.

For the past three years, breast health navigators at MedStar Washington Hospital Center have been actively working in the Ward 5 community to improve breast cancer screening. Hospital Center data found similar results as with colon cancer: 97 percent of the Ward 5 patients with advanced breast cancer were African-American women with health insurance coverage. Thanks to grants from the AVON Breast Cancer Crusade, the breast cancer outreach program is now expanding across the city into Wards 7 and 8.


About the Cancer Moonshot:
During his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Vice President Biden to lead a new, national Cancer Moonshot, focused on making a decade's worth of progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer in five years - ultimately striving to end cancer as we know it. A Presidential Memorandum on January 28, 2016 established the Cancer Moonshot Task Force.

 After meeting with experts across the country and the world, Vice President Biden identified areas of focus for the Cancer Moonshot -- based on barriers to progress and opportunities for improving patient outcomes - and announced a first wave of accomplishments at the Cancer Moonshot Summit on June 29, 2016 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. On Monday, October 17, Vice President Biden is releasing the final report of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, along with his own Executive Findings after traveling to many of the major nerve centers in the cancer community. He will also unveil a new set of Federal actions, private sector actions, and collaborative partnerships to further advance the goals of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force. More information on the Cancer Moonshot can be found here.


About MedStar Washington Hospital Center:
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a 926-bed, major teaching and research hospital. It is the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the nation’s capital, among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation and a major referral center for treating the most complex cases. U.S.News & World Report consistently ranks the hospital’s cardiology and heart surgery program as one of the nation’s best. It also is a respected top facility in the areas of cancer, diabetes & endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, gastroenterology & GI surgery, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, pulmonology and urology. It operates MedSTAR, a nationally-verified level I trauma center with a state-of-the-art fleet of helicopters and ambulances, and also operates the region’s only adult Burn Center.

Media Contact

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Overnight Radiologists: Providing Patient Care Around the Clock

Tina Rosenbaum, MD, has been an emergency room physician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for 12 years – and for much of that time, there was a gap in medical imaging as part of patient care in the middle of the night. “[But] now, we get our answers immediately,” Dr. Rosenbaum says.

The reason? Our overnight radiologists who provide immediate coverage at the Hospital Center, as well as several other MedStar facilities.

Radiology chairman James Jelinek, MD, says the program was the idea of Arnold Raizon, MD. Prior to instituting dedicated teams to cover the overnight hours, radiologists would generally work their normal daytime schedules and then trade off night-time shifts. In addition, MedStar hospitals were previously covered by five different groups, all using different computer systems.

This approach didn’t make for the best patient care experience.

The Rising Need for Overnight Radiology Coverage

Laurie Abrams, MD, notes, however, that the need for dedicated overnight coverage wasn’t always necessary. Smaller radiology practices – which were the norm 20 years ago – didn’t lend themselves to dedicated teams to work the overnight hours. But as practices consolidated and grew larger, small teams of overnight radiologists became a more practical solution.

Also, the technology changed. “Reliance on imaging technology is much greater than it used be,” Dr. Abrams says.

Imaging tests can be used to diagnose an ever-increasing number of conditions. For example, head scans were previously considered to be a rare event, but now a busy hospital might find it necessary to conduct four or five head scans in a single hour. So having an overnight radiologist on-hand to offer advice, and interpret scans and films, can make a huge difference.

Bridging Gaps, Provide Better Patient Care

Thanks to the institutionalizing of the overnight radiologists at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and other facilities, many patients can be sent home quickly and safely. And when they need to be sent to the operating room, that too happens more efficiently.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges to working overnight.

From the moment they log into the Radiology platform, they have a worklist that generally keeps them busy for the entire shift – and that’s on a normal night. On nights when there are multiple trauma cases, the need for both speed and accuracy becomes enormous.

“Your brain is always on. There is no downtime,” Gabe Schneider, MD, points out.

But that is one of the very reasons why this group takes such pleasure in their work. All radiologists are integral to patient care, says Dr. Taner, but overnight, “you are often the decision point. You can make the most difference.”

For instance, Dr. Rosenbaum says it’s not uncommon for the radiologist to take the initiative and inform the surgical teams when it is apparent that surgery will be necessary: “They will link together all the different teams and keep the lines of communication open. That helps everyone.”

For Dr. Raizon, that type of teamwork is the entire key to what they do. “The technical staff has always had dedicated people who work at night. It makes sense that the physicians do, too. This way, we all get to know each other, which leads to better patient care.”

It’s About People

Even with spending their evenings and late nights intimately involved with some of the technologically sophisticated aspects of medicine, all four overnight radiologists stress that the personal relationships they have developed are the single best part of the job.

Dr. Raizon, who has been there from the beginning, intends to work in this capacity for the remainder of his career. “I really like the people I work with at night,” he says. “It’s not just about reading X-rays. So much of medicine is about the people."

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Latest Robotic Technology Brings New Benefits to Patients

When one of our patients is considering or about to undergo a surgical procedure at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we are usually asked two questions: “How invasive or painful will it be, and how long will it take for me to recover?”

Both are understandable questions, since many types of surgeries can take an emotional and physical toll on someone. But thanks to advancements in technology, we’ve seen procedures that were historically much more invasive, with protracted periods of recovery, become less painful, with patients getting back on their feet much more quickly.

Specifically here at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, our doctors have seen more positive outcomes with the da Vinci Xi. A minimally invasive robotic surgery technology from Intuitive Surgical. But what does the da Vinci Xi robot mean for our patients?

One of the most important things to understand about this surgical robot is that is not used to perform surgeries on automation. Rather, it is a surgical robot that is controlled by a person. Though remote use is possible, typically a surgeon will be in the same room with the da Vinci Xi, as well as the patient, as the procedure is performed.

What Our Doctors Have to Say About the da Vinci Xi and Patient Care

What makes the da Vinci Xi so powerful is its precise use of much smaller surgical tools, and thus smaller incisions for the patient. It’s also a step above previous iterations of the surgical robot technology, says Medstar Washington Hospital Center colorectal surgeon Jennifer M. Ayscue, MD.

“The older robot was less user-friendly and very static, so as a colorectal surgeon, I was only able to operate on one part of the abdomen. This limited the type of colon resections we could do,” Dr. Ayscue says. “The Xi robot allows us to operate in several areas of the abdomen in one procedure, so we can do almost any colon surgery using this very advanced tool.”

Cheryl Iglesia, MD, director of the section of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and a leader in her field, shares Dr. Ayscue’s sentiments.

“Having the ability to do a single-port surgery is the next frontier,” Dr. Iglesia points out. “You can perform surgery through just one incision at the belly button.”

An Investment in Our Patients and Their Recovery

Most of all, many of our patients recover more quickly, thanks to the da Vinci Xi empowering surgeons to perform more minimally invasive robotic surgeries for certain procedures.

Of this, Dr. Ayscue says, “My patients have minimal, if any, pain postoperatively. That means they are able to move on with the next part of their therapy sooner, or get back to their lives or work quicker!”

“While this new robot is very advanced technology, it is very expensive,” she continues. “However, MedStar [Washington Hospital Center] is committed to having the most advanced and best options for our patients, whatever the cost for the institution.”

As heard from Lambros Stamatakis, MD, on WTOP Radio:

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We are here to help! If you have any problems, or would like to schedule a consultation, call us at 202-877-3627.

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September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – A Survivor’s Story

Love and Luck

My life has been overflowing with Love and Luck, and never more so than since my surprise diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer on March 12, 2001, at age 45 years, five months and 19 days.

Although my 68-year-old mother had died of advanced-stage ovarian cancer exactly five months earlier, on Oct. 12, 2000, there was no other history of ovarian cancer in my family. We are not carriers of the infamous mutated BRCA genes (go ahead, Google Angelina Jolie!), which, when in good working order, protect against ovarian and breast cancer. When those genes are damaged, they no longer offer protection, and the chance of a woman being diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer is as high as 80 percent. In my case, with no BRCA mutation, we simply don’t yet know what we don’t know.

Despite decades of research for an effective and inexpensive screening test for all women as part of an annual checkup, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer. No simple blood test. No scan. No X-ray.  No test like a Pap smear, which is so effective for diagnosing early-stage cervical cancer.

That someone like me – who was carefully monitored during my mom’s nine-month illness – could be diagnosed late stage should be very disturbing to anyone who is a woman, or who knows a woman. And, that would be everyone, right?

Surviving Cancer

Luck has been my buddy for more than 15 years of my healthy survivorship. I have no clue why I obliterated the odds of surviving five years, much less 15. A vegetarian for five years before my diagnosis, I craved bacon during chemo, caved to the temptation, and have never looked back. I have come to believe bacon goes with everything.

I love the “love” in my beautiful Love and Luck duo, because I have been blessed beyond measure with a husband who has had my back at every turn for way longer than 15 years, and especially since that fateful diagnosis day. Too many people suffer the emotional loss of a spouse or partner who simply “can’t handle” illness and survivorship. I say, if they think they can’t handle it, they should step into the shoes of those going through it and imagine how hard it is. Lucky me, to have him.

My survivor sisters, well, where would I be in my survivorship journey without them? I joined an online support group when Mom was diagnosed, to get tips and tricks from survivors to help her. When I returned to the group on my own behalf, I was welcomed like a long-lost daughter. Survivors meet every year at the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance conference, and a core group of us have become close friends, even choosing to vacation together annually for a long girlfriend weekend. We have a blast when we reunite. We are stronger together.

We urge one another to stay active in ovarian cancer education and advocacy, from sharing our diagnosis stories with third-year medical students (Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives®) to being the survivor voice on government research and funding projects. We long-termers must stay involved, to give hope to women and to keep the pressure on for early detection and a cure.

I am lucky I now am old enough to feel the “joys” of an aging back, wrinkle my nose in disgust at age spots, and wonder when those fine lines around my eyes appeared.

I would love to know my secret survival sauce, because I would bottle it and give it away.  I would send it to my two sweet and courageous friends who now are in hospice care at ages impossible to imagine. And, I would leap back in time and gift it to Mom and the countless friends whose love was so important to me before they were lost to ovarian cancer.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer – Sort Of

A woman should have a thorough gynecologic exam by a gynecologic oncologist if she experiences one or more of the symptoms listed for more than two weeks and are unusual for her. Please note, many women are diagnosed without having any symptoms. But, without a screening test, this is the best we have. Be vigilant!

  • Bloating
  • Feeling full quickly after eating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

A Snapshot of Ovarian Cancer (Source: National Cancer Institute)

  • Ovarian cancer accounts for approximately 3 percent of all cancers in women.
  • Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States.
  • Approximately 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S., and approximately 14,000 will die of the disease.
  • 75 percent of ovarian cancer is diagnosed at the advanced stages of III or IV, when it is harder to cure. 

Additional Resources:

Visit (Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance) or (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition).


(PHOTO AT THE TOP): The author and ovarian cancer survivor, Annamarie DeCarlo (second from left) with three other survivors at the 2016 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition conference in Baltimore, Md.


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Pneumonia: A Serious but Treatable Condition

With news of pneumonia thrust into the spotlight, we spoke with Dr. Matthew Schreiber, a pulmonary disease and critical care specialist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, about what we need to know about the common, but highly treatable illness. This condition should always be taken seriously and receive prompt treatment, Dr. Schreiber says. But its symptoms can range from comparatively mild (allowing “walking pneumonia”) to urgent, requiring immediate hospitalization.

Who is most at risk?

“Pneumonia can happen to anybody,” Dr. Schreiber says. Those most at risk are young children, the elderly and persons with compromised lung functions from pre-existing conditions, such as cystic fibrosis.

“The vast majority of people do very well” with proper treatment, Dr. Schreiber says. The key is to seek treatment promptly.

What causes pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by bacteria or a virus. Bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. The viral version of the disease has fewer treatment options and antibiotics are ineffective. The patient’s doctor will decide the needed amounts of rest, medication and other treatments.

“Everyone responds differently,” Dr. Schreiber says. Factors include the patient’s overall physical health, and particularly the condition of the lungs.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include coughing, fever (which may be mild), chills and shortness of breath. Chest x-rays and CT scans can help diagnose pneumonia.

Dr. Schreiber says the best way to avoid pneumonia is to stay healthy and active, eat well, and wash your hands thoroughly after being in contact with someone who is sick or coughing. He urges people to be aware of their surroundings, and make sure their care providers know their medical history.

Do I need a vaccine?

People 65 and older should should receive two vaccine series (PCV13 followed by PPSV23) for one of the most common types of bacterial pneumonia (pneumococcal pneumonia). Also, since influenza can lead to pneumonia, flu vaccines should be given to persons over 50, those especially susceptible to flu, and health care workers.

While nearly a million Americans over age 65 contract pneumonia each year, many studies show the average age of having pneumonia is much younger, Dr. Schreiber says. It’s the second most common reason for U.S. hospital admissions (childbirth is #1), placing a significant burden on the nation’s health care system and its costs.


Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you are concerned you might have pneumonia, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 202-877-3627.

I am Nursing

Celebrating Nursing

Each of our nursing associates at MedStar Washington Hospital Center has a unique story about what drew them to nursing and what keeps them calling the Hospital Center home. In our I am Nursing series, we meet these amazing people, learn more about who they are and what inspires them, and celebrate their commitment to helping others heal. 

For MedStar Washington Hospital Center float nurse Tasha Zochert, nursing is a calling, not a job.  Zochert knows something about callings. She has a few of them.

You can see one of them – her passion for photography – on display at the Galesville MD, River Gallery show dedicated to the Maryland Blue Crab opening this weekend (Sept. 3).

Zochert, Tasha. Blue Crabs. 2016
Zochert, Tasha. Blue Crabs. 2016

Through a close family friend, Zochert was able to meet a crabbing boat at the dock in Chesapeake Beach and photograph them hauling in bushels of blue crabs. Despite taking more than 300 photographs, only two could be submitted for the gallery show.  The result: a photographic study of Maryland blue crabs, one of the Chesapeake’s renowned treasures.

The  photography, says Zochert, is something she happened upon after finishing her nursing degree.

“I took an elective photography class and my final project was on flowers,” she says. Encouraged by her family, teacher, and classmates, she began looking for an art gallery that would be willing to take on a novice photographer.

“As luck would have it, a local gallery’s next show was dedicated to flowers, so I framed two images, and sent them in,” she says. “When my flower photographs actually sold I realized, ‘I just became a professional photographer!’”

Zochert joined the Maryland Federation of Art and her photographs have been in galleries across the state.  While still “a far cry from Ansel Adams,” the photography she says, “isn’t about fame or money. But then,neither is nursing.”

Zochert’s call to nursing came almost as serendipitously as her photography. While living abroad with her family, (her mother was a clinical laboratory scientist on active duty with the military in Germany), Zochert began a paramedic program.  When she returned to the U.S., her credits would not transfer. 

“I didn’t want to have to start from scratch,” she recalls. On her way home from volunteering for an ambulance service she heard an ad on the radio that a hospital was hiring nurses. “I thought, ‘I could become a nurse and work in the emergency department!’” 

Zochert, Tasha. Blue Crabs 2. 2016
Zochert, Tasha. Blue Crabs 2. 2016

She enrolled in a local community college nursing program, and during her critical care rotation “a light bulb went off,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be.’ I love the intensity and detail of critical care.”  She graduated top of her class, went directly into critical care, and now has nearly a decade of experience.

Zochert also loves the simple act of helping people. She jokingly calls her approach to patient care “Tasha’s ICU and Day Spa,” because she is known for doing manicures, washing, combing and braiding hair, shaving and trimming beards, etc.  “Sometimes there are so many machines required to care for the critically ill that it’s frightening for families to see. I always try to keep my patients clean, so the families can recognize their loved one beneath all the tubes and wires.”  Zochert is passionate about ensuring the fundamental dignity of each of her patients.

In October 2014, Zochert came to MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s float pool, where nurses move from unit to unit to fill in where needed.  The uncertainty and challenge of not knowing anyone and the moving between different patients on surgical, burn and neurological units demanded flexibility.   Her critical care nursing skills were widely appreciated, and she was recently honored with the “Chief Nursing Executive Award for Patient Care.” 

Zochert says she bases her patient advocacy on one question: ‘Would I want me to be my nurse?’” 

Today, Zochert is capitalizing on the schedule flexibility afforded by the float pool to earn her BSN.  Zochert considers herself a “life-long student”  and has future aspirations of teaching or becoming an advanced practice nurse. It won’t happen right away, she notes. “I’m not ready to give up being at the bedside.”

Zochert’s photography is on view at the River Gallery at 1000 Main Street, Galesville, MD from September 3 through October 30, 2016.

I am Nursing

I am Nursing

I am nursing

Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about nursing at MedStar Washington Hospital Center visit our nursing career page here or contact Human Resources at 202-877-7441.

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Breastfeeding: Providing Infants with Optimum Care from the Start of Life

Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week!

This week, the Midwives of MedStar are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-August 7. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding: A key to Sustainable Development,” aims to raise awareness not only about the significant maternal and infant health benefits of breastfeeding, but also its advantages for a healthy planet.  While the marketplace may try to convince you otherwise, all a mother and baby really need to breastfeed is one another.  Certainly breast milk pumping and storage generates some consumer products and waste, but much less than what is associated with using breast milk substitutes.  Breast milk also is free and is always the right temperature for your baby.

One of the best ways to ensure you achieve your breastfeeding goals is to begin the conversation about how you will feed your baby with your partner and your provider early in your pregnancy.  Did you know that the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond infancy? In addition to providing disease-fighting antibodies, and all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first few months of life, babies who are breastfed have lower risks of asthma, lower respiratory infections, eczema, diarrhea, type II diabetes, childhood obesity and SIDS.  As for mom, it also lowers the risk of postpartum depression, anxiety, certain breast cancers and ovarian cancer.

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, all nurses who work with new mothers and infants receive 20 hours of breastfeeding specific education and skills development.  We also have lactation consultants who help you and baby get off to a good start.  More important, the hospital has adopted the 10 best practices recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to support breastfeeding mothers and infants, including immediate skin to skin time after delivery. 

It’s not unusual for some mothers who start the process of learning to breastfeed to feel nervous and tentative.  Yet with knowledgeable and support, these hesitant starts quickly blossom into successful feeding rhythms with a confident mother and content, healthy baby. 

For moms returning to work, be sure to review your insurance coverage.  Many plans under the Affordable Care Act cover electric breast pumps (with many covering lactation services as well). A good rule of thumb is to begin pumping about two weeks before returning to work, so the baby can get used to eating from a bottle and you can begin to build up a supply of stored breast milk.

Did you know that workplaces are required by law to provide adequate time and a clean, private place to pump (bathrooms don’t count). Ensure you have a refrigerator or cooler to store the breast milk until you return home.

Need more information? Check out the upcoming Baby Care & Breastfeeding Basics, District of Columbia Breastfeeding Resource Guide, the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington, La Leche League and the World Health Organization for more information.

World Breastfeeding Week is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).

Happy breastfeeding!


Have Questions?

Please call the Midwives of MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 202-877-2303 and ask to speak to a nurse coordinator.

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Reducing Hepatitis C in the African-American Community

hep-C-infographicWorld Hepatitis Day was celebrated this week, a day set aside to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, which affects 400 million people worldwide. It also marks a historic moment for the hepatitis community – the launch of NOhep, the first global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis.

In the United States, it is estimated that between 2.5 million and 4.7 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C (HepC), a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that anyone of any age with high risk behaviors such as current or past injection drug use should get HepC tested once yearly. They also recommend baby boomers or people born from 1945 to 1965 should be tested at least once for HepC due to high prevalence. Baby boomers are five times more likely to have HepC, and most of them don’t know they are infected. 

HepC has been called a “silent epidemic” because most people with the disease don’t know they are infected. Over time, HepC can cause inflammation and gradual liver fibrosis or scarring, which can lead to cirrhosis. It is also a leading cause of liver failure, liver cancer, liver transplantation and liver-related death. And according to a recent CDC article, more people die each year from HepC than from 60 other infectious diseases, including HIV. Yes, HepC kills more people each year than HIV.

For the African-American community, HepC is a relevant yet neglected disease. In fact, HepC is more prevalent among African Americans than among persons of any other racial group in the nation. And although African Americans represent about 13 percent of the overall U.S. population, estimates suggest they represent around 22 percent of all HepC infections. Additionally, African-American baby boomers have twice the rates of HepC infection as other baby boomers. This picture is equally revealing at the hospital level. In a recently published article in the journal Public Health Reports, we found a HepC prevalence rate of nine percent among baby boomers within MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Primary Care Clinic. This was significantly higher than the U.S. prevalence of 3.3 percent and the D.C. prevalence of 2.5 percent (among all ages). Within this group, the HepC positive rate among African-American men was 16 percent, substantially higher than the CDC rate of eight percent.  

So what does this mean, and what can you do? The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS launched the first National African-American Hepatitis C Action Day four years ago, with the intention of mobilizing the community to reduce the burden of HepC on the Black community, and impact a neglected health disparity by promoting education, testing, linkage to care and treatment. So for everyone, especially people of the African-American community, it starts with a test, it’s that simple. HepC is curable. CURABLE. But one of the biggest barriers to HepC elimination is a lack of identification.

Lastly, but importantly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now covers the cost of a HepC antibody screening test – in a primary setting – if the following conditions are met:

  1. A screening test is covered for adults at high risk for HepC infection. “High risk” is defined as persons with a current or past history of illicit injection drug use; and persons who have a history of receiving a blood transfusion prior to 1992. Repeat screening for high risk persons is covered annually only for persons who have had continued illicit injection drug use since the prior negative screening test and have not been.
  2. A single screening test is covered for adults who do not meet the high risk as defined above, but who were born from 1945 through 1965.

So take the HepC challenge and ask your primary care provider to be tested. If you are chronically HepC infected and not currently in care with a specialist (Infectious Diseases, Hepatology, or Gastroenterology), please contact the HepC Linkage to Care Navigation program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for assistance.

Phone: 202-877-0679 or 202-877-3296

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

In this video, patient Sharon Billings kept her hepatitis C diagnosis a secret and lived in silence for 18 years. She shares her story of overcoming HepC.

Have questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about MedStar Washington Hospital Center, call us at 202-877-3627.

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