Archive for September, 2012


Sep 30 2012

Tale of an ER Adventure

by at 11:19 pm

So, I had an interesting weekend. Harriet and I drove up to Philly on Friday because I was hosting a meeting (which was really terrific) to discuss ways to better develop the conditional cellular reprogramming technology developed by Dick Schlegel and reported in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine. The article has generated substantial attention, and I congratulate Dick on his extraordinary accomplishment.

Harriet and I later met our son Ken and his wife Sarah at their apartment in Center City Philadelphia. Ken had been having abdominal pain that localized in his right lower quadrant of his abdomen for about four days – classic signs of appendicitis. He had insisted on putting a full day of work (he is a veterinarian), but Harriet, Sarah and I basically dragged him to the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital ER at about 8 pm. There we stayed until the decision was made to perform a laparoscopic appendectomy at about 4:30 am. We drove back to my father’s house in Yardley, and then returned to the hospital in the morning. I had forgotten how unpleasant it was to be “on call” for 24 hours.

After being moved to his room Ken was fairly miserable due to abdominal pain, but was discharged in the mid-afternoon, and is feeling better as of Sunday evening. It is truly remarkable; when I trained an appendectomy required a minimum five-day hospitalization and a recovery period of 2-3 weeks. If all goes well, Ken will be back at work in a few days, though he won’t be permitted to lift heavy dogs for a few more weeks. Harriet stayed in Philadelphia to help out and I drove home on Sunday afternoon.

The work week was not without its moments as well, though I was out of the office more than is usual for me. On Monday and Tuesday I participated in the Georgetown University Executive Committee Retreat at the Cosmos Club. Tuesday evening and Wednesday were times for deep reflection and family as we observed the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement that is a day of fasting as well. One of the most moving readings is from Isaiah (58: 1-14), and includes the powerful phrase, “Is this not the fast I seek?…Is not this the fast I look for: to unlock the shackles of injustice, to undo the fetters of bondage, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every cruel chain? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into your house? …If you remove the chains of oppression, the menacing hand, the malicious word; if you make sacrifices for the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then shall your light shine in the darkness…” If that is not a call to action, I don’t know what is, and this perspective has animated my own life and career in so many ways.

I returned to the work world renewed and refreshed on Thursday, traveling to an all-day meeting in Boston. I got home by about 8:30 in the evening, did a bit of work and got ready for Friday, where I crammed in a week’s worth of meetings into one day before piling into our car at 6 pm not suspecting that our weekend would include an emergency room adventure. But, all’s well that ends well.

Have a great week.

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Sep 24 2012

‘Effective and Satisfying Minutes’

by at 12:12 am

It has been a very full past seven days. The week started in Philadelphia, where Harriet and I spent Sunday evening, the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, with my father and other family members.  We returned home the following day.

Tuesday was filled with meetings, including a delightful lunch with Lee Reed, Georgetown University’s Athletic Director; it was great to get to know him better. On Wednesday I participated in two separate benefit events, including a reception in the evening at the home of Mark and Molly Decker for the Lombardi Gala Committee. Mark and Molly have been longtime supporters of the Gala, and we had a lovely time. I joined the Gala co-chairs, Paul Schweitzer, Brian Katz and Jill Kilpatrick (each of whom has been a fabulous friend of Lombardi) and Mark in thanking the guests for their support, and then yielded the floor to DeMaurice (De) Smith, who is once again the Gala’s Honorary Chair. De is the President of the NFL Players Association, and is by training a prosecutor, litigator and is a very experienced trial lawyer. As he was raised in a family full of preachers, his natural speaking talents have been sharpened by his life experiences. In short, I will never allow myself to follow this mesmerizing speaker, because anyone who follows him is simply wasting his or her time!  His commitment to Lombardi is so deeply appreciated and important; we are so very lucky to have De in our corner.

However, Thursday was determined to not be outdone by Wednesday. After a busy morning of meetings, a group of us headed up to Rockville for our CCSG pre-application meeting with Linda Weiss and colleagues at the NCI Cancer Centers Program. We presented the current state of Lombardi, and learned a lot about the new guidelines that will be used to evaluate CCSGs effective early next year. Basically, the emphasis will be more on the quality and impact of our science than it is on dry metrics. We came away with our questions answered, lots of useful feedback and a good feeling about our level of preparation and plans for the submission of our CCSG competitive renewal.

Right from there I headed straight to the Willard Hotel for a reception hosted by Hyundai Corporation’s Hope on Wheels, which has been an important supporter of pediatric oncology research and care at Georgetown. I had to leave there to attend a reception at the NFL Players Association office for the Mark Hulkower Foundation, which supports colon cancer research; Mark was an associate of De Smith, and was John Marshall’s neighbor and patient. John gave an inspiring talk at the event; and De Smith remarked that people would start talking about us if we kept seeing each other so frequently. I suggested that he could do better…

And then there was Friday. It started with an 8 am talk at the New Faculty Orientation, followed by a meeting with our Visiting Professor last week, Peter Adamson.

I then hustled off to the Convention Center to give a talk to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Health BrainTrust event regarding the impact of cancer screening guidelines on underserved communities. I put a lot of effort into preparing for that talk, and was assisted by a great team that included Lauren Wolkoff, Karen Mallet, Lucile Adams-Campbell and Jeanne Mandelblatt. This was a poignant event for me; the former chair of the Foundation was Congressman Donald Payne, a patient of mine who succumbed to colon cancer earlier this year. He was a wonderful man and a great American, and it was a privilege to know him and care for him. I was not going to mention this personal connection due to HIPAA and out of respect to his family, but as luck would have it I ran into the Congressman’s brother at the Convention Center. He was thrilled to grant me permission to mention his brother and I happily did so. And, the folks in attendance certainly shared my warm feelings about the Congressman. I then hurried back to Georgetown for three more meetings, the last one of which ended after 6 pm.

Saturday was a family day, but I got back to work on Sunday to attend and participate in the MedStar-Georgetown Research Retreat at Kent Manor Inn, just outside of Annapolis. The growing alignment of these two organizations was clearly in evidence, and I do look forward to follow up actions that allow us to better realize the full potential of our partnership.

It has been quite busy, but there is so much good stuff going on, that every busy minute is worth the effort! I hope you have lots of effective and satisfying minutes this coming week.

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Sep 17 2012

Regrouping After Productive EAC Visit

by at 8:45 am

Last week simply zoomed by. After a busy day of meetings on Monday, our External Advisory Committee (EAC) came into town, and we had a wonderful dinner that evening. The following day was devoted to the formal EAC meeting. After I provided an overview, the group reviewed our programs, shared resources and administrative components. It was a long, very productive day, and we received invaluable feedback. We have already begun acting on the EAC’s recommendations while we await their formal written feedback.

Now the real fun begins. We meet with NCI later this week for a formal pre-application meeting. Along with this, we are beginning to modify our write ups to reflect the EAC comments and suggestions, and intend to have high-quality second drafts done in the next couple of months. These drafts will be sent out to a separate group of ad hoc reviewers to assure we are getting broad and diverse feedback.

On Wednesday I left to be at the University of Wisconsin CCSG site visit. As I have mentioned earlier, simply reviewing the work done at Wisconsin was remarkably useful and informative. And, being at the site visit gave me a better sense of what reviewers look for when evaluating cancer centers, and how hard the reviewers work. The site visit ended on Friday morning, and two plane flights later I landed in Philadelphia, meeting Harriet, who had driven up earlier that day from DC.

We had dinner with our son Ken and his wife Sarah, and on Saturday I played golf with an old friend. I shot an 85 (very good for me), but my friend Michael trumped that by scoring a hole in one on a 183-yard par three hole. I have never had or witnessed a hole in one in person, so that was pretty neat.

Then we attended a surprise birthday party for a dear friend. Both she and her husband are cancer survivors – she received curative chemotherapy five years ago for a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he underwent curative surgery for a malignant salivary gland tumor about 15 years ago. Both of them exemplify the progress that has been made in the field of oncology – and provide us with a reminder that two of every three Americans diagnosed with cancer now can expect to be cured. It was especially sweet to celebrate a big milestone with them.

Harriet and I will stay in Philadelphia though Monday to be with my father for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is customary to celebrate the Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey, as a symbol of hopes for a sweet year. That sounds like a wonderful thing to do, regardless of one’s religious beliefs!

Have a great week and a sweet year.

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Sep 09 2012

Family and Football, Mixed with Work

by at 7:06 pm

I hope you had a nice weekend. Harriet and I had a wonderful time on Saturday at a party hosted by Sandy Swain for her colleagues based primarily at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me to remark how nice it is to see closer relationships and collaborations between them and colleagues at Lombardi. Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted.

However, this pleasure was trumped on Sunday when we drove up to Baltimore for our grandson Isaac’s 2nd birthday party. Everybody from his preschool class was there, along with lots of our family. I don’t know how we could have had more fun. Plus, the Eagles won (though they looked horrible against the Browns). In fairness, I must concede that the Redskins and RGIII may be better than I had expected. If so, the NFC will certainly be competitive this year! Between the Redskins and Nationals this could turn out to be a very interesting autumn for those of you who are DC sports fans. Of course, the Nationals will miss Stephen Strasburg now that he has been shut down for the season. I wonder if RGIII can pitch a few games for them? If so, I hope his turn comes up when the Redskins play the Eagles!

This blog follows a short week but a busy one. I am scheduled to be on an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center site visit this coming week, so I spent a lot of time finalizing my reviews of two programs and five shared resources. Needless to say, it has been a lot of work, but reviewing another cancer center’s application is very instructive as we head into our competitive renewal. I also agreed to sit on an AACR review panel for new colorectal cancer grants. I figured it would be a few proposals; imagine my surprise when I learned that my review load was nine proposals. It was interesting reading, but there can be too much of a good thing…

On Tuesday evening last week I participated in a dinner meeting of the MedStar Oncology Steering Committee. There is a lot of good stuff happening, including the formal signing of an updated research agreement between MedStar and GU that permits the extension of Lombardi clinical trials to the MedStar Montgomery Medical Center campus. After 12 years, our relationship with MedStar has certainly led to a robust alignment of interests and priorities in cancer care and research. Now, that is progress!

Speaking of progress, our External Advisory Committee will be here on Monday night and Tuesday to give us feedback on the first drafts of our CCSG competitive renewal. We look forward to productive meetings that provide us with guidance as we move into high gear with our application.

Have a great week.

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