Archive for November, 2012

 

Nov 25 2012

Great Thanksgiving Weekend

by at 11:44 am

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. We are back from Philly for a family Thanksgiving weekend at my father’s house. I enjoyed relaxing and eating more than I should. I hope you had a great holiday, too.

To follow up on last week’s blog, our grandson Isaac went home last Monday, but not until he climbed into our bed last Sunday night, and then pounded me in the back at 4:30 am with the happy news that he was 1) awake, 2) hungry and 3) wanted to play. I was none of those things. We were really sorry to see him leave but not so sorry that we didn’t catch up on our sleep. I am still a little tired; I uncharacteristically fell asleep while watching the Georgetown-Indiana basketball game last week. It was probably just as well, since the game was very exciting and the Hoyas eventually lost in overtime. That just would have compounded my sleep deprivation!

Last Monday’s Faculty Sector meeting was jammed with a variety of items, and I was pleased to report that MedStar Health’s excellent financial performance has resulted in a 2012 gainsharing of $13 million with Georgetown University. This presumably will support GUMC activities and create a bit of budgetary bandwidth that can help many medical center activities.

On a somewhat related note, we had a conference call on Tuesday of the Oncology Strategic Planning Committee of our developing cancer network, and we now have a real name (to be announced soon) that will be applied to all clinical and clinical research cancer-related activities at MedStar Health’s hospitals in the Washington region, and possibly beyond as the Network establishes operational traction. As per the strategic plan for the network our clinical trial accruals are pretty much on pace to meet our targets; in the first quarter, we had 81 accruals to therapeutic clinical trials. As Mike Atkins establishes his research studies and Beppe Giaccone does as well, I am confident that we will achieve and likely surpass our goal of 400 therapeutic clinical trial accruals in 2014. This rate of accrual will enable us to have the type of impact that befits a comprehensive cancer center. We want to offer “tomorrow’s treatments today” to cancer patients in our region.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to register for this week’s Ruesch Center symposium on clinical research and barriers to patient accrual. It’s this Friday, Nov. 30  from 1-5 pm at Georgetown Hotel & Conference Center, and it is free for GU and MedStar employees.

I only saw one patient last Tuesday, a lovely 69-year-old woman with metastatic duodenal cancer whose disease has worsened despite two distinct chemotherapy regimens. We had to have the “talk” about the advisability of additional chemotherapy, and she has opted for supportive care, which is appropriate, though very sad.  I cannot wait for a time when we have better treatments to offer our patients.

I headed straight from that clinic visit to my lab meeting. We have so much good stuff going on that my spirits were lifted; the new tools and concepts that drive modern science surely can be used to help fight cancer more effectively.

Have a great week.

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Nov 18 2012

A Busy Time Before Thanksgiving

by at 10:45 pm

This has been an interesting and somewhat tiring week! Our grandson has been staying with us since last Friday while his mom and dad are in Argentina for a marine ecology meeting. Isaac is simply wonderful, but he is, after all, just a couple of months past his second birthday, and so is a lot of work. He talks up a storm, understands just about everything, and has very clear ideas about how his life should proceed. In short, he would make a wonderful member of Lombardi! Like many Lombardi people he likes to keep late hours, and wakes up very early on occasion. His personal best so far was 4:45 am a few nights ago; he was ready for breakfast and wanted to play. One of his favorite blankets has a series of multicolored dots arranged in a rectangular pattern; naturally, we now call it his “microarray” blanket. His mom and dad will be back in town on Monday afternoon; we’ll miss him terribly, but will console ourselves with some sleep.

The blur of diapers, nighttime stories, messy meals, hugs and kisses did not prevent me from getting work done (Thank you, Harriet!). On Monday, Bob Clarke and I were invited by Chet Gillis, dean of the College, to speak with the department chairs at the College. It was a great opportunity to share our perspectives regarding the value of the Medical Center, and I believe we opened some eyes. For example, they now have a clearer idea of the importance of our research to the University’s Carnegie Rating as a Very High Research Intensive institution, and how that rating contributes to our ranking in US News and World Report.

Tuesday was spent at the NCI for my first meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors. This body reviews the NCI intramural program. I was deeply impressed by the high level of rigor in the review process and by the responsiveness of NCI leadership to the BSC recommendations. I then hurried back to the campus to see a patient of mine who is in the hospital. She is a relatively young woman with a recently diagnosed metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her disease has worsened at a rapid pace despite chemotherapy, and I had to have a difficult conversation with her and her family to recommend hospice care. I look forward to the day when having this conversation becomes less and less necessary because we have figured out better prevention, early detection and treatment strategies.

This is not a fantasy; just ask Mike Atkins. He helped host a melanoma symposium at the Leavey Center on Saturday, where remarkable advances in the treatment of melanoma were discussed and celebrated. As few as three years ago, these patients had about as much hope as pancreatic cancer patients; that has changed dramatically. Stated simply, that is the transformative power of research.

Wednesday was Harriet’s birthday, and we celebrated by going out for dinner. And I will always remember Thursday. This year’s GUMC Convocation focused on health disparities, and honored Dr. John Ruffin from the NIH for his work to put this important challenge on our nation’s radar. At the ceremony, awards were handed out to faculty (including Dick Schlegel for his research accomplishments) and to a handful of students. Among these students was our son David (M ’14) for his work to establish the “Baking Soda Project” to reduce catastrophic fires in rural Haiti caused by indoor charcoal cooking. To sit as a member of the platform party and see our son recognized for his humanitarian contributions was a special moment for this proud father. It really brings the concept of cura personalis closer to home.

On Sunday David and I were the guests of Dr. David Milzman, a GUMC faculty member who is an ER doctor at the Hospital Center, and one of David’s mentors, at the Redskins-Eagles game. One team had to win, and that team most certainly could not be the Eagles, who have unraveled completely. But, the Redskins deserved to win, and RGIII is certainly a playmaker and a winner. Frankly, I don’t think I can credibly say, “We’ll get ’em next year”; but, hope springs eternal.

Have a great short week, travel safely if you are doing so, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Nov 11 2012

Preparing for a week with Isaac

by at 6:29 pm

I sit here late on Sunday afternoon watching the Eagles stumble around against the Cowboys on national TV. We have had a lovely weekend; our family came to DC to help us celebrate Harriet’s upcoming birthday. We had a great time. Before they left on Sunday I took them to see my office and also showed them the wonderful exhibit of botanical art focused on healing plants in the Lombardi lobby that Harriet actually helped to organize.

The work week was busy, but aside from the meetings, I have nothing new to report. Our CCSG preparations continue, and I am busily working on various drafts of the sections I am responsible for authoring.  We have to write the grant according to the new CCSG guidelines. While this has created a lot of work – we focus less on metrics and more on the impact of our research – this reconfiguration has forced us to take a fresh and refreshing look at our cancer center.

The coming week promises to be interesting. I have been appointed to the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors and have my first meeting on Tuesday. This is an interesting time to be reviewing the work of the Intramural Program, with a “fiscal cliff” looming and increasing scrutiny of the federal budget. It is always easy to sling arrows at presumed targets from afar, but it gets pretty humbling when the review process gets down to brass tacks. As many of you know, the review processes for the extramural and intramural programs have some major differences. In the extramural setting we evaluate projects and the individual is considered in that context. For intramural reviews, it all is turned on its head. The review focuses primarily on the investigator, and the projects and their progress are subjected to scrutiny within that context. Hence, the review is more personal – our decisions amount to referenda on the overall quality of work of investigators and their teams.

I am also looking forward to this week’s GUMC Convocation. I think this is a wonderful (relatively) new tradition, and encourage everyone to make time on Thursday to attend the Colloquium on health disparities with our own Lucile Adams-Campbell at 10 am and the formal Convocation at 3 pm.

Also, Craig Jordan will be hosting along with Dean Ray Mitchell an event Thursday evening at 6 pm in the New Research Building Auditorium to introduce Georgetown Medical students to the Royal Society of Medicine, namely the advantages of overseas fellowship for medical school graduates and student membership for medical students.

And, speaking of events, if you haven’t already I encourage you to register for the upcoming Ruesch symposium on November 30 — this year the topic is Accelerating the Cure Through Clinical Research.  The program is excellent — you can find all the information here.

Finally, we will have our grandson Isaac at our house all week while his parents are out of the country at a scientific meeting in Argentina. Don’t cry for us – we love having him around – and I don’t need all that much sleep, anyway! But, if you see me carrying around a mug of coffee more frequently than usual this week, you now will know why.

Have a great week.

 

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Nov 04 2012

The Aftermath of Sandy (and the Lombardi Gala)

by at 10:14 pm

I’m still recovering from the Lombardi Gala last night, but more on that later…

Needless to say, the early part of the week was dominated by Hurricane Sandy. Like everybody else, Harriet and I hunkered down on Sunday, and then waited out the storm on Monday. Fortunately, our house escaped damage and we never lost power, though we did have a small amount of tree damage on our property. This region overall got very lucky.

My jury duty was cancelled on Monday because of the storm, and as a result my name was tossed back into the pool for a later time. So, although GUMC was closed on Tuesday, I was able to continue working on my parts of the CCSG renewal, and snuck into work to determine if there was significant damage in the Lombardi S-Level or elsewhere. Fortunately, everything was fine. Of course, the storm cut a devastating swath across New Jersey and New York City, as if we needed additional reminders about the power of nature and its impact on human existence.

The excuse from jury duty freed up my week, and I used it to work on the CCSG renewal. There is so much to do; every time I feel as if I have polished off one task, another one is waiting for me, in a perverse electronic Conga line. But, it’s good to be getting the grant into shape with more than six months to go to the submission date!

And then there was Saturday night. The 26th annual Lombardi Gala was just wonderful. It was beautifully organized, and went off without a hitch. We had more than 800 attendees and, while the final results are not yet in, I am optimistic that we did well in the fundraising department. The silent auction was simply fantastic. Harriet and I bid on a ton of items and did our very best to win them, but were beaten out at the end by other bidders, with the exception of one surprise item I bought for her. In this case, competition was great, because it meant more money for Lombardi!

The talks were really on point. Our three gala co-chairs – Paul Schweitzer, Brian Katz and Jill Fitzpatrick — were represented by Jill, who touched everyone by describing the toll cancer has taken on her family. Barbara Schaefer McDuffie was the recipient of the Margaret L. Hodges Leadership Award, and gave a brief, eloquent and moving talk about her passion for our cause.

Georgetown was well represented in remarks by Jack DeGioia and Howard Federoff, and I tried to rally the attendees with a story about the potential impact of Dick Schlegel’s work in conditional cell reprogramming. DeMaurice Smith of the NFL Players Association introduced the recipient of the NFL Players Association Georgetown Lombardi Award, Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots. Mr. Kraft lost his beloved wife Myra to ovarian cancer about 15 months ago. His moving remarks were rendered more poignant by a video featuring members of the Patriots such as Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and others.

This year’s Gala received a bit more media attention than previously because of Mr. Kraft’s involvement. And those of you who follow sports news will understand that it was interesting to be in the same room with De Smith, Robert Kraft and Paul Tagliabue. Paul is former NFL commissioner, current chair of the Georgetown University Board of Directors and, like De Smith, a great friend of Lombardi.

And to top it off, at my table sat Vince Lombardi II and his wife, Sally Sue; Vince is coach Lombardi’s grandson.  You all know how much I enjoy sports, so being in the thick of all these personalities was great fun. I’ve included a picture from the evening below.

At the end of it all, this was a simply great evening for Lombardi, and for our mission.

None of this would have happened without the exceptional work of our many volunteers, and the tireless efforts of our Advancement staff and by all of you who do the important work that inspires them. But I would be remiss if I did not call out the extraordinary work of Elena Jeannotte and her colleagues Justin Baskerville, Allison Horton and the rest of the Lombardi Advancement team, and our communications team led by Karen Mallet and Lauren Wolkoff. They put in countless hours, and we owe them our thanks and wishes for a little R & R!

The coming week’s schedule does not appear to contain natural disasters or galas. However, I am sure it will not be boring!

Have a great week.

Gala photo

Robert Kraft, De Smith and I at the Gala. Mr. Kraft is holding the inaugural NFL Players Association Georgetown Lombardi Award.

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