Archive for September, 2013


Sep 29 2013

Almost There!

by at 10:14 pm

The finish line is in sight. We are ready for our site visit on Thursday, assuming the government is open for business! This has been so much work for so many people, but our cancer center and its exceptional work are wonderfully presented. We have much to be proud of and I, for one, cannot wait for us to strut our stuff on Thursday. I also cannot wait for Friday!

I am writing this blog from the AACI meeting (American Association of Cancer Institutes) in DC. Michael Vander Hoek and I presented at a session entitled, “Expect the Unexpected; Coping with the New CCSG Guidelines.”

I will be spending the next two days at the GU Executive Committee Retreat here in town, and will be happy for the distraction from CCSG monomania.

When all of this is done, I very much look forward to executing the exciting plans we have developed for the cancer center, and to focusing more on my lab.  But, no matter what happens I will forever be energized by the marvelous way in which we all came together to develop our cancer center. By doing so we will achieve our highest level of impact to prevent and cure this most terrible set of diseases.

Have a great week. I know I will have an interesting one!


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Sep 22 2013

Happy Autumn!

by at 7:03 pm

Happy Autumn! We have had a pretty busy weekend. My brother and sister-in-law were in town and on Friday evening we went out with them and another couple to Farmers, Fishers and Bakers at Washington Harbor. It was a noisy place, but the food was good and we had a very nice time. My brother and sister-in-law stayed until late Saturday afternoon—we spent the day at the National Museum of American History and it was wonderful. We then hustled up to Bethesda to a party at Sandy Swain’s house, which was primarily for her colleagues at the Washington Hospital Center. Finally, we spent Sunday morning and early afternoon at Isaac’s 3rd birthday party. In between these events I have continued working on the CCSG site visit, of course. Carolyn Hurley, Sharon Levy and Clinton Finch did double (triple?) duty on Saturday, finalizing the numbers for accruals to therapeutic and non-therapeutic clinical trials. They have done simply great work.

Last week was really quite busy. Monday’s schedule included a dinner meeting with Sandy, Joy Drass and others to discuss the Network. Tuesday was largely devoted to CCSG related activities, but was punctuated by the sad news that one of my patients, a 45 year old woman with metastatic pancreatic cancer, had succumbed to her disease, leaving behind a husband, two young children and grieving parents, family and friends. Her disease was so aggressive that we didn’t have time from the moment we knew her cancer had worsened, to get her teed up to receive investigational therapy. This disease is so dreadful; I simply cannot wait until we understand and can productively attack the molecular triggers and immune defense mechanisms that make this disease so horrible.

On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of Lombardi Gala supporters assembled by Sam Foster, and was reminded of just how much wonderful work is done by Elena Jeannotte to make the Gala an annual success. Thursday was a blur of CCSG activities, followed by a full clinic, and then a dinner with Ken Tew, last week’s Visiting Professor. Friday was highlighted by Ken’s lecture, interspersed with lots of other CCSG-related work.

Next week promises to be jam-packed as well as we head towards the site visit. We aspire to succeed on October 3, but must not forget that the reason we must do well is because people like my poor patient with pancreatic cancer depend upon us to come up with a solution for them. It is a huge challenge, but that is why I do what I do.

Have a good week.



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Sep 15 2013

Approaching the Finish Line

by at 8:25 pm

What a beautiful weekend this has been! I cannot imagine more perfect late summer weather. We spent Friday night through Saturday night observing Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which involves a 24-hour fast and a full day in synagogue. We take short breaks and it was lovely to stroll about in the sunshine. The day also is a sobering reminder of our own mortality and the immenseness of existence, along with other weighty concepts. I find myself energized by this holiday to make the most of my existence and to make this world a better place.

The earlier part of the week was productive. On Monday I participated in the MedStar-Georgetown retreat, led by Neil Weissman and Bob Clarke. We learned a lot about the many opportunities for collaboration and I am encouraged by the growing alignment of the MedStar and Georgetown research missions. On Tuesday I spent much of the day with colleagues from Hackensack University Medical Center as we work to better define our joint strategic priorities, milestones and timelines.

I spent Thursday at Fox Chase Cancer Center, where I used to work, as a member of the Center’s External Advisory Board. It was very nice to see old friends and to get to better know their new Center Director, Rich Fisher. Scrutinizing the work of another cancer center is particularly useful to me as I prepare for our upcoming site visit on October 3. I have probably crossed the line of obsession with regard to my 30-minute overview, but I am determined to set up the entire day by telling the story of our terrific cancer center.

With the upcoming site visit, every spare minute I have is spent on my presentation, or in reading through the application. I can’t wait for October 4!

Have a great week.


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Sep 08 2013

Back in the Swing of Things

by at 9:25 am

By now, everyone is back in the swing of things following the Labor Day holiday weekend. Needless to say, the past work week has been consumed by preparations for the CCSG site visit. We are rounding into shape, and our next milestone is a mock site visit on September 11.

My week was truncated by the earliest start to Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) that I can remember. We had the most interesting sermon – not on Syria or the Middle East, but rather on the components of religious identification. The key elements were described as the three B’s – Belonging, Behavior and Belief. Many religions are grounded in an orthodoxy of Belief, but in Judaism the senses of Belonging (a shared cultural identify) and Behavior (cultural values translating to actions, and for some, ritual observances such as the Kosher laws) are for many Jews more important than Belief. So, it was a most thought-provoking way to commence a new year – in many ways, each person can consider the relative proportions of each of the B’s in their own lives.

I think this way of parsing religious identification resonates for the work we do here at Georgetown. Certainly there are elements of belonging (to the university, to the cancer center, and to each other), behavior (how we interact with each other) and belief (our shared conviction that we are here to do something important and special). However, each of these components can and should be strengthened. Each of us will decide which of these components matters most, and can think about how to strengthen it. This can occur in many different ways – individually and collectively. And we have a great opportunity to make common cause with our MedStar colleagues. On Sunday and Monday there is a joint GU-MedStar research retreat that represents a step towards creating a commonly shared sense of belonging. Unfortunately, I missed the Sunday sessions because Harriet and I needed to attend two separate funerals in Philadelphia, but I look forward to very interesting sessions on Monday.

The coming week promises to be very busy. I hope your week is productive too!


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