Archive for May, 2014


May 25 2014

Happy Memorial Day!

by at 2:39 pm

Greetings on a fabulous Memorial Day Sunday afternoon. It has been a real family weekend, and we are having a ball. I actually played golf today for the first time all year. I was doing OK until my back went out on the 16th hole–and there went the round. But the weather and company were fabulous. And my back will get better, I imagine.

Though I am still flying high after David’s graduation last weekend, the past week was very busy. Monday started out with a meeting at the NIH of the Center for Scientific Research Advisory Board to review new ideas for research grant reviews. I had important dinner meetings on Monday and Tuesday related to the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Network, and was pleased to learn that therapeutic patient accruals are very much on the upswing at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. This is critically important for our cancer center, and we are getting patient referrals for clinical trials from as far away as Memorial Sloan Kettering. The work days were also interspersed with several fundraising activities, so I ended up not eating any meals at home for about 2 1/2 days!  It wasn’t all work; my birthday was on Wednesday, so Harriet I had a lovely meal at Ris, a restaurant in the West End. My Thursday clinic was modestly busy, and I also worked on two upcoming ASCO presentations, three papers, a grant or two, and the review of one of NCI intramural programs for the Board of Scientific Counselors. The holiday weekend started for us a bit early, on Friday, as we went up to Baltimore for Grandparents’ Day at Isaac’s day care. There is nothing like seeing our grandchild in his classroom to remind me of how precious life is, and how important our work is, as we aim to sustain and protect the lives of our patients and people who will never have to be our patients. On that note, let’s not forget to be thankful for the ultimate sacrifices of so many servicemen and servicewomen who have protected our freedom and security in the distant and recent past. We honor their sacrifices through our remembrance and ongoing work.

Enjoy the holiday and have a great week!

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May 18 2014

Graduations and Moments of Transcendence

by at 10:35 pm

I have been lucky enough to have a few days in my life that have been simply transcendent. Some of these days have resulted from achingly beautiful private moments, while others have been what one might expect – marriages, births, and family and professional life events. These moments comprise my internal highlight reel, and I return to them frequently in quiet moments as sources of inspiration and reflection.

I had one such experience on Sunday, when our son David and his fiancee Kelly graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine. Our crazy long weekend started on Wednesday, when our oldest son Ken called from a local emergency room near Philadelphia. He had been bitten by a feral cat he was caring for in his veterinary practice, and had developed a whopping cellulitis and high fever. He was admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics, and we drove up that evening to be sure he was ok and treated properly. I had to cancel some meetings, but fortunately had gotten a lot of stuff done earlier in the week.

Fortunately he did well, so I took the train back to DC the next morning for my afternoon clinic, and Harriet drove back down later that day with my father. My Friday was dominated by an all day meeting of the NIH Board of Scientific Counselor Chairs to discuss ways to invigorate the Intramural Research Programs and the Clinical Center. We spent Saturday setting up for the Sunday festivities with Kelly’s family. The medical school graduation was held on Sunday, and I had the privilege of being on stage at the Warner Theater, and hooded both David and Kelly, welcoming them to a noble profession. The Weiner and Scriven clans used all 16 allotted tickets, each of which came equipped with about a million goosebumps. Ken was discharged from the hospital in time to make it to the graduation, and came with his wife Sarah and Ella. Elana, Ben and Isaac drove in too from Baltimore. And, I should add that Georgetown really knows how to do ceremonies well.

After a GUMC reception on the Podium we returned to our house for a party. In addition to the graduation attendees, some of our closest friends and family joined us, several of whom drove in from Philadelphia just for the party. These friends included David’s two best friends (and their parents, all dear friends) from when he was about 3 years old – one is now a fourth year medical student at Boston University and the other helps run the Philadelphia airport. Sharing this remarkable event with so many of the people we love gave the experience even more depth and meaning. We are so proud of David and his accomplishments, and cannot wait to see how his life unfolds over the next few years. He is a remarkable young man, with a perfect blend of sharp intellect, piercing wit, keen imagination and a huge heart. And Kelly is all that and more!

As wonderful as the week turned out (and as concerned we were earlier, when Ken was ill) I must confess that I am pretty tired, and am looking forward to a less exciting but productive next few days. I hope you have a great week too.

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May 11 2014

194,510 reasons to be grateful

by at 10:50 am

Dear Friends,

On behalf of all the people we serve here at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, please accept my heartfelt thanks for your simply extraordinary effort to raise money that supports the Avon Foundation’s breast cancer programs. As a major recipient of Avon funds, Georgetown Lombardi and Capital Breast Care Center are able to provide potentially life saving breast cancer screening services to nearly 2,000 underserved women every year; without this service many of these women would have nowhere else to turn. Every year one or more of these women is found to have an early stage breast cancer that is detected and treated at an early curable stage. So, while your blisters may have healed, your impact persists. Your two days on the walk (and all the training!) did more than you think – you saved a life or two!

Obviously, the “long road” metaphor resonates in so many ways. We are making huge strides in reducing the mortality of breast cancer, but so much more work remains for the gains to be greater and the side effects of treatments less devastating. That is what Georgetown Lombardi aims to do, and CBCC is how we reach into the community to ensure that our efforts can make a difference to our most vulnerable neighbors.

Speaking of strides, how about a few more numbers? 58 walkers x 39 miles = 2,262 miles – basically the distance from Washington, DC to Phoenix, AZ. Assuming the average walker trained at least 39 miles in preparation for the walk, we are talking about a round trip, or roughly 4,500 miles. And if each walker averages about 2,000 steps per mile, we are now talking about 9 million steps this year by the Lombardi/CBCC team to address the problem of breast cancer here and around the world. I don’t know how many more steps it will take to eradicate breast cancer, but this team is making a difference!

When Harriet and I first moved to DC we attended the Avon Walk as the only two cheerers for a team of five walkers that raised $9,000. Here we are six years later, with the most money raised in the DC Walk, and one of the biggest and best fundraising teams in the nation. How did this happen? Two words: Jeannie Mandelblatt. The Captain. The Inspiration. The Knitter. The Organizer. The Mom. The Best. Did I mention that Jeannie is also a world class researcher whose work has directly changed the way we screen for breast cancer in this country? She makes me proud to lead this great cancer center, to devote my life to an important cause and to support the Avon Walk. Thank you, Jeannie.

Harriet and I will be out of town for the team party, but we’ll be there in spirit, and with a little treat for the walkers. It’s almost time to start training for the 2015 Walk. See you then!

Warm regards,


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May 04 2014

A Number One Team Lombardi/CBCC

by at 7:58 pm

This has been a very interesting past week for me. The weekend was highlighted by a remarkably full Saturday. Harriet and I made it to the start of this year’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, promptly at 6 am.  The Lombardi team, #1 in the region in size and in money raised, was there in full force. After a brief welcome ceremony, the walk started at 7 am. We walked with the group until about 9 am (roughly 5 miles), and then peeled off, headed home, changed and then went to the very nice former home of Katherine Graham (who owned the Washington Post) to attend the annual Garden Brunch in honor of the White House Correspondents’ Weekend. I received an invitation last week from the grateful spouse of a Lombardi patient. It was a fairly surreal experience – aside from the hosts, the only person i knew personally was Ron DePinho, President of MD Anderson Cancer Center. However we saw and/or spoke with a number of media and Hollywood celebrities, including David Gregory, Patrick Stewart, Valerie Jarrett, and members of the casts of the television shows Scandal, Glee, Modern Family, Dallas, House of Cards and Veep. We particularly enjoyed speaking with Tony Hale, from Veep; he was charming, insightful and genuinely interested in why funding for research has not increased. It was a unique experience for us, but I must say that once is more than enough for me.

The Sunday conclusion of the Avon Walk was memorable and rewarding. Harriet and I walked another five miles, though our efforts paled in comparison with the other walkers, who traversed the entire 39.3 miles over two days. Kudos yet again to Jeannie Mandelblatt for her leadership, and to all the members of the team who have once again earned my admiration for their dedication to this incredibly important cause. I would guess that the group walked about 2400 miles this weekend, and logged another 5000 miles in training for the Walk. That’s a lot of blisters, and a lot of love, too.

On Wednesday, a group of Lombardi clinicians and clinical researchers presented at a luncheon conference for foreign embassy physicians who refer patients for cancer care in the United States. It was very successful and we opened up a lot of eyes. I must say I too was impressed by the quality and depth of excellence that we demonstrated.  I missed Bill Kaelin’s talk on Friday because I spent the day at NCI, participating in a Strategic Planning meeting for the Intramural Research Program. It was incredibly interesting to get a sense of the big and highly impactful projects that were brought up for discussion. Sometimes, tough economic times enforce a level of rigor and scientific discipline that lead to important new initiatives. I have seen that happen at Lombardi, and see similar trends evolving at the NCI. Speaking of Bill, I was lucky enough to spend some time with him at dinner on Thursday night; he has so many great ideas about science and how it should be organized.

Meanwhile, I continue to be working hard on papers, grants, our clinical and clinical research programs and budget planning. It was a busy and productive week, and the coming week promises to be every bit as busy.

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