One GW: Aligning Under One Umbrella

One GW Celebration

September 30, 2016

The line for the One GW launch, held Sept. 15, stretched far beyond the gates of the Eye Street Mall. Nearly 4,000 employees – faculty, staff, residents, and students from the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), GW Hospital, and the GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA) – passed through the mall, loading plates with Sodexo-catered jerk pork with ginger glazed pineapple and fresh corn on the cob, before taking pictures with GW mascot George Washington and posing for photo strips.

"We're delighted with the turnout today," said Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. '81, RESD '85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS. "One GW brings together the three medical entities – SMHS, GW Hospital, and the MFA – under one umbrella, and this closer alignment will allow us to better join our efforts and resources. A stronger GW brand benefits all of us, and it's this kind of community event that embodies One GW."

SMHS, GW Hospital, and the MFA have traditionally maintained a collaborative relationship, particularly with conducting groundbreaking research and educating health care professionals, but the new alignment creates a greater structure, with three primary goals: to offer patients the most comprehensive and highest quality of care possible; to train the next generation of medical professionals through technically advanced clinical techniques and modalities; and to improve patient outcomes by advancing biomedical, translational, and health services delivery research.

"As an academic medical center, GW Hospital is committed to providing the highest quality care in an environment dedicated to education and research," said Kimberly Russo, M.S., M.B.A., CEO and managing director of GW Hospital. "Our academic and medical partners play a substantial role in helping us meet that mission. This event reflects the impact that we can have when we unite to provide excellent care to the D.C. community. "

One GW also empowers physicians to participate in a shared governance model, which "provides them with a more active role in decision-making and planning for future success," said Anton Sidawy, M.D., M.P.H. '99, Lewis B. Saltz Chair and Professor of Surgery at SMHS and president of the MFA. "What we're doing will not only enhance the rich partnership of the MFA, GW Hospital, and SMHS, but it will also allow us to better serve our patients and our community."

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Dr. John Larsen, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Awarded the 2016 Hellman Midwifery Partnership Award

September 29, 2016

Congratulations to John Larsen, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology and former chair of the department, who received the 2016 Hellman Midwifery Partnership Award. The award is given annually to a Fellow of the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) who has demonstrated outstanding support for midwifery through advocacy for women, leadership in collaborative practice, and excellence in clinical, educational, or research endeavors. The award is jointly sponsored by the American College of Nurse Midwives, the A.C.N.M. Foundation, Inc., and the Midwifery Business Network.

“I am greatly honored to have received this prestigious award. Working with the nurse midwives has been a great joy in my life. The midwife culture of normal birth has brought a strong positive spirit to our collaborative antepartum and intrapartum care,” said Larsen.

Larsen, who has been an ACOG Fellow since 1976, has continuously practiced in an academic setting throughout his 40-year career. He is credited with bringing midwifery care back to The George Washington University (GW) Hospital after a more than 20-year absence. In the fall of 2009, Larsen and Whitney Pinger, MSN, midwife and associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, collaborated to expand access to comprehensive care that was evidence-based and complementary to the complex, high-risk care services already present at GW Hospital. He has been a leader in integrating midwifery care into GW’s program.

Several members of the GW Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology commented on Larsen’s leadership in this area, including Pinger, who nominated Larsen for this award, stating: “At the end of his long and illustrious career as an academic, clinician, researcher, educator, and both national and local leader in OB/GYN, he opened his mind to the idea of midwifery. He also…opened the minds of an entire institution, of an entire set of physicians, nurses, administrators, risk managers, and untold others to the idea that midwifery care was good for women and the best thing to do.”

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Larsen,” said Nancy Gaba, M.D., Oscar I. and Mildred S. Dodek and Joan B. and Oscar I. Dodek, Jr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “He is a true leader in the field of OB/GYN and midwifery. He had a clear vision of how we could better serve the women of the Washington, D.C. region with midwifery services and he established a successful and highly sought after program at GW. We are proud of his accomplishments and his commitment to the health and wellness of women and children in our community.”

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Zika Virus: A Community and Public Health Perspective

Zika virus

C.J. Trent-Gurbuz September 28, 2016

Epidemiologist Tiana Garrett, Ph.D., M.P.H., was working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, conducting open-source research when a colleague presented her with an article on ProMed, a reporting system for potential outbreaks of emerging diseases. The subject line was “Undiagnosed illness, Caxias, Brazil.”

“We had never heard of this undiagnosed disease,” Garrett recalled at the Sept. 12 lecture, sponsored by the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (SMHS) Community/Urban Health scholarly concentration and the Infectious Diseases Student Interest Group. “This was February 2015, and there really wasn’t a lot of information about this unknown disease. A couple of things we did know were that it was a disease that was affecting individuals in Brazil; we knew that it was a viral disease; and it was causing symptoms similar to what we would see with chikungunya or dengue (fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, vomiting).”

By May 2015, she said, researchers had not only determined that the unknown disease was “Zika,” but they had also confirmed the cases in Brazil were Zika, which had been initially classified as a “new virus.”

“Come to find out,” Garrett said, “it wasn’t really that new.”

As she explained to the SMHS students in the M.D. and physician assistant programs, the Zika virus traces back to the late 1940s, when it was discovered in the Zika Forest in Uganda, Africa. Isolated outbreaks subsequently occurred in Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific, and since its discovery, the virus has evolved into two different strains, one of African origin and one of Asian origin. The virus continued to spread over the years, though little media attention was paid to it until 2007, when an outbreak in Micronesia and the Yap Islands started to get notice. In 2013, Zika virus cases were found in French Polynesia, and in 2014, Brazil experienced the outbreak that has since gained significant coverage.

Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, mainly Aedes aegypti, and to a lesser extent, Aedes albopictus. In an urban environment, Garrett explained, the virus takes on an epidemic cycle, passing from mosquito to person to mosquito. It also can be transmitted vertically through pregnancy and sexually, from males to females, females to males, and males to males. There has even been at least one case of accidental exposure in a laboratory setting.

“Right now, what the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] are stating is that mosquito-borne transmission is the primary way to spread the virus,” Garrett said. “[That’s] because it’s difficult to tease out right now how big a role sex may play in the transmission of this virus and may have played in previous outbreaks.”

What researchers do know is that the virus can bide time in bodily fluids. Based on recent scientific studies, Zika virus has been found to survive in blood serum for at least seven days; breast milk for four; cervical mucus for 11; saliva for 79; semen for 188; and urine for 29 days. Plausible ways of transmission, Garrett added, are through blood transfusions, organ or tissue transplants, fertility treatments, particularly with egg and semen donations, and breastfeeding; however, she said, to date, there have been no confirmed Zika virus cases through these plausible transmission routes. The virus is also largely asymptomatic – only 20 percent of those infected experience symptoms – and what symptoms there are subside within a week.

In fall 2015, a letter published in ProMed introduced what has become a critical outcome of Zika virus infection. “This is a letter from someone who is living in Brazil at the time, and he was concerned because his pregnant wife had been infected with Zika virus,” Garrett said. “Then they found out that their daughter had microcephaly through ultrasound.” The letter writer, after noticing other pregnant women infected with the virus had similar experiences, began talking with the members of his community. He discovered what seemed to be a pattern and alerted authorities.

“This is as boots on the ground as you can get,” Garrett said. “I don’t know what this person’s background was, but they knew enough to contact ProMed.”

Microcephaly, or infants born with abnormally small heads, as well as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, are now linked with the virus, and in April, the CDC released a report acknowledging the causality, which was, Garrett said, “a really big deal.”

“Instead of just saying ‘microcephaly’ or ‘birth defects,’ now the CDC is calling the composite of these different issues ‘Congenital Zika Syndrome,’” she said.

The current outbreak in the United States, which up until recently involved travel-related cases, has been concentrated in Miami-Dade County in Florida, with independent cases in Miami Beach and the Wynwood area. Predicted hot spots are major cities along the southern and eastern stretches of the continental United States, and while there are response plans in place, Garrett explained that the spread of the virus from Brazil, through Mexico, to Florida, and farther north was “just a matter of time.”

As of now, she added, there are no treatment options, though multiple vaccines are under development, and those at risk for Zika, such as pregnant women, can get tested at CDC-approved labs. Additionally, everyone, she said, should try to prevent mosquito bites, with guidance from the D.C. Department of Health “Fight the Bite” campaign.

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Eduardo M. Sotomayor, M.D., Elected to Serve on the Board of Directors of the Association of American Cancer Institutes

Eduardo Sotomayor, M.D., director of the GW Cancer Center

Eduardo Sotomayor, M.D., director of the GW Cancer Center

September 12, 2016

The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center is pleased to announce that Eduardo M. Sotomayor, M.D., inaugural director of the GW Cancer Center, was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). Sotomayor will start a three-year term on October 23 during the AACI Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“It is a true honor to have been elected as a new member of the AACI’s board of directors,” said Sotomayor. “Being part of this prestigious group of cancer leaders gives me the opportunity to represent GW’s cancer efforts on national level, with regard to research, clinical care, prevention, and policy.”

The AACI comprises 95 leading cancer research centers in North America – including National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centers and academic-based cancer research programs that receive NCI support. The mission of the AACI is to reduce the burden of cancer by enhancing North America’s leading academic centers.

A key element of AACI's mission is to assist centers in keeping pace with the changing landscape in science, technology and health care. AACI does this by gathering and sharing best practices among cancer centers, providing a forum for its members to address common challenges and explore new opportunities, supporting initiatives that engage the membership in developing specific recommendations to the NCI, and educating policy makers about the important role cancer centers play in advancing cancer discovery.

Sotomayor was elected to this prestigious group along with Karen Knudsen, B.S. ’91, Ph.D., who is the third director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia, an NCI-designated cancer center since 1995; and Norman Sharpless, M.D., who became director of University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in January 2014.

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GW Cancer Center Appoints Michael K. Benedict to Serve as Associate Center Director for Administration and Finance

September 12, 2016

WASHINGTON (September 12, 2016) — The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center is pleased to announce that Michael K. Benedict, PharmD, has been appointed as the associate center director for administration and finance. In this role, Benedict will be responsible for the oversight and general management of the central administrative functions of the GW Cancer Center including finance, budget, compliance, recruitment, personnel, space planning, and research administration oversight.

The GW Cancer Center, established in 2015, is the umbrella organization for all of the cancer-related activities, from basic science, population sciences, and clinical research to outstanding patient care and health policy, taking place at GW. The GW Cancer Center leverages the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the GW Medical Faculty Associates, the GW Hospital, and the Milken Institute School of Public Health to enhance GW’s efforts in cancer research and patient care.

“I am thrilled to have Michael join the GW Cancer Center team. Michael is a highly accomplished and knowledgeable cancer center administrator with vast experience and a track record of success in leading the administration, research, and finance divisions. His expertise is critical to helping us build the infrastructure we need to make GW Cancer Center a leader. I know that his experiences will inform decisions that we make and help us to reach our goals,” said Eduardo Sotomayor, M.D., director of the GW Cancer Center.

Benedict will be responsible for supporting the cancer director in three major initiatives, including: philanthropy, partnerships with the private sector to establish Sponsored Research Agreements, and outreach and relationship building with the international community based in Washington, D.C. He will be directly involved with strategic planning and is responsible for ensuring the programmatic and financial objectives of the GW Cancer Center are achieved.

Benedict joins the GW Cancer Center from Georgia Regents University Cancer Center in Augusta, Georgia, where he served as the associate center director for administration. In this role, he provided administrative leadership and oversight for the clinical and research components of an emerging NCI-designated Cancer Center. Benedict was also responsible for all of the outpatient activities of the Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, including cancer clinics, infusion center, and radiation oncology. He also managed laboratory and clinical trials shared resources.

Prior to joining the Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, Benedict served as the associate center director for research administration and the vice president for research operations at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, and as the senior vice president for research operations, and the associate director for administration at the City of Hope National Medical Center/Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, California,

In addition to his important and relevant experience, he is also active in professional affiliations and committed to service within the profession. He has served on the executive committee for the Cancer Center Administrators Forum, has served on the AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting program committee, and has served as an NCI Cancer Centers site reviewers.

Benedict’s first day as the associate center director for administration and finance at the GW Cancer Center is August 31, 2016.


About the GW Cancer Center
The George Washington (GW) Cancer Center is a collaboration between the GW Hospital, the GW Medical Faculty Associates, and the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences to expand GW’s efforts in the fight against cancer. The GW Cancer Center also partners with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW, and incorporates all existing cancer-related activities at GW, serving as a platform for future cancer services and research development. Learn more about the GW Cancer Center at

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