Support Services at MedStar Georgetown

Chaplain/Spiritual Support

The Department of Mission and Pastoral Care provides spiritual and emotional support to patients, families and staff through sacramental and liturgical ministries as well as spiritual presence and conversation. An interfaith team of chaplains and volunteers serves people of every religious affiliation who are receiving inpatient or outpatient care at MedStar Georgetown.

Mission and Pastoral care provides:

  • Religious services and Masses
  • Patient visits by a chaplain
  • Sacramental ministry
  • Spiritual resources for all faith traditions
  • 24 hour on call coverage
  • Ethical Decision making counseling
  • Televised religious services on Channel 2 on Hospital televisions
  • Clinical Pastoral Education

For more information please call: 202-444-3030

Genetics Counseling

Genetic counseling is an important part of managing cancer risk. A genetic counselor can offer information, review testing options, interpret test results, recommend appropriate screening and risk reduction strategies, and provide support resources to individuals and their families.

Certified genetics counselors:

For more information click here or call 202-444-2223.

Nutrition Counseling

Balanced nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment and survivorship.  A healthful diet can improve treatment outcomes as well as help to rebuild your body’s cells and improve energy levels.  Our registered dietitian, who has special training in oncology nutrition, will work with you and other members of your health care team to customize a nutrition plan that fits with your diagnosis and treatment plan.  Our dietitian can help you learn more about foods, vitamins, herbs, and supplements as well as address changes in appetite or weight, and help manage the side effects of cancer treatment.  Speak with a member of your healthcare team to arrange a meeting with our registered dietitian.

Certified Nutrition Counseling

  • Rachel J. Wong, RD, CSO, LD

For more information call 202-444-7423.

Palliative Medicine

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialty of medicine focused on treating the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness for patients and their families. It provides an added layer of support for patients and at all stages of any serious illness, whatever the prognosis. Central to this care is the communication and coordination of treatment options to maximize quality of life for patients, according to the individual patient’s goals and aspirations.


MedSstar Georgetown University Hospital focuses on palliative medicine in an effort to care for the whole person.  An inpatient consult service provides care to hospitalized patients with serious illness. An outpatient palliative medicine clinic provides excellent continuity of care outside of the hospital.  At this time, our outpatient services are able to accommodate Lombardi Cancer Center patients receiving active cancer treatment.

What We Do

Palliative care is a team approach to care. The core team includes doctors, nurses and social workers; all palliative care specialists. Pharmacists, nutritionists, artists, musicians, chaplains and others may also be part of the team.

  • Our team spends as much time as necessary with you and your family. We become a partner with you, your family and your other doctors. We support you and your family every step of the way, not only by controlling your symptoms, but also by helping to guide you through your treatment options and goals.
  • Working together with your primary doctor, our palliative care team provides:
  • Specialized management of pain and other symptoms.
  • Integrated communication between your care team members, including primary care and specialists.
  • Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices.
  • Emotional and spiritual support for you and your family.
  • Coordinated transitions of care and answers to questions about prognosis.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a palliative care specialist, call 202-444-1845.

Patient Advocacy/International Services

If you have a question or concern, the first place to turn is to your physician, nurse coordinator or another member of your healthcare team. In the event the staff is unable to assist you to your satisfaction, or you have a special concern or need, please contact one of our Patient Advocates. The Patient Advocate provides advocacy and assistance to patients/ families and physicians in all care settings and act as liaisons between patients, physicians, hospital staff and departments to recognize or remove obstacles to providing high quality care.

Advocates can be contacted Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 5:30 pm at 202-444-3040 or by pager through the Patient Care Line at: 202-444-CARE ( 2273).

On weekends or after hours please contact the Patient Care Line or Clinical Administrator through the hospital page operator at: 202-444-PAGE ( 7243).

MedStar Georgetown's International Services department provides support to embassies and international organizations headquartered in Washington, D.C. and the many patients and their families traveling from overseas for medical care or physician consultation. For all international patients, we are here to ensure smooth navigation of our hospital and that all medical needs are met. Through the International Services Department, international patients have full access to all of MedStar Georgetown's expert physicians, cutting edge treatments and technologies and advanced clinical programs. So, no matter what the medical need, international patients can rest assured that they will receive the very best in care.

International services can be contacted Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 202-444-1588 or emailing [email protected]

Social Work

Here at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, we recognize that a diagnosis of cancer affects many aspects of life. Emotional distress, practical concerns, lack of energy, communication with family members- any or all of these may become an issue when someone is receiving treatment for cancer. To address these needs, Lombardi has a team of oncology certified social workers who help navigate the many unexpected needs that may arise due to cancer and its treatment. Our social workers are available, free of charge, to assist our patients and their families with a range of services that can reduce stress during any phase of care.


  • Coping with new diagnosis, including practical needs.
  • Emotional concerns, worry, fear, sadness.
  • Helping patients better understand benefits such as social security, disability and insurance related issues.
  • Counseling and psychotherapy options both at the Lombardi Cancer Center and in the community.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help reduce stress.
  • Advanced directives and long term planning options.
  • Support groups
  • Finding the best ways to talk to children and loved ones about their diagnosis

New patients are encouraged to complete a Distress Screening Questionnaire (iPad) upon their first visit to the Lombardi Clinic. This screening assists our social workers in providing support that is tailored to each individual patient’s needs.

All of our social workers have received special certification by the Association of Oncocology Social Work (AOSW)

Please feel free to contact one of our Social Workers:

  • Joanne Assarsson- 202-444-3755
  • Leonard Ellentuck- 202-444-6288
  • Cheryl Hughes – 202-444-3020

Distress Screening

Cancer is a complex disease that affects many different parts of a patient’s life. The stress that may develop may be difficult to recognize and manage. For this reason the National Comprehensive Cancer Network requires that every NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center assess patients for cancer related distress. We at the Lombardi Cancer Center believe that addressing the social and emotional concerns associated with cancer can improve the quality of life of patients and their family members. iPad stands are available near the registration desk for you to complete a private electronic questionnaire. The information will assist the social worker and your health care teams formulate a treatment plan that is tailored to meet your specific needs.

Support Groups

The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a number of free, professionally facilitated support groups for individuals struggling with cancer.   Groups can help you gain confidence in your ability to manage the many emotional and physical challenges associated with a cancer diagnosis in a safe and supportive environment.  Come learn from others who have “walked in your shoes” and share what works well for you while learning how others may have addressed a similar situation. Please consider joining one of the groups listed below.

Current Support Groups – Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer

  • Bone Marrow Transplant Group – Offered on the 1st Wednesday of the month from 2pm-3pm for individuals who are pre- or post –transplant. Please contact Joanne Assarsson, LICSW, OSW-C to register at 202-444-3755.
  • Colorectal Support and Resource Group – Open to cancer patients and their caregivers  Please call Leonard Ellentuck LICSW, OSW-C to register at 202-444-6288.
  • Look good… Feel Better – This free, non-medical program is facilitated by trained volunteer cosmetologists who teach women how to cope with skin changes and hair loss using cosmetics and skin care products donated by the cosmetic industry.  Group meets on the 4th Monday of the month from 9:30am-11:30am.  Note: No groups offered in August and December. Please contact Joanne Assarsson, LICSW, OSW-C to register at 202-444-3755.
  • Oral Head and Neck Cancer Group – This is a group for individuals and their caregivers that address the practical and emotional issues related to diagnosis, treatment and recovery.  Group meets on the 3rd Wednesday of the month from 1:30 -3:00 p.m. Please contact Joanne Assarsson, LICSW, OSW-C to register at 202-444-3755.

**Groups are based on need, and may be added or closed periodically. Please contact the individual group facilitator to confirm the group’s availability.

Additional support groups co-facilitated by Lombardi Oncology Social Workers but located off site are detailed below.

  • General Cancer Support Group – Open to patients with any cancer diagnosis.  Group meets weekly from 6:00pm-7:30pm at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street, NW Washington 20009. Please call Kiersten Gallagher to register-202-483-8600.
  • DC Young Adults with Cancer – Offers young adult patients (ages 19-39) an opportunity to connect with others (in the DC area) who are dealing with similar cancer-related issues and concerns.  This group meets monthly on a Sunday evening from 5:30pm-7:00pm at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street, NW Washington 20009.  Please call Kiersten Gallagher to register-202-483-8600.


Cancer survivorship focuses on the health and life of a person with cancer post treatment until the end of life. It covers the physical, psychosocial, and economic issues of cancer, beyond the diagnosis and treatment phases. Survivorship includes issues related to the ability to get health care and follow-up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers, and quality of life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also considered part of the survivorship experience.