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Inova Mount Vernon Hospital Lights Up With Love

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital was very warm last weekend, warm with the love of those who contributed to Lights of Love and warm with the enjoyment of the people who came to see the program.

Last Saturday, the hospital held its annual tree lighting ceremony preceded by a program held in the hospital lobby. Auxiliary president Harriet H. Piper greeted the holiday crowd and Joyce McCullough offered a prayer. The West Potomac Colonial Singers and the Mount Vernon Madrigal Singers were scheduled to perform but were unable to due to the cancellation of all Fairfax County Public School Saturday activities.

Four essay winners took turns reading their winning selections. Each one was thoughtfully written and dedicated a Light of Love to the students' teacher, their parents and grandfather. Megan Wessinger's essay was about how her father had been in Iraq for almost a year and how she hopes that he'll be home in time for Christmas.

Dakota Rizzo dedicated his Light to his mom and dad and said, "We jump together. We ride bikes together. My mom kisses and hugs me."

Saahirah Dan wrote about the teachers who "help children learn things like reading, writing, history, math and science and do other good things they need to learn."

Kaitlyn Kincannon from Fort Hunt Elementary School, dedicated her Light of Love to "my granddad because he was a doctor and saved many lives. Whenever there was an emergency he knew exactly what to do."

Beth Visioli, media relations specialist for Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, said a committee from the hospital auxiliary selected the four winners from a pool of 112 entries.

FOLLOWING THE essay readings, Cleve Francis, M.D., entertained the crowd iwith a number of songs. Everybody then moved upstairs to see the lighting of the trees and sing the final song, "Light up the Night." After the program, everybody enjoyed refreshments and the children enjoyed visiting with Santa.

Visioli estimated they had 220 people attend the event, slightly smaller than last year. While this is the 22nd year the hospital has hosted the tree lighting, the Lights of Love program is in its 21st year.

Visioli said that they've raised $15,000 to date, but expects more money to come in before the end of the year. This year the proceeds will be used to support a surgical Bovie device for the Wound Healing Center. This device is an electric cautery machine that is used to stop blood vessels from bleeding while a wound is being cleaned. Bill Bartlow, physician assistant for the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy department, spoke during the program, acknowledging the significance of the contribution to the department.

NOT ONLY HAS Francis been providing entertainment for the Lights of Love over the years, but he also just celebrated his 25th year of providing quality cardiac health services to the Mount Vernon community. In addition, Francis will soon complete a successful term as president of the Inova Mount Vernon Medical Staff, a role he has served since 2001.

During his term as medical staff president, Francis has been the physician representative on the Southeastern Strategy Task Force and an active member of the hospital's Planning and Program Committee.

In addition to his dedication to promoting cardiology services, Dr. Francis is an accomplished country music singer and has donated many hours performing at hospital functions and events like the recent Lights of Love holiday tree-lighting ceremony.

"Over the past 25 years, Dr. Francis has shown not only a dedication to the health of cardiac patients, but to all the Mount Vernon community," said Susan Herbert, vice president, Inova Health System, administrator, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. "In his time as medical staff president, Dr. Francis has concerned himself with the well-being of the hospital, the staff and his fellow physicians."

Francis joined the medical staff at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in 1978, and since that time has taken a leadership role in advancing cardiac services at the hospital. In 1994, Dr. Francis founded and continues to serve as co-chairman of the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.

This program, which is open to people with heart disease including congestive heart failure and peripheral artery disease (PAD) and to patients at risk of developing heart disease and those recovering from a heart attack and/or cardiac surgery, promotes positive lifestyle changes for good heart health through the education and exercise components of the program.

"I have spent my entire medical career as a cardiologist in the Mount Vernon area," said Francis. "I have enjoyed every minute working to improve the lives of our citizens."