At the 47th Annual ONS Congress, CURE® Media group honored oncology nurses at their 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award ceremony.
CURE® Media Groups’ Extraordinary Healer® award recognizes oncology nurses who go above and beyond to care for their patients. This year, Margaret Campbell, BSN, RN, was selected as the exemplary oncology nurse most deserving of the title.
Essays were submitted by colleagues, patients and family members that identified Campbell, two finalists and almost 100 other Extraordinary Healer® nominees, all detailing the noble acts of oncology nurses, from staging a last-minute wedding for a patient who had days to live, to spending more than a decade guiding a patient through their breast cancer journey.
The Extraordinary Healer® award was given April 27, during a hybrid celebration held in conjunction with the 47th Annual Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress.
The night featured a keynote address from award-winning actor, producer and cancer advocate, Patrick Dempsey. During his speech, Dempsey, who is best known for his portrayal of Dr. Derek Shepherd on the hit ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy,” discussed his mother’s journey with ovarian cancer as well as what led him to spearhead the Dempsey Center in Lewiston, Maine, in 2008.
Moreover, Dempsey recollected on being live in-person again for the first time in several years and expressed his gratitude to all in attendance — both in Anaheim, California, and those watching around the world.
“Why are we here?” he asked. “What is our purpose in life? (It is) to lift up the people who are in need to give them the love (and) compassion (that) they so deserve.”
Campbell, a research nurse who has been working at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston since 2003, was nominated by her colleague, Nancy Lin, MD, associate chief of the Division of Breast Oncology in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber.
Lin referred to Campbell as a “quiet hero,” who despite very little recognition—she is often not included as an author on published studies and doesn’t present medical data to an audience of her peers — balances patient obligations with the demands of the trials that have allowed for new advances in the breast cancer space to be made.
“I have witnessed how Margaret always goes above and beyond in communicating with patients and delivering outstanding clinical care,” Lin wrote in her nominating essay. “She takes extra care to make sure that all trial requirements are met, while also asking patients about other commitments (vacations, graduations, weddings) so that the scheduling can be adjusted to accommodate important events in patients’ lives. She advocates for her patients in ways big and small. In short, she cares for the whole person.”
The other two finalists for the Extraordinary Healer® award were Livia Szeto, BSN, RN, OCN, a research nurse at University of Chicago Medicine, and Tammy Allred, RN, OCN, a nurse navigator at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Achieving a Childhood Dream
Allred was nominated by Darlene Burns, of Hampstead, North Carolina. In her nominating essay, Burns expressed that Allred had a dream as a child to have a mobile clinic to help treat children in indigent communities around the United States.
Although the allure of driving a mobile clinic faded after her graduation in 1985, she found interest in the newly emerging specialty of cancer care. Burns wrote that Allred saw oncology care as an opportunity to heal the human spirit, if not their disease.
And for the past 16 years, Allred has been doing just that as a nurse navigator at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“It’s my dream job,” Allred said. “I look at every one of my patients as if they were my family members, and I treat them as I would be treated. I build close relationships with patients, and they know they can call me day or night if they need anything. One of my patients with metastatic cancer and kidney failure totaled his pickup truck while driving to dialysis. He talked to me about ending his life the day he totaled his car because he felt like he was fighting a losing battle, having cancer, kidney disease and now, no way to get to dialysis. We are working to arrange for in-home peritoneal treatment, and I’m working with agencies to get him a new truck. We saved him by showing him we care.”
Driving Research With Compassion
Szeto was nominated by her colleague, Christine Bestvina, MD, of University of Chicago, who highlighted her dedication and loyalty to her patients. Of note, Szeto has worked at the University of Chicago since 1987.
“For the majority of her career, she has served as an oncology nurse navigator, working primarily in thoracic oncology,” Bestvina wrote in her essay. “I have been at the University of Chicago on faculty for less than five years and having Livia’s foundational knowledge of the university and those who work here has been essential. Throughout her years, she has facilitated strong relationships across disciplines, from interventional radiology to intravenous therapy to bed access. She is able to use all of these relationships to improve care of her patients by enabling early access to services our patients desperately need.”
Bestvina also commended Szeto’s ability to connect to her patients in a manner that she is able to elicit a patient’s sensitive information, from illicit drug use to fears at the end of life. Bestvina said that by enabling her patients to express their needs and sensitive information, it allows the providers to take better care of the patients.
Originally a clinical trial nurse, Szeto became a nurse navigator 6 years ago and is now able to help care for patients both enrolled in trials and those who are not.
“That way the patient doesn’t have to interact with so many different nurses,” Szeto explained. “There’s just one primary nurse taking care of the patient. The navigator role can be pretty complex. You’re not only taking care of the patient but the family as well, helping them find their way through the health care system. They encounter many different specialties and need someone to help them understand them all.”
Kristie L. Kahl, vice president of content at MJH Life Sciences, the parent company of CURE Media Group, spoke from the heart and highlighted a personal experience that spotlighted the effect oncology nurses have on their patients as well as their loved ones.
“As I sat down to think about what I wanted to say to highlight how far we’ve come in the cancer space in just 20 years, I’d be remiss not to share my own story and appreciation for every one of you in this room,” she said.
Kahl was referencing the cancer space over the past two decades as 2022 marks CURE®’s 20th year in circulation. She recalled her childhood friend, Krista, who had been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma at the age of 15 in 2003 — just 1 year after CURE®’s founding. Although doctors gave Krista a poor prognosis, she had no evidence of disease 8 months later. However, in 2005, the disease returned and had spread to her lungs. Kahl expressed how she and her friends would spend their weekends visiting Krista at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where, she said, she learned how valuable oncology nurses were.
“It was then, to me, each and every single one of you in this room became a hero to me,” she said. “Before working for CURE, before anything, you all in this room wore a cape in my eyes. I was only 15, but the impact that Krista’s nurses had on my life in addition to hers, are indescribable.”
As Kahl continued and noted that Krista died from her disease in 2007, she said she couldn’t help but look back at how far the space has come since.
“And a large part of that success is each and every one of you sitting in this room tonight,” she concluded.
Erik Lohrmann, vice president of CURE Media Group, acknowledged those who made the event possible.
“Our industry partners, BMS and J & J. On behalf of MJH Life Sciences and all attending, thank you for making tonight possible,” he said. “My CURE staff, who work unbelievably hard to bring our events to fruition, Thank you! Lastly, and the reason we’re here tonight: the oncology nursing community. CURE is proud to shine a spotlight on a profession that routinely goes above and beyond for cancer patients. Thank you for all you do.”
Lohrmann continued, saying, “(This event) provides (us) an opportunity to recognize those that dedicate their careers (and) their lives, to helping patients. Renewing perspective, reminding us why we entered the health care field.”
“I speak on behalf of myself and CURE® in that we appreciate those who serve on the frontline during what can be one of the scariest and most overwhelming experiences a patient and their loved ones can face,” Kahl, said during the ceremony. “I would like to thank all of the frontline workers with us tonight for everything you have done in the last 2 years, never skipping a beat to ensure your patients could continue treatments as the COVID-19 virus turned many of our world’s upside down. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.”