Greenebaum Cancer Center Recognizes Compassion, Humility in Two Staff Members

Two University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center staff members were recently honored with 2015 Greenebaum Compassion Awards.  Medical assistant Heather Thomas and clinical nurse Thi Nguyen, RN, were nominated by their coworkers for exemplifying the qualities of compassion and humanitarianism while providing care for their patients.

Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum, for whom the Cancer Center is named, established the special award in 2007 to recognize staff members who go well beyond their normal duties and demonstrate extraordinary compassion, hope and dignity.

Thomas, a medical assistant at the Stoler Outpatient Lymphoma clinic, received not just one nomination, but four. Sharon Otto, RN, Seung Tae Lee, MD, Jennifer Cash, RN, and Arnob Banerjee, MD, PhD, all described Thomas as willing to go the extra mile for her patients, no matter the circumstances. She has been known to call patients to see how they are feeling or even simply to wish them a Happy Birthday.

“[Thomas] anticipates their needs and really makes them feel understood and cared for,” Cash says. “She will stop whatever she is doing if a patient stops her to see if she can help them. She is a wonderful team player, and I have never heard her say ‘no’ to anyone.”

Otto describes Thomas as the “epitome of calmness” and adds “our patients, our staff and the physicians all feel safe and comforted when Heather is involved.”

Nguyen works in the Greenebaum Cancer Center’s aphaeresis lab , providing treatments such as stem cell collection, photophoresis and leukodepletion. Nominated by Kathy Holden, RN, Nguyen inspires her coworkers to strive for the outstanding level of commitment, empathy and passion she displays on a daily basis. Holden says Nguyen is always looking for ways to make her patients’ procedures more effective and less taxing. Her passion for healing goes beyond her written job description.

“During conversations about the sometimes long hours and overtime, Thi has expressed to me: ‘I don’t care about that. I think about the patient and how they need that to survive, so I will do it. I don’t even care if I get paid,’” Holden says.

Nguyen’s concern for the patient’s welfare also doesn’t go unnoticed by those she helps treat. Holden says she has seen patients with tears in their eyes, thanking Nguyen for “saving their lives.”  Nguyen also becomes “overwhelmed with heartbreak” when a client has complications, and “noticeably rejoices with them for reaching milestones for recovery.”

Greenebaum Cancer Center staff members nominate their own colleagues for the annual Compassion Awards, are nominated by and a committee representing various Cancer Center departments selects the winners. As award recipients, Nguyen and Thomas each received a $2,500 cash award, and had their names added to the Compassion Award display in the Stoler Pavilion waiting area.

Colon Cancer Diagnosis Turns Runner Into Motivated Fundraiser

By Steve Berry

Mindy, Steve and Ashley
Steve Berry, with his wife Mindy (left) and Ashley Kelso, who is running for Steve.

Update: Steve’s colon cancer surgery on April 16 went well. His doctor told him there is no sign of cancer in his body, and that he does not need further treatment. As for the Maryland Half Marathon, Steve plans to attend the race — for which he’s raised more than $2,100 for the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center — and hopes to begin running again soon.

Last fall, my wife Mindy and I started running to get in better shape. To help our motivation and improve our technique, we joined an introductory running class at Fleet Feet in Annapolis. We discovered running with a group not only is a motivator but makes it fun, and the support is incredible.

We ran with our group through the winter – including the Snowmageddon event in February. We noticed we were losing weight and in general felt better. We ran three times a week, then four and sometimes we made it to five. The members of the group supported and encouraged each other. If one did not show the others would ask him why. We stuck with it, and the graduation ceremony from class was a 5K fun run in February. The Maryland Half Marathon was waiting at the finish line, and in a moment of runner’s high I signed us up.

I will admit there was no philanthropic motivation for running the race. The fundraiser for the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center was incidental. We would try to raise a little money, but our main purpose in running was to keep motivated to train. Having a goal is a great incentive. How ironic that just a few weeks after signing up our lives, and motivation for the run, would be turned upside down.

On March 25 I was shockingly diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery is scheduled for today. Unfortunately, I will be unable to run, or even walk, the race. But I will be there. Our friend and running coach, Ashley Kelso, will be running in my place.

Because I have been running I am more physically fit than I have been in years. I have lost 20 pounds and have more energy. That is 20 pounds less of me the doctor has to go through to get to the cancer. The miles I have put in will aid in my recovery over the next weeks and months.

Now our goal has changed. We want to raise a lot more money for the Greenebaum Cancer Center. And we are. When people have found out they have been so generous. Each time we receive an email that another donation has come in, it gives us that much more strength to face what is coming. Each word of encouragement posted is like a hug through the Internet and helps our spirits soar.

It is important you know I am 51 years old and there is no history of colon cancer in my family. If I had not had a colonoscopy, my cancer would not have been found. Do not wait to get screened.

Please visit my Maryland Half Marathon racing page to make a donation. Any support, financial or otherwise, is greatly appreciated, and all financial donations are 100% tax deductible. Every small act of kindness is a source of encouragement. Thank you for considering this cause in your charitable giving.

Your prayers (vibes, candles, positive thoughts and encouragement) are welcome and needed. Thank you for being a part of this journey.