ATLANTAEleven persons who serve cancer patients with exceptional compassion received the 2000 Lane W. Adams Award for Excellence in Caring at the American Cancer Society (ACS) Board of Directors meeting.
Originally designated for oncology nurses, the honor is now bestowed across disciplines, including social workers, physicians, clergy and chaplains, hospice workers, psychologists, and other direct care providers who exemplify what the late Lane W. Adams called the "warm hand of service."
Mr. Adams retired after 26 years as executive vice president of the ACS in 1985. At his death in 1993, he was concerned that the simultaneous rise of technology and managed care would reduce personal attention in cancer care, said Genevieve V. Foley, RN, MSN, OCN, CNAA, chair of the award committee.
The panel reviewed testimonials from co-workers, patients, and families of cancer patients to select 11 recipients who improve the quality of life for those they serve. "They have been able to overcome barriers of time and technology," said Ms. Foley, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Robert L. Perkel, MD, received the Lane Adams honor in part for a house call program he started in 1981. The program visited more than 8,000 sick Philadelphians last year. Many were cancer patients, according to Dr. Perkel, who for 4 months visited a middle-aged man with incurable colon cancer.
"Every night on my way home from hospital, I stopped at Nick’s house. There weren’t any fancy medical tests or treatments I could give him," Dr. Perkel said. He explained that he provided pain relief, but mostly he just listened to the concerns of Nick and his family.
As a clinical professor of family medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Dr. Perkel teaches his students to continue to provide general care and emotional support to cancer patientseven when oncologists and surgeons provide specialized care. He also stresses the importance of finding times to meet with the entire family when a patient is hospitalized, as the disease causes everyone to suffer.
"Patients need somebody to trust. In this crazy world of modern medicine, we are so technologically proficient, we sometimes forget we are taking care of individual human beings who have their own needs," he said. He tells his students: "I’ve never yet had a kidney or a heart walk into the office. It’s always a person who has a problem with a kidney or a heart."
New York’s Sullivan County had no oncologists when Katherine Seibert, MD, PhD, moved in 1991 to the Catskills Mountains, a faded resort region with high unemployment. Patients with cancer who had the means went to New York City for specialized oncology treatment. "Those who didn’t have the meansand there were a lot of elderly on fixed incomesgenerally did not receive treatment from an oncology specialist," she said.
Dr. Seibert built cancer care from the ground up, recruiting oncology nurses and eventually joining the staff at the Community General Hospital of Sullivan County in Harris, where she is now chief of medical oncology.
"I see all the patients together, rich and poor, Medicare and Medicaid and no insurance, in the same area," she told ONI. "We don’t have a separate clinic for the poor." She noted that the oncology program has been accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
The demands on her time did not prevent Dr. Siebert from volunteering with her sheepdog Chester when a camp for children with cancer needed an oncologist last summer. She makes a point of continuing to see patients, especially the elderly, even when the disease is incurable, focusing on comfort and quality of life. "There is a saying, ‘Don’t just stand there; do something.’ For patients at the end of life, it is the reverse. Don’t just do something; stand there. Be there for them," said Dr. Siebert, who is also a member of the Sisters of Charity of New York, a microbiologist, and former teacher.
Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, underwent mastectomy 9 years ago when she was 38, and 2 years later when she was 40. Since then she has dedicated her life to helping breast cancer patients emotionally as well as medically. The director of Education and Outreach at The Johns Hopkins Breast Center in Baltimore, Ms. Shockney founded the Waking Up Transformed Program to share her view of breast surgery as an experience that transforms women from victims to survivors.
A volunteer for numerous breast cancer organizations, Ms. Shockney gives motivational speeches almost every weekend and welcomes phone calls from patients year-round at her home.
Shortly after receiving the Lane Adams Award, she organized her first weekend retreat for 50 breast cancer survivors who had recently been patients. "One of the things that stood out very clearly to me is women need help in finding their new normal life. There’s life before breast cancer and life after breast cancer," she said. "Women try to migrate to who they were before. This is a life-altering experience."
The deadline to nominate individuals for the 2001 Lane Adams Award is November 1. For information, call the American Cancer Society at 404-329-7765.