Students Stand by Patients at Lombardi
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 01:10
Through Relay for Life, students fundraise for cancer research and provide personal support for cancer patients. A new organization, Take the Fight, is turning that personal support long-term by partnering students with recently diagnosed cancer patients at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The students will serve as advocates for their patients, with duties ranging from attending their partners’ appointments to keeping medical information organized, a structure developed last year at Wake Forest University, home of the organization’s only other chapter.
“It’s a very interactive process, not at all observation,” founder Jamie Schlarbaum (NHS ’15) said. “You’re basically your patient’s health advocate … all the while walking that fine line between not undermining the physician and not taking too much action for your patient.”
Take the Fight board member Margaret Krackeler (NHS ’16) said participants in the program will play a vital role in their assigned patient’s battle with cancer.
“The undergraduate students are really valuable because they’re interested in this, so then they can go out and do research,” Krackeler said. “They can provide extra information or ask more questions that maybe the patient wouldn’t have the energy or the time to do.”
According to Robyn Lessans, a junior at Wake Forest involved in the program, volunteers have the opportunity to help their patients take an increasingly enterprising approach to their disease.
“[Patients] can take such a more proactive role in their own treatment,” Lessans said. “There are so many different therapies that are offered, clinical trials that they could be involved with that maybe their doctor doesn’t know about, so it’s our role to help explain to the patient about their cancer so that they become an expert on their cancer.”
Applications to join Georgetown’s chapter are due Nov. 10. Members will attend an orientation in January before beginning to work with patients.
Physicians and nurses at the Lombardi center will identify patients they think would benefit from the program, and patients will also have the opportunity to opt in on their own. Participating patients can choose which volunteers they want to partner with after viewing brief video clips of the students.
“It’s kind of trailblazing something into healthcare that could revolutionize healthcare,” Take the Fight board member Kathleen Osea (NHS ’16) said.
Christine Tea, assistant vice president of clinical relations at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, was hopeful that the program would benefit patients at the center.
“We are very pleased to be working with the exceptional students of Georgetown to offer this incredible program to our patients,” Tea said. “Take the Fight offers a unique approach in arming patients with the confidence, knowledge and support to fight their disease.”