My name is Melissa Black and I have worked in Oncology since I started working at Northwell’s Huntington Hospital in 2008.
When I was 15 years old, my mother lost her battle with lung cancer. Since then, becoming a nurse had always been my mission. I was truly touched by how much my mom loved and cherished her nurses – nurses who cared for her when she was a patient on the same Oncology unit where I now work all these years later. It’s like my life came full circle and I ended up exactly where I was meant to be.
My career journey with Northwell started when I was hired as a CNA. I became a unit secretary in 2010, a position I held for seven years up until I became an Oncology RN in March 2018. I consider myself so lucky to have been able to spend all 12 years growing my skills on the same unit at Huntington Hospital. Being surrounded by the Oncology teammates and managers who have been with me from the start has made my career transitions that much easier. Northwell’s tuition reimbursement program helped to lighten the financial burden as I obtained my nursing degree. The support of my colleagues and leaders throughout school was a tremendous part of my success.
I feel my experiences give me insight when I’m caring for our cancer patients since I can relate to what they are going through. By helping my patients and their families heal and cope with how cancer has affected their lives, I’ve been simultaneously helping heal myself as well.
I became a nurse because I wanted to be that sunshine in a patient’s life while they are in the hospital dealing with some of their darkest days. I wanted to be that someone the patient looked forward to seeing walk through their door, because they know I will try my best to support them through their pain, their sadness, and their fears. This has to be one of my favorite things about my job, knowing that sometimes just my mere presence plays a part in a patient’s healing. I feel lucky to be a part of a patient’s journey.
Becoming a nurse and caring for patients with cancer has made me better able to appreciate how beautiful and fragile life is. It’s a career I chose because I wanted to make a positive impact on the lives of my patients, but it’s the impact they make on MY LIFE that truly reinforces that I am exactly who I am meant to be – a nurse!
Clinical laboratories, like those you’ll find at Monter Cancer Center and our Imbert Cancer Center, serve a crucial role in the assessment and treatment of oncology patients. Our laboratories work together to deliver precise, accurate test results to ensure patients get the right treatment.
Meet some of the members of our oncology clinical laboratory team who are making a difference at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, where we provide cancer care to more New Yorkers than any other healthcare provider.
La Donna’s decade of lab experience has provided a lot of insight into how a laboratory technologist can work collaboratively with the entire care team. Her peers and colleagues at Northwell share a remarkable commitment to excellence in patient care and patient experience.
La Donna was initially drawn to oncology lab work because of the pace and the emphasis on accuracy and precision. And at Northwell, she’s convinced that our commitment to emerging diagnostic technologies will keep her skills sharp while allowing her to actually contribute to the innovation taking place.
However, the greatest reward for La Donna is her sense of fulfillment and impact on the lives of others: “Your work makes a remarkable difference in patient care for one of the most vulnerable patient populations. Even though lab technologists are mostly unseen, I know that I’m a big part of each patient’s visit.”
Yolanda came to Northwell with more than two decades of lab technology experience. She was drawn to the Hematology/Oncology Department at Monter Cancer Center because she was attracted to the commitment and excellence that the department provides.
Delivering results for patients in oncology lab requires speed, precision and accuracy. “Workflow starts with the lab results. Without the baseline results, doctors cannot diagnose; pharmacists cannot prepare the dose for chemo treatment; nurses will be awaiting instructions; and patient treatments will be delayed.”
Innovation is key to deliver the best quality of care and Yolanda believes that Monter’s newly acquired automated analyzers expedite testing times and lead to fast results for patients. It’s a perfect match between resources and culture. “It’s fulfilling when a patient’s lab result shows progress after receiving treatments. It gives such satisfaction knowing that I’m a part of their healing process while working behind the scenes.”
Since she joined Northwell Health in June 2017, Esperanza has found countless opportunities to pursue her career interests and focus on the science of the human disease processes. This passion drew her to the medical laboratory technologist role and has fueled her appreciation of the challenges she experiences at the Imbert Cancer Center.
Here her knowledge, skill sets and love of the science fit right in with Imbert’s unique mission and culture. “I love it here. It’s caring, professional, relaxing and great a place to come daily. The contribution each one of us makes creates a mountain of knowledge and significant difference impacting the care and treatment of patients.”
As the lead technologist within her department, Esperanza also mentors staff and collaborates with team members throughout the system. “Every day renews my professional commitment and intense compassion for our patients in support of an extremely caring and innovative, institution of Northwell Health.”
Peter joined Northwell in December 2016 at Long Island Jewish Medical Center as a supervisor in the hematology laboratory. He transferred to Imbert Cancer Center in April 2019 because he was drawn to oncology care and the ability to impact cancer patients directly. Compared to other employers, Northwell stands out in Peter’s mind because “they care more about the patients and their issues. They also treat the employees with respect, and admire our diversity.”
Hired as an oncology lab manager, Peter appreciates the fact that the facility is close-knit and personal. This provides him with the opportunity to help out with the practice side, the treatment side and the laboratory. He can see and experience how each section of our facility comes together to do what’s right for the patient.
“My favorite aspect of my job is greeting the patients each and every day and to personally see how they are doing. It’s also working with a great team that has the same caring attributes that I do.”
Faces of Oncology Care: Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants
The oncology team members at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute provide cancer care to more New Yorkers than any other health care provider. And with so many patients trusting the Northwell Health Cancer Institute for their treatments, our advanced clinical providers are helping make a difference on a large scale. Our nurse practitioners and physician assistants aren’t just helping our patients survive, they’re helping them thrive.
Meet some of our advanced clinical providers below and hear what makes them passionate about working in oncology care.
Working at Northwell for more than 20 years, Keara has dedicated more than half of those to oncology care. As a PA, she embraces the fact that she has the opportunity to change lives of those facing a cancer diagnosis.
“I’m no different from everyone else,” she says. “Cancer touched my life at a young age when my grandfather battled and eventually lost his life due to metastatic colon cancer. That experience changed me in a way that would shape my life.”
Being a PA allows Keara to not only deliver care to her patients, but to be there for them: “In addition to being a part of fascinating scientific discoveries, I am able to ease a patient’s fear and give them hope. I bring smiles, comfort, compassion, hugs and even laughter back into their world. We treat cancer like a chronic illness, not a terminal illness.”
Having worked in oncology outside of Northwell, Keara knows there’s no place like Northwell. “I saw firsthand how differently we care for our patients and their families through unparalleled compassion, empathy and genuine concern. I have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most wonderful nurses, doctors, and support staff I could have ever hoped for.”
Jennie Hernandez has worked at Northwell for four years at the Monter Cancer Center where she specializes in gynecologic medical oncology.
For Jennie, choosing oncology as her specialty was clear. “I always knew I would end up working in oncology,” she says. “There are a lot of exciting advancements being made and I want to be part of finding a cure for cancer.”
At Northwell, Jennie feels empowered as part of a close team that is always researching and going the extra mile to provide patients with the best care and treatment options. “Working here has helped me develop into the PA I have always wanted to be. The opportunities to help patients with the resources we have are endless and we continue to do more.”
It’s not just innovative treatments and research that makes her job worth it, but the people. In a specialty that can be emotionally difficult, Jennie finds the relationships she develops with her patients are what makes her job so special. “I could not imagine doing anything else because of the relationships I get to create with my patients and their families,” she says. “I feel like they are my family. It’s a close relationship that helps us both get through every day to make the next day an even better one.”
Starting her Northwell career as a nurse in the MICU at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) in 2011, Eva McLoughlin made the decision to return to school to become an NP.
The intricacy of bone marrow transplants piqued her interest in oncology and brought her to Monter Cancer Center after she graduated. There she works delivering care on the bone marrow transplant team: “As an NP on the bone marrow transplant team, I am able to help ensure patients have the best quality of life in their time of need.”
Eva takes pride in the fact that her actions are able to change not only a patient’s condition but their outlook. “Every day I have the opportunity to influence a patient’s life in a positive way,” she says.
With 11 years of nursing experience in breast and gynecologic cancer, Elena Palau knows the difference advanced clinical providers can make for their patients. Starting her career as a registered nurse, Elena is now the supervising nurse practitioner at Monter.
“Oncology is a dynamic practice,” says Elena. “It is difficult for the family and patient undergoing treatment and its related side effects but what is gratifying is that with excellent treatments, you may see the patient’s disease respond.”
At Monter, she finds it rewarding to work with the entire oncology care team: “I work with excellent oncologists, nurses and administrative leaders who value my work, opinion, and leadership commitment. To her the most important part of oncology care is, of course, her patients. “It’s important to make the patients understand that you care and to hear what they are saying. As an NP, I can offer clinical help and it’s very rewarding when treatment is successful.”
Faces of Oncology Care: Northwell Health Cancer Institute Research Nurses
As one of the largest cancer programs in the New York metropolitan area, the Northwell Health Cancer Institute treats more New Yorkers for cancer than any other health care provider. With the trust of so many, our oncology team members work passionately to help patients thrive.
Unique partnerships such as with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, help this goal as Northwell’s research nurses have the opportunity to work on innovative clinical trials that provide patients with the most promising treatments. And beyond just providing care, their compassion is changing the lives of our patients and their families.
Meet some of our inspiring research nurses below and hear what makes them passionate about oncology research.
Having worked at Northwell Health since 1987, Diane has been a registered nurse in various specialties including post-partum, nursery, medical/surgical, telemetry, and cardiovascular.
But Diane’s interest in clinical research was always in oncology research. “I lost my oldest sister to cancer when I was 12 years old. I witnessed firsthand the impact a cancer diagnosis can have on an entire family. The respect and dignity that was shown to my sister and our family still resonates within me to this day,” says Diane. “That is what inspired me to become a nurse and Northwell Health enabled me to fulfill my dream including earning my bachelor’s degree in 2016.”
This passion for oncology care has only strengthened since she’s become a research nurse “I love working in oncology because each day I have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. I come to work knowing that inside this building we have the ability to change lives forever through clinical research. Clinical research is important because it works to find better ways to prevent, detect, or treat cancer and learn new approaches to therapy.”
Beyond just the clinical trials that Diane works on every day to help improve the lives of patients with cancer, she is also a leadership committee member for the Long Island chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC). Through her volunteering, Diane is very active in helping spread awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer with the hope to empower women to advocate for their own health.
Her commitment to research, care and education have not gone unnoticed. In 2017 she was recognized as an NOCC Nurse Honoree as well as being recognized as the Northwell Health Clinical Research Nurse of the Year in 2018. But for Diane, it’s very rewarding seeing the impact her work has on patients.
“I look forward to seeing my patients and their families share their life stories. Seeing them celebrate milestones in their lives and knowing it is because they are in a clinical trial is a gift to me.”
Julia started her Northwell nursing career at Monter Cancer Center where she worked as an oncology research nurse on the solid tumor team. In 2017, she transitioned into a new role as a phase 1 research nurse where she cares for patients that are being treated for the first time in their trials.
Julia started as a rehabilitation nurse caring for a large number of oncology patients, and thought her skills could transition into another area of nursing. “I felt that there was something larger out there to fulfill my curiosity and desire in healthcare. Oncology is continuously changing with respect to knowledge, learning, research, treatments and opportunities,” says Julia. “I felt that this field could feed my curiosity and at the same time satisfy my desire to help my patients.”
As an oncology research nurse, Julia is always looking for new and improved treatments with a commitment to helping enhance her patient’s quality of life. In her position, Julia is able to work with innovative treatment modalities and drug combinations that have not been tried yet. “It’s very exciting and rewarding knowing that I am part of creating history.”
And her passion extends beyond research – just a few short months after starting at Northwell, she was awarded with the Patient Recognition Star. “This recognition demonstrated that even the smallest thing we do for our patients means a lot to them,” says Julia.
After receiving her Master of Science in Nursing, Shirley started her clinical research career at Northwell in 2003 initially, as a clinical research nurse practitioner in pulmonary medicine.
In 2015 Shirley returned to research and today is a clinical research nurse for the Breast/GYN Research team at Monter Cancer Center (MCC). “My mother was a breast cancer survivor and I felt this position would allow me to add a very personal touch to the clinical aspect of my job when working with and caring for patients and families,” says Shirley. “Having the privilege to participate in another person’s healthcare journey motivates me to deliver the best patient care. My mother’s journey with breast cancer reminds me that my actions can have a powerful impact on the lives of a patient and their family during an emotionally stressful time.”
Her dedication, ability to establish deep therapeutic bonds and empathize with patients was recognized when Shirley was awarded the 2017 Northwell Care Award during MCC’s patient experience week. Shirley was also invited to be a mentor in the Northwell Health Clinical Research Professional Mentorship program.
Shirley enjoys working as a clinical research nurse and because of the role’s versatility, she is able to represent Northwell Health as a member of the Symptom Intervention Committee for the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology national group and also conducts breast cancer awareness information sessions in the community.
When she first started in oncology, Shirley met a patient who changed her life: “When I met the patient and her husband, she shared her personal wish, which made me feel honored to be taking part in her care. She was determined to live long enough to see her son go to his prom.” This instant connection Shirley had with her patient strengthened her passion and with each study visit, Shirley and her patient became closer and developed a bond.
“The most memorable part of her treatment was when she came in and showed me the pictures of her son’s prom,” says Shirley. “She beamed with delight as she told me how she helped her son get ready for the big night. I was overcome with a sense of joy and satisfaction knowing I had been a part of helping her achieve this goal. My role in clinical trials research had given this patient hope. I will never forget her and can never thank her enough because this patient and my mother represent that even just one moment can matter.”
Shirley says “the possibilities are endless as a clinical research nurse” and looks forward to what the future has to offer at Northwell.
Eight reasons to join the oncology care team at Northwell Health Cancer Institute
Our team members at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute are committed to providing advanced oncology care that improves the lives of our patients. Whether you’re a nurse, pharmacist, researcher, advanced clinical provider, or laboratory technologist, Northwell offers fulfilling career opportunities at one of the largest and most innovative cancer programs in the New York Metropolitan area. Discover eight reasons to work at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute.
1. One of the largest cancer programs in the NY area
The Northwell Health Cancer Institute has a variety of locations across the New York metro area so you can provide comprehensive cancer care from screening to survivorship right in your community. From the Imbert Cancer Center in Bay Shore to the Monter Cancer Center in New Hyde Park, we’re providing highly complex care in one connected system.
2. Develop meaningful relationships with patients
Helping care for a patient in their most vulnerable times makes a lasting impact on both the patient and the provider. “Sometimes just listening or holding their hand makes a difference,” says Iris Fleming, nurse manager at Monter Cancer Center. “You’re on the journey with them, guiding them through a difficult time in their lives and making it that much easier with small gestures.” Knowing how important these relationships become, the Cancer Institute also hosts an annual Survivors Day.
3. Oncology Nursing Society’s 2019 Employer Recognition Award
We invest in our team members. Monter Cancer Center was awarded Oncology Nursing Society’s 2019 Employer Recognition Award for its outstanding initiatives in promoting professional development and educational opportunities for its nurses, including starting an oncology nursing fellowship program.
4. Work with leading oncology specialists
Work alongside our 200 oncology physicians who are national and international cancer leaders in 25 specialties and drive the latest advances in cancer care and cancer research. Richard Barakat, MD, physician-in-chief and director of cancer, leads all cancer services and research at Northwell Health, including the Cancer Institute.
5. Affiliation with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Our partnership with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a world leader in cancer research, means the Cancer Institute is able to provide patients with the most cutting-edge therapies for cancer. This unique collaboration promotes research that helps advance the process of turning discoveries in the lab into clinical practice.
6. Opportunity to help develop new treatments through clinical trials
With over 30 years of experience in cancer clinical trials, the Cancer Institute has enrolled over 10,000 cancer clinical trial participants. Be a part of the development of new treatments that help save lives.
“I have the opportunity to work with new treatment modalities and new drug combinations that have not been tried yet,” says Julia Trojanowski, oncology research nurse at the Center for Novel Cancer Therapeutics. “It is very exciting and rewarding knowing that I am part of creating history.”
7. Treat truly complex and rare conditions
With over 16,000 cancer patients seen annually, the Northwell Health Cancer Institute has experts able to treat virtually every type of Cancer disease diagnosed. And with this variety of cases comes highly complex care that many specialty cancer centers cannot offer.
8. Access to innovative and ground-breaking technology
Work with the latest groundbreaking technology to provide patients the best care possible. Technology that includes the Gamma Knife Icon. The Cancer Institute is the first and only center on Long Island to offer this radiosurgery technology that allows radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons to target tumors and other conditions in the brain with ultra-high precision and frameless technology.
“The Cancer Institute delivers innovative care to patients by assuring that the latest medications and equipment are available for diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Smitha Chacko, pharmacist at Imbert Cancer Center. “Northwell also continually arranges for clinicians, nursing staff, and pharmacy staff to be educated on the newest research and data.”
From the Cancer Institute to a tertiary hospital – my internship experience
Written by: Alexa Bernardini, 2016 & 2017 HMP Intern
If it had not been for the Office of Undergraduate Biology at my university, I would have never been exposed to the opportunity to apply for Northwell Health’s Healthcare Management Program (HMP). After visiting the office to discuss career opportunities that would combine my passions for the biological sciences and business, a student advisor raved about her experience working for Northwell Health and mentioned I should look into the HMP program. As a sophomore, it was rare to find an internship opportunity that delved into the world of healthcare administration and enabled me to work with so many different departments throughout the health system.
I started my Northwell Health journey at Monter Cancer Center, where I was able to gather resources to build an internal website for Cancer Institute members across all sites. By leading this project, I interacted with many departments such as finance and operations, cancer research, and academic affairs among many others. One of my favorite parts about this project was being able to meet leaders throughout the facility who graciously welcomed me to the team and were happy to answer all of my questions to further my learning and engagement. Our goal was to develop the Cancer Institute as a unified and prominent entity for cancer treatment, research, and education. The first step to achieving this goal was having a place for all Cancer Institute employees to access to information regarding clinical trials, Continuing Medical Education events, cancer conferences, and community outreach initiatives. When my internship ended, I still followed up regarding the progress of my project, and loved knowing that I added value throughout my time at Monter Cancer Center.
Upon reaching my junior year of college, I was able to apply what I had learned at Northwell Health to my courses and campus organizations. As I reflected on what I had learned during my internship, I knew I wanted to return to Northwell Health the next summer at a different site to absorb even more information from a different perspective. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to once again join the HMP program, where I am currently spending my summer in the hospital operations department of Long Island Jewish Medical Center. I have learned that I enjoy working in both atmospheres, LIJ as a large tertiary hospital and Monter Cancer Center as a smaller, outpatient cancer treatment facility. Something I love about the HMP program is that there are so many different sites throughout the health system that participate in the program, and I can hear about other interns’ experiences who are placed at different locations. While at LIJ Medical Center, our team has been collaborating with the team at North Shore University Hospital to work on a hypothetical business case regarding the Pre-Surgical Testing (PST) care model. Our goal was to design an off-site location that combined two of the region’s existing centers. This theoretical project has been a great learning experience to identify what goals a project of this size would want to accomplish, such as the desire to maximize operational efficiencies, standardize procedures, and ultimately create a more positive patient experience. We took the time to plan, shadow their processes on-site, and combine the best practices of both PST locations to create a care model that features an ideal blueprint of the new space, taking into account estimated patient volume and length of stay.
After spending two consecutive summers as part of the Northwell team, I have learned that working in healthcare administration across sites has the common theme of integrating departments and unifying their workflow processes and workplace culture.
Update: Alexa has been offered and accepted a full-time position once she graduates from Cornell University in May.
Submit your resumeto become a Summer Associate in the 2018 Healthcare Management Program Internship.
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