Tina Scherer, MSN, RN, OCN, of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute has been honored with the inaugural Mark J. Dowling Foundation Service Excellence Award. In fact, it was Sherer’s dedication and compassion as an oncology nurse navigator that inspired the creation of this award, presented for outstanding commitment and a lasting contribution to patient- and family-centered care.
“Establishing strong partnerships between health care providers, patients and families, and recognizing the vital role of patients and families throughout the decision-making process, is what grounds patient- and family-centered care, and it is a hallmark of the Cancer Center,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of the Graham Cancer Center.
When Mark and Desiree Dowling envisioned the Mark J. Dowling Foundation Service Excellence Award, it was with this model in mind. The nonprofit organization is named for sarcoma survivor and Delaware resident Mark Dowling, who was diagnosed with this rare cancer in 2012 and received treatment at Christiana Care. His arduous journey took him through radiation treatment and multiple surgeries, including the amputation of his right arm. Now back in good health and embracing life, Mark and his wife Desiree established the Mark J. Dowling Foundation to provide much-needed support to patients, survivors and caregivers affected by sarcoma and other rare cancers.
“A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming — we were paralyzed. Tina was someone we could call when we were having a bad day or we were scared, and she was always there. She became part of our family. I honestly don’t know how she did it. I know Mark wasn’t her only patient. But it felt that way.”
At the foundation’s inaugural gala in June 2014, the Dowlings surprised Scherer with the first of what will be an annual award recognizing health care providers who best represent the principles that define patient- and family-centered care: dignity and respect, information-sharing, participation and collaboration.
“From the moment we walked through the doors at the Graham Cancer Center, Tina was walking by our side,” said Mark Dowling. “As our nurse navigator, Tina orchestrated everything — scheduling appointments, ensuring that tests were completed before doctors’ visits, managing conflicts. She removed any complication and broke down every barrier. She prepared us for appointments, reminded us and followed up with us.”
“A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming — we were paralyzed. Tina was someone we could call when we were having a bad day or we were scared, and she was always there,” said Desiree Dowling.
“She became part of our family. I honestly don’t know how she did it. I know Mark wasn’t her only patient. But it felt that way.”
The Graham Cancer Center’s nurse navigator program — one of the first in the nation — provides personalized support to patients. The program’s 12 nurse navigators have helped more than 70,000 patients with some 650,000 individual support services. Graham Cancer Center staff provide training and consultation to help cancer centers around the country emulate this successful program.
“Tina is an oncology nurse to the core,” said Tammy Brown, MSN, RN, OCN, clinical director of Cancer Care Management and Scherer’s superviser. “She is incredibly compassionate — helping patients to feel better when they’re at their worst. We can do everything possible on a clinical scale, but if we are not affecting our patients on an emotional level, helping them to feel 100 percent safe, comfortable and cared for, then we’re not doing our job. Tina’s dedication to each of her patients and their families is exemplary, and this award brings it all home.”
“I’m so humbled by this honor,” said Scherer, who has worked in oncology for 25 years and served as an oncology nurse navigator at Christiana Care for the past 13 years. She is one of 12 nurse navigators at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. “All of my fellow nurse navigators are just as passionate. The patient comes first, and we live by that. Mark, Desiree and I, along with Mark’s doctors, worked together like a well-oiled machine. It was a perfect example of what patient-and family-centered care is all about.”
“Mark is doing phenomenally well, and none of it would be possible without the care demonstrated within those four walls,” said Desiree Dowling. “I know that Tina and her colleagues are called nurse navigators, but really, they are advocates and champions. My husband may be my superhero, but Tina is our superstar. It’s our honor to recognize her with this award. No one deserves it more.”