The Friends of the Helen F. Graham Center & Research Institute hosted a Spring Tea on May 1, highlighting Christiana Care’s Cancer Psychosocial Oncology & Survivorship Program.
Approximately 60 guests from the community, including donors, clinicians, scientists and staff enjoyed a breakfast buffet and a presentation by psychologist Scott D. Siegel, Ph.D., director of Psychosocial Oncology and Survivorship. The program was followed by a guided tour of the center.
“The annual tea is our kick-off opportunity for friends and guests to visit the Graham Cancer Center and to learn about the many outstanding programs, services and innovative research taking place right here in our community,” said Friends Chair Lois Galinat, who opened the morning session. “Since cancer affects all of us directly or indirectly, we need guidance on how to help or just talk to someone with the disease. Our topic today touches on the very heart of our mission in support of cancer patients and their families.”
Bank of America-endowed medical director Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., welcomed the group and extended his appreciation to the Friends for their dedication and support.
“None of the Graham Cancer Center successes over the last decade would have been possible without the generous support of our community and the philanthropic efforts of our Friends,” he said. “Cancer cells are still the smartest cells on the planet, but we have made great strides in conquering them. I look forward in the next couple of years with your help to make even greater progress.”
From the podium, Dr. Petrelli recognized cyclist Tim O’Neill in the audience, one of several riders who biked across the country in 2005 and raised more than $42,000 for the Graham Cancer Center.
He introduced Dr. Siegel as a “Christiana Care rising star,” citing how since joining Christiana Care in 2007, Dr. Siegel has worked to fully integrate cancer psychology and psychosocial services into the multidisciplinary approach to treatment modeled at the Graham Cancer Center and now replicated around the country.
Today the cancer psychology team directed by Dr. Siegel includes licensed psychologists Laura Simonelli, Ph.D, associate director and director of clinical training, and Nicole Duffy, Ph.D. All three specialize in helping patients and their families through all stages of cancer. The program also offers counseling, outpatient social work services and a nurse-navigator survivorship program to educate and prepare people for life after treatment.
“Ours is a busy, fast-growing service that has nearly doubled over the last decade with 2,000 patient contacts in the last year alone, “ Dr. Siegel said, “To date, our focus has been helping people who are interested and able to engage in our traditional services. Going forward we want to increase capacity to meet demand for these services while innovating new ways to reach the entire community.”
Dr. Siegel projected that among the 15,000 or more patients followed annually by Cancer Center clinicians and professionals, about 48 percent have need of psychosocial services. However, he estimated that only about one-third of those are willing and able to participate in traditional ways.
“We are focused on developing models of care that overcome the psychosocial and even practical barriers that restrict access to our services for some,” he said. Many ideas germinate from an active behavioral oncology research program, for which Dr. Siegel serves as principal investigator on studies funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Delaware IDeA Network of Biomedical Research (INBRE).
For the last eight years, the Friends of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, some 70 volunteers, have hosted their annual tea to educate and build awareness about cancer prevention, early detection and treatment. Since forming in 2002, the Friends have raised more than $2 million dollars in support for new technology acquisitions, including Delaware’s first CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system, a special needs fund for cancer patients and research on new cancer therapies under way at the Center for Translational Cancer Research at the Graham Cancer Center.
The Friends co-chairs also include Amanda Friz, Diane du Pont, Karen Kimmel Legum and Elisa Morris.