The Breast Center at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at Christiana Care Health System has received a 2016 Guardian of Excellence Award from Press Ganey for patient experience in outpatient services. A nationally noted symbol of achievement in health care, the annual award recognizes top-performing health care organizations that have consistently achieved the 95th percentile or above of performance in patient experience, based on data collected from patients over one year. This is the first Guardian of Excellence Award for Christiana Care.

Christiana Care patient Christine Lewandowski knows the Breast Center experience well. Earlier this year, she visited Breast Center surgeon Diana Dickson-Witmer, M.D., to have a small area of concern checked out.

“It ended up being nothing to worry about,” said Lewandowski, who also has routine mammograms at the center. “But I was incredibly impressed with Dr. Dickson-Witmer and her staff, who were on-the-ball and professional. They patiently answered all of my questions, which eased my anxiety a great deal. It was an amazing — and unique — patient experience.”

. “Everyone is so courteous, friendly and helpful to patients and families, who are often uneasy about being there,” Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski’s view of the Breast Center includes another special perspective. She and her 5-year-old golden retriever Spirit volunteer with Paws for People, a nonprofit pet therapy program in Delaware. The two are regulars at the Graham Cancer Center, where Spirit provides a friendly and comforting presence to visitors.

“I have many opportunities on our visits to witness the Breast Center’s staff at work,” Lewandowski said. “Everyone is so courteous, friendly and helpful to patients and families, who are often uneasy about being there.”

Among the programs and services offered at the Breast Center are 3D and digital mammography, breast surgery, the state’s only dedicated breast MRI scanner, 24-hour urgent case evaluation, financial support, breast care and cancer prevention and education programs. All of these are delivered in a welcoming, patient-centered environment by staff working closely together to ensure patients have a positive experience.

“We’re a tight team,” said Kathy Esdale, a Breast Center technologist who has worked at Christiana Care since 2001. “We always remember to be aware that our patient is someone’s very important person — that part of our job is to make her our most important person too for the time she’s in our care.”

Private rooms at the Breast Center offer a quiet space for consultations.

As part of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, a National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program, the Breast Center is a model for care across the country. It is the only facility in the Delaware region devoted exclusively to breast care, diagnosis and treatment. The Breast Center facility and program were designed by breast health specialists and women.

Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D.

“Press Ganey’s award to the Breast Center indicates that patients feel the value of our partnership and trust us to deliver on our promise to them,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Graham Cancer Center Bank of America endowed medical director. “This honor reflects the role the entire Breast Center team plays in the health system and the lives of our patients.”

When a patient arrives at the Breast Center, a greeter welcomes and orients her to the visit and reception area amenities — including light refreshments. In clinical areas, leading-edge equipment provides the best available technologies for screenings, procedures and treatment. And the patient focus extends to “private rooms that feel more like home than a medical office offer a quiet space for consultations,” said Dawn Jordan, office assistant in Breast Surgery.


“This award is a great honor for the health system, particularly the Breast Center staff,” said ’Lola A. Osawe, MHSA, FACHE, FACMPE, the Breast Center’s administrative director. “They work very hard, and it’s wonderful to see their talent, commitment and impact recognized at this level.”

Presented on November 3 at a ceremony in Orlando, Florida, the Guardian of Excellence Award honors consistently sustained performance in the top 5 percent of all Press Ganey clients from May 2015 to April 2016.

“Patient satisfaction is a hallmark of great health care systems,” said Shawn R. Smith, MBA, vice president of patient experience at Christiana Care. “This award is an important national recognition that demonstrates our Breast Center’s commitment to understanding and improving the patient experience and our attention to what patients value.”