PFAC Members

Patient and Family Advisors

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    Emily Bakaj, Advisor

    My journey began with Fox Chase when I wanted a second opinion for my breast cancer diagnosis and then transferred my health care. No one explained to me what was happening within my body as clearly as Fox Chase. My surgeons drew pictures and spoke to me in language I could understand. And from there, through my surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, additional surgeries, and lymphedema, I knew I had found a home that was nurturing and supportive while giving me the best medical care I could hope for. I am seven years out from my diagnosis and when I walk into Fox Chase, I feel enveloped with a sense of peace and well-being. I know that sounds odd, but I believe that speaks volumes about this facility and those who work here.

    My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was in my early twenties and helping her through her journey, and then living my own, definitely changed me as a person—kinder, stronger, more giving and open. Support groups, peer support, and PFAC give me a chance to make a difference.

    In my day to day, I am the facility and property manager for an engineering consulting firm. I have been married for 23 years to a wonderful man, Myron, and without his support and love, and the support of friends, family, and Fox Chase Cancer Center, I would not be where I am today.

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    Josh Batushansky, Co-Chair

    Three weeks before my son was born, I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 32. After many discussions and consultations, my wife and I decided on Fox Chase Cancer Center due to top clinical outcomes, as well as a reputation for straightforward feedback and excellent bedside manner. 

    In 2014, I underwent a colon resection. All follow-up tests came back negative. Thankfully, I continued to be monitored by Fox Chase as I was diagnosed in 2016 with colon cancer that had moved to my left lung. Following the diagnosis, I went through eight months of chemotherapy and finally a lung resection, where 50% of my left lung was removed. Since that time, I have been cancer-free.

    To this day, I’m proud of and thankful for everyone in the Fox Chase Cancer Center community. They have saved me physically twice and continue to be a bastion of hope to me emotionally. As a professional project manager and strategist, it’s my goal to leverage my skills to continue PFAC’s good works for the benefit of fellow patients and caregivers at Fox Chase. 

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    Bill Hagan, Advisor

    My family’s personal cancer journey began in November 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. My 85-year-old father-in-law had developed horrible gastrointestinal pain, which necessitated a trip to the local community hospital ED. Due to pandemic restrictions, I was unable to wait with him inside the ED. After 10 excruciating hours, we received a phone call from the ED nurse: Lou had pancreatic cancer and was refusing to be admitted. On the drive home, my father-in-law calmly explained that the hospital had wanted to perform surgery very quickly, but he wanted a second opinion and to be with his family.

    My wife, Mary, has worked at Fox Chase Cancer Center for over 30 years. However, we went through the normal channels like any other family and contacted the New Patient Office. We received an appointment right away with Dr. Jason Castellanos. While at Fox Chase, the staff treated Lou with skill and compassion. He never spoke a word of complaint about his care and never regretted his decision to transfer his care to Fox Chase. While Lou received complex and comprehensive care, the ease of access was amazing.

    It is a privilege to be asked to serve on the Patient and Family Advisory Council, and I hope to help other families navigate their way through their own cancer journeys. 

    Professionally, I have spent over 35 years in the field of advertising. I have worked in print, television, and OTT advertising. My experience has included sponsorship sales for the Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia 76ers. Currently, I am a regional sales manager with JamLoop – a leading OTT/CTV advertising platform. I have a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Penn State and an MBA from Villanova University.

    I am currently a COVID-19 vaccine trial participant in the Johnson and Johnson/Jansen Ensemble trial being conducted at Temple University Hospital. Mary and I have two sons, Andrew and Nicholas.

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    Lydia Henson, Advisor

    My journey with Fox Chase Cancer Center started in July 2014 when I was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. I wanted a second opinion, so I came to Fox Chase. I have the best oncologist and team at Fox Chase. When I started treatment, my doctor told me we had a fight on our hands and we started an aggressive type of chemotherapy. I am so thankful for the care and treatment I receive at Fox Chase.

    Professionally, I am retired now but worked for 27 years as an administrative assistant for the City of Philadelphia. Now, I am volunteering at Fox Chase—a great place to volunteer where I meet so many great people.

    Personally, I have been married for 25 years and have three great children.

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    Brooke Fuller, Advisor

    In 2014 at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Thankfully, I placed my future into the amazing hands of the staff at Fox Chase.

    My team of doctors had a plan for me that included options around preserving my fertility. I went through a 15-month treatment plan consisting of chemo-radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries. The compassion and support I was shown by the entire staff, every step of the way, helped me through the most difficult time of my life.

    I wanted to share the incredible experience I had at Fox Chase and be there for others who are facing the same challenges. Serving on the PFAC as an advisor is allowing me to do just that! This is an incredible honor I do not enter into lightly. 

    For 12 years now, I have been married to my wonderful husband, Scott, who never missed one of my doctor appointments. We have an amazing son, Pierce, who loves to play football and is on his way to earning his black belt in taekwondo! Our lovable, energetic French bulldog, Frenchie, rounds out my family, who I am so thankful to create wonderful memories with every day.

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    Donna McAllister, Co-Chair

    My journey at Fox Chase Cancer Center began in September 2014, when I was diagnosed with Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer. I received three rounds of dense dose neoadjuvant chemotherapy over six weeks and had ileal conduit urinary diversion surgery in January 2015 to remove my bladder. I have just celebrated my fourth anniversary of being cancer free.

    From my first visits with my surgeon, Dr. Alexander Kutikov, and my oncologist, Dr. Elizabeth Plimack, I knew I was a part of their collaborative care approach to my treatment. I was treated with compassion, given hope, and kept informed on every facet of my treatment.

    After my surgery and recovery, I mentored other bladder cancer patients referred by my doctors.  Also, in 2016, I was invited by my doctors to attend a Continuing Education Symposium in San Antonio, Texas. The topic was: Clinical Convergence: New Management Approaches in Bladder Cancer. I participated in a patient panel discussion about my treatment and recovery.

    Since 2018, I have been a member of the Patient to Patient Network. Over the next two years, I will be participating in a research study on Recovery Support for Bladder Cancer Patients and Caregivers. For my own well being, I attend monthly Ostomy Support Group Meetings and participate in weekly Oncology Yoga classes. These programs at Fox Chase provide wonderful support for patients and caregivers.

    On a personal level, I taught high school, pre-school and pre-kindergarten for twelve years. After leaving teaching, I worked in retail for many years as a floral department manager, before retiring in 2014. I am the proud mother of a daughter and son and the loving Nonna of three granddaughters.

    As a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council, I hope to contribute positively to hospital programs and organizations. I will do whatever I can to provide hope and compassion to patients and their caregivers.

  • Annie-Miyazaki
    Annie Miyazaki-Grant, Advisor

    In April 2022, I was diagnosed with bilateral triple-positive breast cancer. I received intensive treatment over the next 14 months. It was a trying time, but the Fox Chase care team provided tremendous and empathetic care from day one. The physicians were knowledgeable, understanding, and accessible. The nurses and clinical assistants became a family for me, ever caring and attentive. And the rest of the Fox Chase team consistently supported me and my caregivers. While I dreaded many aspects of treatment, I never dreaded walking into Fox Chase because I knew I was getting the best possible care there.

    I am grateful to still be here and to be thriving, thanks to Fox Chase and my amazing community. My light shines ever brighter, relishing time with my wonderful daughter, husband, two mini Goldendoodles, and loving family, colleagues, and friends.

    Since 2007, I have worked in health care law and regulatory positions, currently as the Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer of a large not-for-profit provider and health plan services organization. I always had a passion for health care, but the COVID-19 pandemic and my cancer battle have given me a new perspective of what is at stake—and especially the importance of advocating for better access to high-quality care.

    Being a part of PFAC and our shared patient and caregiver community is a gift. I am committed to being an active member of this community and helping others in all the ways I can.

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    Delinda Pendleton, Staff Liaison

    I am a professional nurse by background and have worked at Fox Chase Cancer Center since 1991, overseeing areas such as performance improvement, infection control, patient safety, and strategic planning. In November 2019, my role was expanded, which allows me to focus primarily on the patient experience at Fox Chase.

    Over 10 years ago, I was introduced to the patient-and family-centered care model and began a self-study of the concepts. In addition, I enrolled in several educational sessions. Although Fox Chase was consistently scoring very high in its patient satisfaction scores, I realized that patient-and family-centered care would be the framework we needed to move our culture and patient care to the next level.

    With the support of senior leadership and our Board of Directors, along with a team of stakeholders at Fox Chase, our first Patient and Family Advisory Council meeting was held in December of 2010. It has been my privilege to serve as the liaison for our PFAC, as well as a consultant for colleagues who have started PFACs throughout the Temple University Health System.

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    Mike Phillips, Advisor

    Professionally, I have over 45 years of consulting and corporate management experience in several industries. Through my consulting company, I have served clients in healthcare, manufacturing, food service, and retirement community development and management.

    I have been the COO of three food service brands and for the past 12 years, I have been a consultant to the senior housing industry and to the largest Taco Bell franchise organization.

    On a personal level, I have survived bilateral kidney cancer and advanced prostate cancer. In 2015, I underwent a kidney transplant. Details of my medical story can be found under Dr. Robert Uzzo’s patient testimonials on the Fox Chase website.

    My treatment experience at Fox Chase Cancer Center led me to want to volunteer here, where I serve on two advisory boards as well as participate in the Patient-to-Patient Network, which pairs current patients with survivors of the same cancer. In addition, I am a volunteer mentor with Score, a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)-funded national organization that provides free consulting services to small businesses. I also continue with my private consulting practice.

    I reside in Warminster, Bucks County, PA.

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    Larry Risch, Advisor

    I have experienced cancer from both the patient and family perspectives. In 2001, my first wife passed away from breast cancer when our daughter was two-and-a-half years old. In 2017, I was treated at Fox Chase for stage 4 squamous cell cancer of the mouth with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation over a seven-month period.

    Cancer's impact on patients and their families can be devastating, and I would like to do anything I can to help alleviate that. It is why I have joined PFAC, the Patient-to-Patient Network, and the Caregiver Network at Fox Chase. The level of care I received here went above and beyond what I have experienced at other hospitals while being an advocate/caregiver for family members. I have joined these groups to do what I can to keep that going.

    Professionally, I am retired after having worked in IT and as a mortgage broker. I have been remarried for 12 years to my wife Sharon and my daughter, who I mentioned previously, is currently attending the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Liz-Roland
    Elizabeth Roland, Advisor

    I first came to Fox Chase Cancer Center with my husband, who had just been diagnosed with rectal cancer, when he was 34 and our son was 2. Through the ups and downs of his illness until he died nearly 10 years later, our team at Fox Chase listened to my husband’s concerns, provided compassionate care, and got to know us all as a family.

    After my husband’s death, I often told people that somehow, despite being a place where so many terrible things had happened in our family, Fox Chase felt like a warm blanket, a safe place to be. So, when I was diagnosed with uterine cancer just two years later, I knew that I wanted to come back to the people I knew and trusted at Fox Chase.

    My husband had always known that I would be there to care for him and our son, but I faced my cancer without a spouse and terrified of leaving my adolescent child behind with no family. As I went through months of treatment, the team at Fox Chase provided not just top-notch health care, but emotional support as well, and worked with me to manage treatments along with the responsibilities of single parenthood.

    Today, I am cancer-free and feeling great. I have married a man whose first wife was also a Fox Chase patient, and we are raising three teens who have all lost a parent to cancer. Having seen how cancer can reshape a family on so many levels, I am eager to work with PFAC to help foster an environment that supports other families going through it.

  • Scott-Shaffer
    Scott Shaffer, Advisor

    I was introduced to Fox Chase in October of 2021 when my wife, Cathy, and I were uncertain of the treatment direction presented by another facility. From the first phone call and throughout the journey, we were impressed with the culture and care of the entire staff.

    I would often describe Fox Chase as “empathy carries.” Even when a patient is not exactly receptive to empathy, the entire staff continues to present it. During my hospital stay, I began asking questions about the source of this culture. Delinda Pendleton, who chairs the Patient and Family Advisory Council, stopped by my room one day and I was able to ask several questions.

    I learned about a culture that presents respect, service, and quality every day of the week. I listened to the shift change in the hallways as hospital staff greeted one another and said goodbye in a way that they could have been brothers and sisters. The empowerment of all employees from leadership is impressive. The way patients are heard and validated would often bring a smile to my face.

    They call it “Fox Chaseness” – a place where people want to work; a place where training for customer service builds relationships and teamwork.

    I am pleased to be invited to be part of PFAC. Cathy and I see retirement in our near future and Fox Chase could be a volunteer place for the 4th quarter of our time on Earth.

  • Elaine-Spangler
    Elaine Spangler, Advisor

    I came to Fox Chase in April 2022 after receiving my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. I religiously have yearly mammograms, so while this diagnosis came as a complete shock, I am grateful to have landed at Fox Chase to join an immunotherapy clinical trial. I am also so honored and proud to be a part of PFAC.

    I’ve worked within the cancer research field for more than 25 years, focusing mostly on prostate and breast cancer epidemiological studies. My work has involved investigating cancer disparities, which led me to not only see the cancer burden in the Philadelphia region, but also internationally, through collaborations in Africa, specifically in Senegal, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

    My favorite part of my work has always been interacting with cancer patients. I learned so much about resilience and hope as folks joined in our studies and looked to contribute to the future. Right before the pandemic, I moved within the University of Pennsylvania to my present position as a senior clinical research monitor, focusing mostly on oncology trials.

    Given my career, I must say it feels like a true irony to become a cancer patient myself! However, becoming a patient at Fox Chase has been truly life-changing. It feels like a family atmosphere and I am very blessed to have such a caring clinical team (Shout out to the nursing staff in the Clinical Research Unit and my trial nurses!). Since I bring both the professional and personal perspectives, I am inspired to give back to Fox Chase in any way I can through my involvement with the PFAC team.

    My family, including my wife of 33 years, Mary Beth, our son Matthew, our dog Daisy, our siblings and their families, and our friends, have all been great supporters in this journey. Though there are many things to navigate, we are all still able to enjoy many events and activities together, including hikes, cycling, hanging at the shore, and rooting for all of the Philly sports teams.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the Fox Chase PFAC team as we continue to strive for excellence for Fox Chase patients.


  • Alisa-Strauss
    Alisa Strauss, Advisor

    In October 2021, I went for my annual mammogram—six months late due to COVID. I was told that I had a lump. A biopsy confirmed that it was indeed cancer. I went to see a surgeon at the initial hospital and then I sought a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center. My father spoke to his oncologist at Fox Chase and I was given the name of a breast surgeon who came highly recommended. On January 14, 2022, I had a lumpectomy. I followed that with radiation treatments, which ended in April 2022.

    In July 2022, I had my routine colonoscopy and endoscopy at a different hospital. I followed up at Fox Chase, where I had appointments with my gastrointestinal team of oncologists. It turned out to be a neuroendocrine tumor. They were able to remove it during an endoscopy. A plan was put in place to monitor my stomach and the remainder of my body to make sure it didn’t spread.

    I have two teams of doctors at Fox Chase. They all communicate with one another and with me. I feel cared for. When the opportunity to act as an advisor arose, I jumped at the chance. I would love to help make the experience for cancer patients and their families less scary and easier to navigate.

    My background has been in sales for over 40 years. I have worked in retail, banking, education, and several other areas. I worked in the Office of the President of CoreStates Bank. I handled the highest level of concerns from customers. I know how to be a good listener and to communicate effectively. I am a true empath and I will be looking to change the direction of my work endeavors towards helping others.

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    Elaine Ward Sykes, Advisor

    I first came to Fox Chase 20 years ago when my husband needed radiation for a prostate cancer recurrence. His treatment was successful, but later he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We confronted this terrible disease together for three years. Taking care of him was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but with the incredible support of so many at Fox Chase, it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. Our team dramatically prolonged his life, and I am very grateful for the compassionate care he received.

    I was treated compassionately as well after he died. Fox Chase provided meaningful bereavement counseling, which helped me move forward with my life. Wanting to give back, I volunteered on a hospital committee that explored how to emotionally support grieving families.

    Then in 2014, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I chose Fox Chase for my own treatment, undergoing major surgery and chemotherapy. My wonderful medical team has given me my life back and, once again, I am very grateful. I was particularly pleased to be able to address Fox Chase’s Laurel Society about our family’s journey with cancer. To express my appreciation publicly was indeed an honor and privilege.

    My roles as caregiver, patient, and volunteer have been instructive and have inspired me to strengthen my commitment to Fox Chase by serving on PFAC. I hope my voice will enhance the patient and caregiver experience for years to come. To that end, I also volunteer in the Patient-to-Patient Network to mentor new patients who are facing a disease like mine.

    My work experience includes a 25-year career at a major law firm focusing on recruiting and communications. In my retirement, I’m pursuing my interest in interior design and am trying to improve my golf game!

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    Johana Vanegas, Advisor

    When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, I knew I wanted her to be seen and treated at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Back then, I had already been working at Fox Chase for 11 years, eight of those years in breast cancer research, and I just had my second child.

    The cancer journey is full of obstacles, but people such as volunteers, receptionists, nurses, and physicians make a world of difference. I am thankful for the care my mother received because we were treated with respect, patience, love, and understanding. Now, I am the Director of International Patient Services at Fox Chase, a role that allows me to interact with international patients as well as many of our staff. I have had other close family members battle cancer, and I have helped patients through their own cancer journey at Fox Chase.

    I am Hispanic American born in Utah from Colombian parents. During my childhood, I lived in the United States, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, and Venezuela. I earned a medical degree from a Colombian university and my MBA from Temple University. I have been happily married for 18 years and live with my husband, our two daughters, and my mother. I believe that my life and professional experiences can offer valuable help to Fox Chase patients, their families, and our Center through my role as a PFAC advisor.

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    Jan Wormington, Advisor

    My first contact with Fox Chase was in 2006 when my husband was diagnosed with gastric cancer. After radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and multiple emergency hospitalizations, he has recovered to lead a full and very active life. Ten years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was no question that I would seek treatment at Fox Chase. It is a place of hope and healing for our family.

    I am retired from a career as an occupational therapist. My specialty was working with people with brain injuries. I also have a certificate in low vision therapy, served as an interpreter for the deaf, and taught secondary social studies. I have a family member with developmental disabilities and have a special interest in patient education. I hope to bring to PFAC increased awareness of some of the challenges faced by cancer patients who also have physical or cognitive disabilities.

    Currently, I am a volunteer at the Moss Rehabilitation Aphasia Center where I participate in conversation groups and a book club. In my church, I serve on the policy board, teach adult classes, and chair the adult education committee. I have two adult children and four grandchildren.

Staff Advisors

Executive Sponsors: Anna L. Rodriguez, MSN, MHA

Nancy Baumann, MS, RD, Director, Nutrition & Hospitality Services

Theresa Capella, Marketing

Nithya Cherukuru, MD, Clinical Psychologist

Jeffrey Farma, MD, Chief, General Surgery

Helen Gordon, CAVS, CPXP, Director, Volunteer Services

Jill Horne, Manager, Internal Communications

Joshua Lahav, AVP, Cancer Center Operations

Delinda Pendleton, CPXP, FPCC , Director, Patient Experience and Strategic Clinical Initiatives