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Patient and Family Advisors
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.
Josh Batushansky, Advisor
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.
Julia Eidelman, Advisor
At the start of 2019, my fiancé and I were planning our wedding, our family, and shopping for a new home – and then I got diagnosed with two gynecological cancers. My family suddenly became my advocates and caregivers, and my professional experience in a trauma-informed, person-centered environment helped me understand that deciding where to treat my cancers also meant getting answers to questions like: what will my experience be like as a queer immigrant? As a person in a larger body? How will my parents’ language barrier be handled? What sort of environment will this be for my non-binary identifying fiancé?
By the time my family and I left Fox Chase for the first time, I knew that this was the right place for us. Throughout my consultation, surgery, and treatment, my family and I felt and continue to feel seen and understood by the staff and practitioners at Fox Chase – which means everything when you or someone you love is in the fight of their lives. As a member of PFAC, I am grateful for the opportunity to bring my experience as a patient, queer immigrant, and trauma-informed practitioner to an institution that is actively striving to recognize and meet the nuanced needs of all who walk through its doors.
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.
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.
Nancy Finn, Advisor
In 1999, my mother was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That was the first time I stepped inside Fox Chase Cancer Center. She was treated with respect and dignity. Her doctors were outstanding and engaged me and my five siblings in the discussions with my mom regarding her treatment options. My mother lived another 10 years, during which she was able to witness the birth of her youngest grandchildren and spend quality time with her entire family.
When I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma in 2015, there was no question where I would undergo my treatment. Although the emotions of being a patient as opposed to a caregiver are quite different, I soon felt the same level of comfort and care my mom always talked about. Every person, from my doctors to the infusion room nurses and the women at the scheduling desk, treated me not as a sick, helpless individual but as a vital human whose care and treatment mattered. I felt I was part of their families as much as they were part of mine. I heard about their upcoming marriages, the births of their children, the latest books they were reading. We even swapped recipes for Christmas cookies.
It has been more than five years since my immunotherapy ended. Today, there is no active cancer in my body. Believe me, this is no small accomplishment – and I owe it all to the practitioners of Fox Chase. I am a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council because giving back a little of my time is easy, now that I have time left to give!
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.
Susan Galeone, Advisor
I was introduced to Fox Chase Cancer Center in June of 2013 when I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Since I have no history of smoking, I was stunned and terrified by the news. Although my cancer is incurable, I learned that it can be managed just like any other chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes. I didn’t even think that was possible.
Because of the cutting-edge technology at Fox Chase, I was a candidate for molecular testing, which allowed me to be treated with a chemo pill that targets only my cancer. So far, this treatment not only shrunk but stopped my cancer, and has allowed me to continue to live my life to the fullest. I work, travel, enjoy my family and friends, and actually forget sometimes that I have cancer.
I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Borghaei and to Fox Chase for the wonderful care I have received here. They gave me hope when I didn’t think there was any. They gave me my life back, and I would like to be able to give something in return to show others just what Fox Chase is capable of doing.
Professionally, I was an office/project manager for the Thomson Reuters Corporation, a mass media company, for 40 years. I am recently retired.
I have been happily married to my husband, Glen, for the past 39 years and together we have raised four children, our greatest accomplishment. We also have two grandchildren, the joy of my life. My family makes every day worth living.
Richard Lamb, Advisor
In 2001, my wife, Lee Ann, faced the difficult diagnosis of a rare gastrointestinal cancer. Initially, we sought care and treatment at another area medical center; however, this facility did not seem to have a great deal of expertise with Lee Ann’s type of cancer, so we continued to look for the best possible treatment options.
We made the switch to Fox Chase Cancer Center in 2002 after learning that their medical staff was among the worldwide leaders in treating this particular rare cancer. Beyond the expertise of Fox Chase’s physicians, the care and compassion we received from everyone at the Center was consistently excellent during our 16 years of care and treatment. We knew immediately that Fox Chase was a unique place and remained confident in our decision to come to Fox Chase for Lee Ann’s treatment.
From the beginning, Lee Ann and I felt it was important to help other patients who were also facing the fears and challenges of dealing with cancer. In 2006, Lee Ann and five other cancer patients launched a patient support network – GIST Support International – that continues to connect, educate, and provide support for patients today. Lee Ann was also proud to represent Fox Chase as a patient spokesperson in the Center’s 2016 media campaign. Our life together has taught us how important it is to use our experiences to help and support others encountering like challenges.
By drawing on my experience as Lee Ann’s caregiver on every step of her journey as well as my 40+-year career in the healthcare industry, which has included several leadership roles, I hope to bring insights and guidance to PFAC that will help the Fox Chase Cancer Center experience continue to be its best for all patients and family members. It is indeed an honor to be part of the PFAC.
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.
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.
Mike Phillips, Co-Chair
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.
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.
John Rossi, Advisor
I first walked through the doors of Fox Chase Cancer Center in January 2019, after a biopsy found that I had potentially cancerous cells in my thyroid. Not long after, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I never gave much thought about going elsewhere for treatment since I’ve always heard of the superior and compassionate care that Fox Chase provides to their patients. Without a doubt, they live up to their word. After a full thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine therapy, I am ecstatic to report that the course of treatment worked wonders. It is the tireless effort and care from my doctors, nurses, and the entire staff at Fox Chase that made me want to give back in any way that I could, and I am so grateful that PFAC is one of those opportunities.
Professionally, I work in the Information Technology (IT) area of the healthcare industry, where I provide support to the medical staff of behavioral health facilities. I enjoy spending my free time cooking, meeting up with friends in the city, and closely in front of the TV when the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers are on. I reside in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia with my wonderful girlfriend, Michelle, and our two insanely lovable pups, Bailey and Winnie.
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!
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.
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.
Executive Sponsors: J. Robert Beck
Nancy Baumann, Director, Nutrition & Hospitality Services
J. Robert Beck, MD, Chief Academic & Administrative Officer
Theresa Capella, Marketing
Jeffrey Farma, MD, Chief, General Surgery
Paula Finestone, PhD, Clinical Psychologist
Helen Gordon, Director, Volunteer Services
Jill Horne, Manager, Internal Communications
Dwight McBee, CPXP, Chief Experience Officer, Temple University Health System
Delinda Pendleton, CPXP, Director, Patient Experience and Strategic Clinical Initiatives
Catherine Tuite, MD, Chief, Breast Radiology
Mary Pat Winterhalter, RN, Director, Nurse Navigation