A colleague describes how Suzanne Walker has touched the lives of many patients with lung cancer over the years.
I am writing to give my strongest support and recommendation for Suzanne “Suzy” Walker for the 2021 class of Lung Cancer Heroes®. Suzy has more than 25 years of experience in thoracic oncology as a nurse and nurse practitioner. She completed her Ph.D. in nursing in 2020. I have been fortunate to have worked with her for more than 20 years, and she has cared for a family member of mine along with many other patients over the years.
She is respected as a senior advanced practice provider and has the highest level of competency as a practitioner, educator, scholar and health care professional. In her clinical role, she provides direct patient care, including patient and caregiver education, symptom management and end-of-life care for her patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma. Suzy is highly recognized by her peers — both physicians and advanced practice providers — in the medical, radiation and surgical oncology divisions within the University of Pennsylvania Health System and beyond as an expert in thoracic malignancies and mesothelioma.
Suzy is currently a nurse practitioner and coordinator of thoracic malignancies at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. She has been in this role for approximately 14 years. Suzy has been an integral part of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s Mesothelioma and Pleural Malignancies program for many years. In addition to her patient care responsibilities, she is a member of the teaching faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in the Oncology Minor/Post Master’s Certificate Program.
Suzy disseminates knowledge locally at Penn but also via national forums. Some of her recent lectures include “Exploring Recent Advances in Precision Medicine for EGFR- Mutant NSCLC” for The Changing Face of Lung Cancer Lecture Series; Creative Educational Concepts Oncology; “Analyzing Concepts to Theorize in the Human Spirit of Palliative Care: Poster Symposium” at the Western Institute of Nursing research conference; and “Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer-Immunotherapy” at JADPRO Live. Suzy is also an accomplished author and published “The Lived Experience of Persons With Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma in the United States” in the journal Cancer Nursing in 2019 as the first author. Suzy was also co-editor for the book “Guide to Cancer Immunotherapy,” published by the Oncology Nursing Society.
Suzy focuses on identifying an unmet need — or an area of improvement — in cancer, and she develops and contributes to research that makes a difference for our patients. She works to optimize patient-provider relationships to improve quality of life and quality of care, specifically incorporating the latest technologies, such as telemedicine, to achieve these goals.
Within the health system, she has shown innovative leadership through her work as an early adopter and proponent of video telehealth. In 2017, she completed a pilot study that examined the role of video telehealth in end-of-life transitions, and in 2018, she became a champion for telehealth and developed our initial telehealth policy. She subsequently spearheaded a pilot telehealth program in our setting to provide supportive-care video visits for symptom assessment and management as well as end-of-life care, and she collaborated with our infusion team on the development of a virtual education program for patients who recently received a diagnosis and are starting infusion therapy. She is currently a subinvestigator on a study examining the use of telehealth for adherence to oral anti-cancer therapies.
Other innovative ways she has helped support our patients include spearheading a study that collected data demonstrating the need for a peer support group for our patients with mesothelioma. That group is now a reality in no small part due to Suzy’s leadership and devoted community engagement. Suzy also had the idea to develop a peer mentorship program for our patients who recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis. Suzy is currently working on a CARES Act (coronavirus relief bill) grant application to realize this program. She is a forward thinker and is always trying to find ways to enhance the patient experience and make cancer treatments and management as easy as possible on patients and their loved ones.
In summary, Suzy is a consummate professional, a caring provider, a mentor, a teacher, a trusted and valued partner and a cancer expert. She does not wear a cape, but she is a hero to me, to our clinical and teaching staff, and to patients and their caregivers. She is very deserving of this honor.
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