Driving Lung Cancer Research With Compassion

Published on: 
Extraordinary Healer®, CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 16, Volume 16,

Livia Szeto, B.S.N., RN, OCN, has "unparalleled" patient relationships and research skills, allowing her to provide excellent care.

We are writing this letter to strongly recommend Livia Szeto, B.S.N., RN, OCN, for the 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award.

We have prepared a collection of letters in support of Livia for this recognition. When I asked all of those included in this effort to write something about Livia, I received a single universal response: “YES, absolutely, no one could be more deserving of this award.”

With that in mind, I include letters of support from all levels and experiences of the cancer care continuum. Most importantly, I include letters of support from patients and a patient’s family member. In addition, support comes from Evelin Kolek and Buerkley Opalecky, nurses who were trained by Livia and have worked side by side with her for many years, as well as Kelli Buckley, her prior supervisor. Also included are letters from two physicians assistants, Maggie Colleton and Denise Rouse, who have worked with and been supported by Livia for more than 3 years. Physicians at the University of Chicago also give their support: Dr. Everett Vokes, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and chair of medicine; Dr. Phillip Hoffman, professor of medicine and an excellent clinician; Dr. Marina Garassino, an internationally renowned thoracic oncologist; and Dr. Christine Bestvina, a thoracic oncologist.

Although we cannot adequately capture Livia’s compassion, skill and tenacity separately, we hope that all of our experiences and reflection of Livia, when taken together, offer the committee a glimpse of how deserving she is of this award.

Livia has worked for University of Chicago since 1987. The length of her career at one institution is reflective of her dedication and loyalty. For the majority of her career, she has served as an oncology nurse navigator, working primarily in thoracic oncology.

I have been at the University of Chicago on faculty for less than five years and having Livia’s foundational knowledge of the university and those who work here has been essential. Throughout her years, she has facilitated strong relationships across disciplines, from interventional radiology to intravenous therapy to bed access. She is able to use all of these relationships to improve care of her patients by enabling early access to services our patients desperately need.

Her direct patient relationships are unparalleled. She will always work extra hours if a patient needs anything. Her compassion in these moments is incredible. She is able to elicit a patient’s sensitive information, from illicit drug use to fears at the end of life. By enabling her patients to express their needs and sensitive information, it allows all of us to take better care of them. She never tells anyone something isn’t her job, never closes her laptop until the last patient request has been answered and never fails to reach out when there is anything she can do to help.

Her research skills are unparalleled. She understands research protocols and clinical trials from concept to execution, from understanding the schema to data reporting.

As an example, she was the research nurse to all 37 patients treated on the COSINR trial – concurrent or sequential (Yervoy [ipilimumab]), (Opdivo [nivolumab]), plus stereotactic body radiotherapy for patients with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. This was an intensive and toxic therapy for these patients. She knew this trial as well as any researcher who participated and knew every one of the 37 patients incredibly well as she shepherded them on their journey.

In addition, Livia brings intangible things to work each day – joy, hope and fearless optimism. When we face struggles as a team, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Livia never gets down. She never shows her own fears or emotional struggles. She brings her best self to work each and every day, creating an infectious energy that allows our team to care for our patients day in and day out.

We hope that you will recognize all of the hard work Livia has done in her career by awarding her the 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award. No one could be more deserving. We hope the letters we included reflect what Livia brings to the field of nursing, as she is an incredibly aspirational woman.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.