Incredible Hero Without A Cape

Published on: 
Lung Cancer Heroes®, CURE® Lung Cancer Heroes® 2020 Essay Book, Volume 1,

"Although Carolyn loved her role as a navigator, she realized she could help patients with lung cancer with a screening program to help with earlier detection."

There may be many worthy of the Lung Cancer Heroes® award, but none more deserving than Carolyn Baggett, M.S.N., RN, OCN. Carolyn has made a measurable impact on the lives of her patients and colleagues as the oncology nurse navigator and lung cancer screening coordinator at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center. She also steps outside the health care system to contribute to the education and involvement to many in the Jacksonville and North Florida communities. I am a grateful recipient of her boundless knowledge, insight and compassion for those we both serve — our friends in our community with lung disease.

Carolyn has been a great contributor to the American Lung Association LUNG FORCE initiative in Jacksonville the past two years and is an active member of our cabinet. She has helped us secure corporate sponsorship for lung cancer research from her employer, Baptist MD Anderson, created teams of participants at the annual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk and supported the LUNG FORCE Expo, an event for education and camaraderie between patients and health care professionals. And she is a go-to resource for lung health education. Carolyn joined the team at Baptist in 2014 where she originally served as a lung cancer nurse navigator. In the words of one of Carolyn’s former patients, “She’s the voice after the doctor leaves to make sure I fully understand everything. She’s been the MVP of Baptist MD Anderson for me.”

Terra Mitchell was devastated when her husband, Eric, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2016. One of the first people they met at Baptist MD Anderson was Carolyn, who greeted them with her wonderful smile. “At that moment we knew we were in good hands. Carolyn was there with us every step of the way to guide us through this journey. No matter when, if we needed her, she was there for us.” During that journey, Carolyn became more than a nurse navigator; she became part of the family. After the loss of Eric in 2018, Carolyn helped the family through their grief and encouraged Terra to share her story as a caregiver to help others. “She’s more than a nurse — she’s an angel, and I’m proud to call her my friend and sister,” Terra said.

Although Carolyn loved her role as a navigator, she realized she could help patients with lung cancer with a screening program to help with earlier detection. Last year, Carolyn became the lung cancer screening program coordinator, ensuring a higher level of education and access to lifesaving screening, and she continues that role today.

Dr. Bill Putnam, medical director of Baptist MD Anderson, states, “The lung cancer screening effort was really initiated and driven forward by Carolyn, practically single-handedly. She organized the radiologists, surgeons and community physicians and provided pilot studies that could be examined and refined, and truly created a team that has now developed lung cancer screening at the highest level. There has been a significant impact on our patients within our Baptist Health System and in our Northeastern Florida community who now have access to lung cancer screening from their primary physician offices that never existed in the past. As a result, lung cancer screening has identified patients with early and asymptomatic lung cancers. Over 70% of our patients with lung cancer have early-stage disease that would not have been identified except for lung cancer screening. In addition, advanced-stage disease patients were identified prior to any symptoms occurring. In both situations, treatment was provided early to create the best environment for the patient to be cured and to improve their long-term survival. (Carolyn) has been a diligent and passionate advocate for screening and for annual surveillance for those at risk and has provided significant education to our 170 Baptist primary care physicians and patient organizations.

“(Carolyn) has participated in our Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center symposium and has been a resource for participants at that symposium on lung cancer screening. She has made a significant impact on the health of our Northeastern Florida community.”

Committed. Educator. Advocate. Professional. Passionate. These are some of the words used to describe Carolyn by her colleagues, patients and friends. I would like to add one more: Hero. As in the movie “The Incredibles,” Carolyn is a hero who doesn’t wear a cape.

For the value that Carolyn adds to the health of her patients and our community, and for her continued gifts of time and expertise to the LUNG FORCE initiative in Jacksonville, it is my pleasure to nominate Carolyn Baggett for the Lung Cancer Heroes® award.

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