Phenomenal Awareness and Community Perspective for Lung Cancer Screenings

A colleague explains how Jody Ruth Steinhardt helps guide patients through lung cancer screenings and offers them support.

Jody Ruth Steinhardt has been the coordinator of the lung cancer screening program at Maimonides Medical Center since 2013. As a health educator, she has brought an awareness and community perspective to her work that ensures patients as well as health care providers are well informed.

The program model that Jody created is based in customer service, in which both the patient and the provider are customers. First, Jody speaks to every patient on the phone to ensure the patient meets current eligibility criteria and to schedule the appointment. She then meets the patients in the lobby of our hospital and escorts them to radiology for their lung screening scans. While waiting, Jody uses the opportunity to speak with patients about lung screening and what will happen during the two-minute scan, the importance of returning annually, and how a one-, three- or six-month follow-up does not mean cancer, as well as evaluating their readiness to quit smoking. At the same time, Jody is keenly aware of the patient’s anxiety level and offers guidance and support to help ease their concerns. Giving that one-on-one attention and developing a relationship are key to the success of the program, which boasts an 85% retention rate.

Jody reads through every single low-dose CT report for our program. This is an informal quality-improvement process that allows Jody to stay on top of results. One case especially comes to mind: A patient had been coming for about three years, all with negative screenings. Jody was reading the report after that patient’s annual visit, and she noticed the radiologist mentioned that although the size and growth from the previous year was still within the Lung-RADS 2 range, the nodule had actually doubled in size from a scan three years before. Jody immediately notified the ordering doctor, the case was brought up at tumor board and, sure enough, the patient had lung cancer. It was diagnosed at stage 1A.

Additionally, physicians are informed through phone and mail when a patient is noncompliant with their screening appointments. This extra effort has proven a useful initiative because many patients call to either schedule or reschedule an appointment after their doctor has a conversation with them about missing lung screenings.

Jody is also very involved in lung-cancer-related activities outside of direct patient care. She has presented at several national conferences on a myriad of topics related to program structure, physician buy-in and the implementation of a commercial program management system. It is through Jody’s connections that the Maimonides Lung Cancer Screening Program is now a member of the National Lung Cancer Roundtable. Jody also serves on the New York Regional Leadership Board of the American Lung Association and became the vice chair on July 1.

Jody is a phenomenal program leader. Her dedication, passion, drive, caring and enthusiasm have helped to make our lung cancer screening program — which conducts more than 650 scans a year as a single-site program — one of the largest in New York City.

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