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Cancer Care Ontario Blog

Human Touch Awards recipients go the extra mile in cancer care

Nov 6, 2017

CCO Blog Team

A young patient of Dr. Michael Lock received some terrible news.

Already on the liver transplant list for a non-cancerous ailment, the patient had been diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her liver. That made her ineligible for a transplant and she was classified as terminally ill.

But that didn't stop Dr. Lock, a radiation oncologist with the London Regional Cancer Program. He treated her cancer using focused radiation in a program that he had himself developed.

Human Touch Awards recipients in the cancer care category: From left, Julie Chaves, Dr. Michael Lock, Elise Gasbarrino, Margaret Genna and Debora Prokopich Buzzi
Human Touch Awards recipients in the cancer care category: From left, Julie Chaves, Dr. Michael Lock, Elise Gasbarrino, Margaret Genna and Debora Prokopich Buzzi

In announcing Dr. Lock as a 2017 Human Touch Award recipient at an April ceremony, the audience heard from a letter that the patient's mother had written after her daughter's treatments.

"Thank you for championing the cause of my daughter, who got a liver transplant – thanks in no small part to you and your decision to treat her," the patient's mother wrote.

Dedication. Leadership. Compassion. Going the extra mile. The characteristics Dr. Lock showed in treating his young patient appear over and over again in the stories of all this year's Human Touch Award honourees.

The awards recognize the essential role healthcare professionals and volunteers play in the cancer care system.

Debora Prokopich Buzzi received an award in the volunteer category. A breast cancer survivor, Debora uses her dedication, passion and her first-hand knowledge of the importance of quality of life to help patients and healthcare providers.

Elise Gasbarrino also used her patient experience to drive meaningful change. After undergoing cancer treatment in her early 20s, Elise created the not-for-profit Pink Pearl Foundation. This Niagara organization supports, empowers and facilitates peer connections among women age 18-40 who are working through cancer's social and emotional challenges.

Elise runs it on an entirely volunteer basis. She was recognized for her dedication to helping others.

Along with Dr. Lock, Julie Chaves received a staff award for her contribution to the cancer care system. As front registration clerk at the Grand River Cancer Program, Julie is often the first face patients see. She's a beam of light, putting people at ease as they prepare for the emotionally exhausting and overwhelming experience of undergoing their first treatments. She makes every effort to get to know them – not only as patients, but as people.

As a patient wrote in nominating Julie for the honour: "She remembers names and previous conversations, so everyone feels special. It's never about Julie. It's always about the patient's time."

Margaret Genna, a team leader in the chemotherapy suite at Windsor Regional Hospital, is often described as a ship's captain. She takes command in a way that's professional and patient-focused. Over 35 years of work in cancer care, she has demonstrated a deep commitment to patient safety and a passion for education.

"She always has a warm smile, an infectious laugh, a great sense of humour, a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold," it was said of Margaret at the April awards ceremony. "Patients may not know her when they start treatment, but they remember her when they finish. She leaves a lasting impression."

Human Touch Awards were also handed out in the kidney care system. See this year's recipients and learn more.

Questions or comments about this post? Email us at [email protected]