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APSHO Spotlight
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APSHO invites members to share their experiences as oncology advanced practitioners. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming Member Spotlight, please complete the questionnaire here: apsho.org/Spotlight.

Spotlight on...Kevin Brigle, PhD, ANP, Massey Cancer Center

 

What brought you to the field of oncology?

I graduated with my NP degree in December 1998 and began working as an in-patient NP in Internal Medicine. Approximately 6 months later, I was asked to apply for an opening in oncology at the Massey Cancer Center. This was clearly a natural fit for me as my prior PhD research focused on the transport mechanisms of anti-folates in leukemia cells. As it turned out, it was a perfect fit and I have not considered working in any other discipline since.

What do you enjoy most about working in oncology?

I think that my answer to this question changes periodically. Right now, I am excited by the new drugs and novel mechanisms of actions that are becoming available on such a rapid basis. Being able to bring an effective novel agent to a patient when I could not do so just 1 year ago is such a rewarding part of the job.

What is the most satisfying/challenging aspect of your job?

I think the satisfying aspects and challenging aspects of the job are often one in the same. I am sure we all get asked how we can work in a field where there is so much bad news. The word “cancer” has so many negative connotations attached to it, but that need not always be the case. Many cancers are indeed curable and most every cancer is at least treatable with many now becoming more chronic in nature. Bringing that understanding to patients, especially at diagnosis or relapse, is both a challenge and a blessing. For those cancers for which we have less to offer, the challenge and satisfaction is helping guide the patient and their families through the natural history of the disease both emotionally and physically.

Who were/are your mentors?

Over the years I have had the good fortune to work with a number of nurse practitioners, both within and outside of oncology who have provided me with the education and skills that make me the practitioner I am today. But along with nurse practitioners, I have been given guidance by some excellent physicians, pharmacists and other advanced practice providers. The most influential group, at least in the last several years, has been the members of the Nurse Leadership Board of the International Myeloma Foundation. They have really helped me step up my game by encouraging publication.

What are your major professional accomplishments, memberships, areas of service?

I graduated with my NP degree in December 1998 and began working in oncology about 6 months later as an NP in our Rural Outreach Program. At that time, the Massey Cancer Center was forming a new Heme-Malignancy clinic at the Cancer Center and I was asked to participate as the first nurse practitioner in the program as well and both opportunities have provided wonderful opportunities for service and advancement. While in school, I became active in our state organization for Nurse Practitioners - the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners (VCNP). Within 5 years following graduation, I served two terms as President of the Richmond Regions and then moved on to serve two terms as Secretary on the State Board. Within this organization, I became very active in healthcare policy and nursing practice and I have served as the Government Relations Chair for 5 years. This advocacy led to a 5-year position on the board of the Virginia Nurses Association, first as a liaison from the VCNP and then as Government Relations Chair. More recently, I was appointed by the Governor to a 4-year term as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Virginia Joint Boards of Medicine and Nursing. With my specialty practice in Heme Malignancies, I was invited to serve a 4-year term on the Virginia Board of Trustees for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Finally, it has been my good fortune to have also had the opportunity to be invited to become a member of the Nurse Leadership Board of the International Myeloma Foundation. This last group has provided me with ample opportunity for publication and I have authored/co-authored 4 journal articles and 3 book chapters. Throughout this time I have been the recipient of significant honors including the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners “Distinguished Practitioner of the Year” Award in 2010 and the ONS Pearl Moore “Making a Difference” Emerging Leader Award in 2014. And finally, within APSHO, I have been given the opportunity to be a member of the Membership Committee at the ground level.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I have received so much good advice, much of which I did not know was good advice until later. But, as I was contemplating making my career switch in nursing nearly 20 years ago (which was a bit of a leap of faith), I was told “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” That has turned out to be so true.

What would someone meeting you for the first time be surprised to learn?

That I am actively involved in state politics, and that I really enjoy going to the State Capital building and meeting with legislators.

Is there something else you'd like fellow APSHO members to know about you?

I will be attending 2018 JADPRO Live in Hollywood, Florida, and 2019 JADPRO Live in Seattle, Washington.

Is there anything about your family, hobbies or interests you would like to share?

I am married and have two grown children. My daughter is a chemo-certified pediatric nurse and my son works in a pancreatic transplant lab. I love baseball, hiking, and visiting breweries (although my wife prefers we visit wineries!).



Spotlight on...Paige Goforth, MMS, PA-C, Wellmont Cancer Institute

What brought you to the field of oncology?

I had personal experience caring for my stepdaughter who was diagnosed with tongue cancer at 29. Two years later my mother was diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma and passed away 15 months after her diagnosis while I was in PA school. In PA school we have 12 months of clinical rotations in various disciplines. I had already chosen oncology and was scheduled to go back to the cancer center where my mother had been treated. All my life I was driven by a desire to help people. I had participated in several mission trips and took advantage of volunteer opportunities any time they were available. Going into PA school I was thrilled that I would finally be able to offer the ultimate “help” and care for oncology patients, but when the time came, I seriously questioned my ability to work in this field. After all, I wasn't able to “save” my mother. My first day on the job, I walked in and stood by the chair in which my mom had received her last chemotherapy. I prayed and cried and asked the Lord to heal my shattered heart and equip me both physically and emotionally if this was truly where he wanted me. Not only did I receive absolute confirmation that this is where he wanted me, but my oncology patients and coworkers have blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.

What do you enjoy most about working in oncology?

Knowing at the end of the day I have made a positive impact in someone’s life.

What is the most satisfying/challenging aspect of your job?

I love being able to explain the process of a patient's treatment to them in a way they understand. I am a visual learner and worked as a tutor before becoming a PA so my love of teaching, illustrating, and explaining things is very useful during patient encounters. One of the most satisfying parts of my job is helping patients improve their performance status while on treatment. This is also one of the most challenging areas because it is difficult for them to stay compliant with their treatment, especially when they are having side effects and feel so bad. It is during those times that you have to encourage them to not give up, educate them on being consistent with meds that manage the side effects, and push through until they are feeling better. 

Who were/are your mentors?

My professors in PA school and preceptors during clinicals were instrumental in building my confidence as a medical provider. Not only was I a new PA but new to the field of oncology, and Wendy Vogel was an invaluable resource as a mentor in the role and responsibility of an advanced practice provider. 

What are your major professional accomplishments, memberships, areas of service?

I graduated in 2014 from the Physician Assistant program at DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. At graduation I was awarded the PA Student Advocate Award for “selflessness, unusual devotion to duty, sensitivity to patient comfort and needs, as well as service to classmates, patients and school.” I am a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Tennessee Association of Physician Assistants. I am proud to be a charter member and current board member of the Advanced Practitioner Society for Hematology and Oncology where I serve on the Membership Committee.

Prior to becoming a PA I was founder and president of a tutoring company that received awards for academic excellence and most rapid growth in a startup since inception.

My research, publication, and poster presentation on Merkel cell carcinoma at the 2nd JADPRO Live conference is without question the accomplishment I am most proud of. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Always be an advocate for the underdog and treat everyone with compassion. 

What would someone meeting you for the first time be surprised to learn?

I am a self-taught pastry chef and enjoy working on cars as much as I enjoy working in the kitchen! 

Is there anything about your family, hobbies or interests you would like to share?

Aside from cooking therapy, I enjoy traveling and camping with family in my 69 VW Westfalia.

 

Spotlight on...Tammy Pugh, ACNP-BC, Cancer Surgery of Mobile

What brought you to the field of oncology?

I wish I had a moment when I knew oncology was my chosen field. My draw to this position was simply the admiration for the physicians in this surgical practice. They are known not only for their expertise in surgical oncology but for the compassion they show to each of their patients. I knew that I wanted to be a part of a team where compassion matters.

What do you enjoy most about working in oncology?

The eagerness between patients and providers to partner together in order to achieve a common goal.

What is the most satisfying/challenging aspect of your job?

The most satisfying part of my job is seeing a positive outcome for patients (i.e., reduction or resolution of a breast tumor after chemotherapy). The most challenging aspect of my job is that I am our practice’s first clinic-based NP. Approximately 99% of my work is in clinic. I do have a few days where I venture out to our inpatients. Otherwise, I have been given the task to build up an existing yet "abandoned" high-risk breast cancer clinic and to begin a survivorship clinic.

Who were/are your mentors?

Our very own Wendy Vogel has been a great person to receive feedback from. I certainly appreciate her availability for questions. I would consider her a mentor.

What are your major professional accomplishments, memberships, areas of service?

I graduated in 1999 from the University of Mobile with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. While attending, I was elected and served as president of the Student Nurses Association and spearheaded health fairs to promote community health awareness. After graduation, I was employed at Mobile Infirmary in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and received valuable experience in caring for patients with acute life-threatening medical conditions. I returned to academia in 2001 where I completed a dual degree in Masters in Science in Nursing as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Clinic Nurse Specialist in 2004. I received extended training in transplant nephrology under the direction of Dr. Velma Scantlebury and Dr. Kim Bryant. I’ve been board certified through American Nurses Credentialing Center as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner for 13 years. I also serve as a clinical preceptor for nurse practitioner students attending universities from around the state of Alabama. I practice at Cancer Surgery of Mobile in Mobile Alabama, providing disease-specific services to patients who have completed cancer treatment and require increased surveillance. I am also involved in developing and providing comprehensive care in the area’s first high-risk cancer clinic. I am an active member of the Advanced Practitioner Society for Hematology and Oncology.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

When I began working in this environment, we had a breast surgeon who was moving away. Her words of advice, although simple, keep ringing in my ears: "Keep plugging away at it...you'll eventually get it." She was referring to the risk assessment models we use in our high-risk breast cancer clinic. 

What would someone meeting you for the first time be surprised to learn?

I am a very passionate person. I expect the very best of myself and of others around me. Not perfection, but the best one can be.

Is there something else you’d like fellow APSHO members to know about you?

I really have enjoyed the APSHO website and the educational resources.

What are your goals for the future?

I will be working toward board certification as an Advanced Genetics Nurse through ANCC. Also, I’m looking to expand our high-risk breast cancer clinic to a high-risk cancer clinic for eligible patients high-risk for breast, colorectal, melanoma, or pancreatic cancer.

Is there anything about your family, hobbies or interests you would like to share?

My husband and I have four children between us. We married only two years ago. Three of the children are adults and one is a junior in high school. I simply adore photography and have a small newborn/children photography business. I love to hike, raft, and zip line. We have property in CopperHill Tennessee. We are in hopes to build a home there one day soon and retire when we just can’t work anymore.

 

Spotlight on...Tina Harris, AOCNP, FNP, Tennessee Oncology

What brought you to the field of oncology?

I had went to nursing school because I wanted to make a difference, and I loved doing what I could to help others. My rotations in clinicals were nothing spectacular, and although I excelled in nursing school, nothing stood out to me personally. My first job as a new RN was on the cardiac floor. I would leave work after my 7 pm–7 am shift in tears. I would cry all the way home, at times so tired and barely seeing the road from my tears. I was so upset that I wasted my time going to nursing school only to be miserable. One evening I came in to my shift and was floated to the oncology floor and I never looked back. This field was my calling, and I realized that GOD had answered my prayers.  I had been asking for guidance. I had found my purpose.

What do you enjoy most about working in oncology?

The patients, family, and colleagues. The learning and new treatments. The never-ending education.

What is the most satisfying/challenging aspect of your job?

The most satisfying is telling a patient your cancer is cured or in remission, seeing the relief from patients or the family members when they hear that their "cancer" hasn't progressed. The most challenging is having the hospice discussion—when there are no other options and referring to hospice. No matter how many times you have the discussion, it is never easy, and a part of you feels, "Could we have done something different or added another drug?"

What are your major professional accomplishments, memberships, areas of service?

Leader in Radiation Oncology as a Nurse Practitioner, mentor to fellow Advanced Practitioners, APSHO member including communication committee member, Advanced Post News Editor, Chattanooga ONS member, volunteer for local Susan G. Komen events, including health fairs, speaker for local support groups, including Prostate Cancer.

Who were/are your mentors?

My fellow colleagues and APSHO members

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

No matter how hard you try to cure cancer or the numerous treatments you offer patients, when their journey is complete here on earth, they will die. Just like you will one day. You need to make a difference and do your best. I was told this by one of my patients who I had to discuss hospice with after we had nothing else to offer. He thanked me for the care and friendship. I still cry when I think of him (including writing about him now).

What are your goals for the future?

I have applied for the doctorate program in integrated medicine. I want to take part in health policy and continue to advocate for patients and our advanced practitioners. I want the betterment of healthcare and our patients. We all deserve healthcare and access. 

What would someone meeting you for the first time be surprised to learn?

They would be surprised that I am very active in healthcare policy, politics, and work behind the scenes.

Is there something else you’d like fellow APSHO members to know about you?

I value our members and am in awe of our members. We are stewards in healthcare. I enjoy seeing our members' accomplishments and am very proud of them.

Is there anything about your family, hobbies or interests you would like to share?

My husband and I have four children (ages 9–14) and sometimes wonder how we get through the day, let alone the week. We are a very active family with camping, kayaking, fishing, and anything outdoors. We have two rescue dogs. Although most of our friends have their first grandchild, we feel our family keeps us young and healthy. Anyone with children in school today is smarter than a fifth grader after helping with homework.

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