Neuro-Oncology Branch Celebrates Nurses Week
In celebration of Nurses Week on May 6 - 12, we are highlighting our research nurses, clinical nurse practitioners and nurse-scientists at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) who care for our brain and spine tumor patients. We are thankful for their tireless contribution to make the lives of our patients and their caregivers better throughout their care at the National Institutes of Health.
The Nurse Practitioners
Christine Siegel has been a nurse practitioner in the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) for 5 years. She provides care to patients enrolled in our clinical trials and specifically works with NCI-CONNECT patients who have rare brain and spine tumors.
“As the nurse practitioner for these rare tumor patients, I educate them and their families on their pathology, imaging, symptoms and their history to help them coordinate their care with their primary physician at home,” she says. Christine values her colleagues and the patient and family interactions. Their stories of persistence, courage and hope inspire her every day.
As a nurse practitioner at the NOB, Lisa Boris works closely with other nurse practitioners, research nurses and physicians in the branch to care for brain and spine tumor patients on treatment trials. Her longstanding experience with the branch and significant expertise in caring for this specific group of people and their loved ones has helped her gain a deep understanding of their needs.
Lisa says that, “our patients deserve high-quality care in a research environment that is searching for new and improved techniques to hopefully lengthen their lives while improving their quality of life as well.” Regardless of where they came from, Lisa values being able to impact their lives in a positive way.
As one of the four nurse practitioners in the NOB, Ramya Antony works specifically with Dr. Jing Wu and Dr. Brett Theeler from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and their brain and spine tumor patients. Dr. Theeler and Ramya are also part of the NCI-CONNECT team, providing clinical care to those with rare tumors.
“Collaborating with a patient’s home physician to manage their disease is very valuable, especially for those who have rare brain and spine tumors,” says Ramya. “I love learning from the expertise my attending physicians bring so we can provide the best care for our patients, who inspire me every day.”
Nicole Lollo, a nurse practitioner in the NOB for the last year, has had years of extensive nursing expertise in caring for clinical trial patients at NIH. As a member of a multidisciplinary team at the branch, she provides comprehensive care for people with brain and spine tumors.
“I feel extremely privileged to work alongside a team of brilliant clinical staff, who each bring a unique set of abilities to provide exceptional care for our patients,” says Nicole. “I am in awe of the strength and courage patients and their families display even in the face of a devastating diagnosis.” This inspires Nicole to work tirelessly on their behalf to improve their lives. “There is always something we can do because if we don’t, then who will?”
The Research Nurses
Matt Lindsley is not only a research nurse with the NOB, but also a Lieutenant in the United States Public Health Service. He helps carry out the logistics of a clinical trial, from the development of the study until all the patients have finished treatment and the study is completed.
“My role requires knowledge of standard clinical care, expertise about the research protocol, and problem-solving skills,” shares Matt. He is inspired every day by working alongside upbeat and passionate colleagues to provide the best care. “Patients motivate me through their unrelenting spirit to not give up regardless of the disease and treatment challenges they face. I find purpose in guiding them through that process,” says Matt.
Sonja Crandon, a research nurse at the NOB oversees all the patients enrolled on clinical trials at the branch through the Natural History Study. This large-scale observational study collects clinical data, patient-reported outcomes, and tumor tissue, which is analyzed to evaluate brain and spine tumor patients throughout their disease.
“I truly value being able to have input into developing and improving processes that can then improve patient care,” says Sonja. “I am inspired by the sheer resilience patients show to keep pushing through the challenges they face each day.”
As the research nurse for the NCI-CONNECT program, Kathleen Wall manages the clinical studies that focus on new treatments for rare brain and spine tumors. This program focuses on 12 rare tumor types and uses patient, advocacy, and provider partnerships to improve approaches to care and treatment.
“To be diagnosed and live with a rare disease is so difficult for our patients, and yet, they continue to overcome so many challenges that they face,” says Kathleen. “I know that I am only a small part of their entire journey, but I strive to make their time with us a positive experience and support them the best I can.”
Ukeme Ikkideh-Barnes is a research nurse with the NOB, overseeing the multicenter clinical trials under the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative (BTTC). She collaborates with doctors and nurses at other BTTC centers, monitors enrolled patients, trial progress, and the extension or renewal of ongoing trials, while ensuring patient safety.
She is inspired by her clinical and laboratory colleagues and commends the expertise and uniqueness of each member’s input to develop new treatments for people with brain and spine tumors. “I am honored to be part of a dynamic and innovative team and value being on the forefront of medical discoveries that can help people live longer or have a better quality of life,” says Ukeme.
As a research nurse with the NOB, Kelly Mentges is responsible for making sure the integrity of clinical trials is maintained and that patients meet their timepoints, while also assuring their safety and supporting them through the process. Her background as an emergency room nurse has greatly contributed to her ability to adapt to each person’s needs and communicate effectively with them.
“I love that each patient interaction provides an opportunity to improve the lives of a patient or their family member, even if it is doing something small like just taking the time to listen to them about how they’re doing,” says Kelly. She believes all the small interactions, even a smile, can add up to great patient care.
Dr. Terri Armstrong
Dr. Terri Armstrong, Deputy Chief and Senior Investigator of the NOB, is a nurse-scientist by training. She oversees the Patient Outcomes Program and strives to better understand the impact that brain and spine tumors and treatments, have on patients. She also is actively involved in training staff and students.
She says, “I have lost some of my closest family members to cancer and had the privilege to care for countless patients over 30 years of practice. Now, working with dedicated colleagues in a collaborative effort to improve how patients feel and function through their disease and treatment is what motivates me each day.”
Dr. Amanda King
Dr. Amanda King is a nurse-scientist in the NOB. She holds both a nurse practitioner master’s degree and a nursing doctoral degree with an expertise in stress research. Dr. King will soon be launching a clinical trial using virtual reality-based relaxation to reduce distress and anxiety that patients often experience before scans and clinic appointments.
“Patient-reported outcomes play such an important role in how cancer therapies affect patients and anything that allows me to improve patients’ lives in a meaningful way is very rewarding,” says Dr. King. She feels very fortunate to work alongside talented colleagues that understand how crucial the integration of patient outcomes is to comprehensive clinical care and seeks to advance brain tumor research in diverse ways.