May 6, 2019 — I had an uplifting visit with about 25 members of the Peckham Center for Cancer &  Blood Disorders Outpatient Unit team this afternoon. Joined by special guest and Rady Children’s Board of Trustees Chair Michael Peckham, I first met up with Outpatient Services Manager Teresa Cassidy and Director Stacey Brown for a tour. While walking the halls, I had the opportunity to say “hello” to some of the Peckham Center’s nurses and patient access representatives, as well as get a peek at the state-of-the-art procedure room.

Can you spot Chile’s flag? I always say it looks very similar to Texas’.

As we made our way to the next stop on our tour, some enticing aromas led us to a meeting room, where the team had set up a fantastic, internationally themed feast. I appreciated the thoughtful and delicious welcome, especially when I noticed Chile’s flag amongst the décor!

Once we finished snacking, it was time to learn more about all the ways this unit serves our patient families. Based on a pinwheel-inspired idea from Xochitl, a clinical nurse, the team built a “Wheel of Peckham Center” to guide me through each important component of this dedicated team. First up were Parent Liaisons Gloria and Judy, who emphasized how meaningful it is for them to help patients’ loved ones feel understood and advocated for during an emotionally challenging time. To these women, their role is far more than a job; it’s a chance to give back.

The Wheel of Peckham Center was a great educational tool

I also heard about the innovative work being done through our Proton Therapy Program, which precisely targets tumors in patients from our local region, across the state and country, and even around the world. And, did you know that 30 percent of the Peckham Center’s patient families are exclusively Spanish-speaking and 25 percent are bilingual? The center’s Spanish interpreters are an essential resource for ensuring these families have seamless, transparent communication with their child’s care team and are supported throughout their experience at Rady Children’s.

Next, Dr. Paula Aristizabal and Dr. Jenny Kim filled me in on the myriad health conditions and needs this team addresses, ranging from sickle cell disease and bone marrow failure, to leukemia and lymphoma, to survivorship programs and cancer genetics assessments. I was struck by how much multidisciplinary work goes into patient care, and into our extensive research efforts. I learned Rady Children’s partners with multiple research consortia to revolutionize the future of pediatric hematology and oncology (among many other disease areas), and that we have set goals including opening clinical trials to every child who may benefit and initiating additional studies led by principal investigators from our organization. This vision for a healthier future is such a driving force in what we do, and I loved hearing about the carefully planned objectives that will help us achieve that vision.

As we turned the spotlight to all of the important work case managers, clinic leads, treatment and procedure nurses, medical assistants, phlebotomists and palliative care professionals accomplish for our families, the theme of teamwork grew even more powerful. “Everyone comes together for the patient,” “there is an expectation that we help each other” and “nobody stands alone” were just a few of the sentiments I heard my hosts express. I then shared that during my medical training, I found my oncology rounds to be some of the most difficult and emotionally trying — many patients are so ill, and their loved ones so distressed. I’m awestruck by the compassion, resilience and selflessness each and every member of this team exhibits, and by the steadfast support they show one another.

The team’s stamp for my passport was the perfect representation of this. Xochitl is clearly a talented nurse and creative mastermind, because her team explained she played a big part in the design. The stamp integrates hearts, abstract people and different colors to showcase the shared passion, talent and dedication that go into the many care areas the unit covers.

Xochitl helped make sure my passport was properly updated

With my passport freshly stamped, it was time to say “see you later” to these incredible individuals. Thank you for an inspiring afternoon!