Paul Okunieff, M.D., is the Marshall E. Rinker Sr.
Foundation and David B. and Leighan R. Rinker chair and
serves as director of the UF Shands Cancer Center and chair
of the College of Medicine department of radiation oncology.

I’ve been a cancer doctor for a long time, nearly 30 years. During that time the strength and bravery my patients exhibit in the face of daunting prognoses have never ceased to inspire me or fuel my passion to find better ways to treat and cure cancer. This is not just my passion … it’s one that’s shared by the many physicians, cancer nurses, clinician-scientists and researchers who come to work every day at UF&Shands with the goal of curing cancer, in individual patients and the population at large.

Curing cancer is a lofty goal, but if you ask any cancer patient here at UF&Shands what they appreciate most about the care they receive, you’ll very likely hear an answer like the one given by Heather James, whose husband, Tom, came to us for his cancer treatment.

“I cannot imagine what this experience would have been without Amanda. She made a very scary and very critical situation more seamless and less stressful,” Heather said.

Amanda is one of our nurse navigators— a registered nurse who puts a gentle, human face on cancer care. She brings order to chaos and calm to seeming calamity, shepherding patients through their many appointments with specialists, explaining confusing test results, helping to sort through the maze of financial and insurance issues, assisting with lodging arrangements for patients and family members and serving as the patient’s advocate and liaison to the treatment team.

But, most importantly, Amanda is there for her patients … to hold a hand while listening to worries and hopes, to answer questions at any time and to be a friend.

We are proud of our nurse navigation program because we know, as do our patients, that Amanda and her fellow nurse navigators are dedicated, very special health providers who love what they do and who take deep pride and satisfaction in their calling.

They’re our patients’ bridge over troubled water … when you’re feeling weary and there’s darkness all around, they will comfort you.
Paul Okunieff, M.D.
Director, UF Shands Cancer Center

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Summer 2012

From the director’s desk

They’re our patients’ bridge over troubled water … when you’re feeling weary and there’s darkness all around, they will comfort you.

Audrey’s journey across the world

Six-year-old from Australia comes to UF Proton Therapy Center for brain tumor treatment. “More happiness came out of the center than pain,” Anderson said.

Helping them live

Cancer is a scary diagnosis, by itself. Add in the need for appointments with surgeons, medical oncologists, genetics counselors and other specialists plus a slew of tests and the mind boggles. Nurse navigators guide patients through their cancer journeys.

Targeting tumors

Cancer that has spread from the site of an original tumor to other places in the body is often viewed as a death sentence. But if there are just a few of those secondary tumors, called metastases, some patients have a good chance of survival.

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