The 2019 UNC Lineberger-Sylvia Lauterborn and Warren Trent Piver Oncology Nursing Fellows were recognized at a luncheon on Friday, June 21. This year’s fellows are Bekah Friday, Celina Jimenez, Hayley Nusser and Gabriela Valchanova.

The fellowship program was designed to stimulate and foster professional development in oncology nursing among rising seniors at the UNC School of Nursing. The six-week program, led by UNC Lineberger’s Ashley Leak Bryant, PhD, RN-BC, OCN, for the past four years with her clinical partner Susan Mason, MSN, RN, OCN, clinical nurse education specialist, includes both inpatient and outpatient experiences. The fellows work closely with oncology nurses to better understand the nurses’ role with symptom management, clinical trials and best practices in providing supportive care services.

The UNC Lineberger-Sylvia Lauterborn and Warren Trent Piver Oncology Nursing Fellowship was generously provided by Robert “Bob” Lauterborn, a supporter of UNC Lineberger and the N.C. Cancer Hospital, where his wife, Sylvia, received excellent cancer nursing care, and by Laura Carlo Piver, to honor her husband, Warren Trent Piver, in the belief that nurses bring unique knowledge, skills, perspective and caring to cancer care.

Sylvia was born in Crumlin, Wales on May 1, 1939. She was a student nurse at Charing Cross Hospital in London and held other roles before she was chosen to be a stewardess for Pan American Airways. While in training for Pan Am in Queens, New York, she met Bob Lauterborn, who was on a training program for GE. They were married Sept. 28, 1963. The couple moved to Chapel Hill in 1986 when Bob joined the faculty at UNC. Sylvia then worked at Fine Feathers, and later managed The Cotton Boll. During more than 50 years of travel, Sylvia visited 83 countries, first as a stewardess, then with her husband as he taught all over the world. She died after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2013.

Warren Piver was a PhD chemical engineer who possessed a deep-seated scientific curiosity about a broad range of environmental issues. He was internationally recognized for his work on groundwater contamination and climate change. At age 44, he underwent aggressive chemotherapy at UNC for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. An autologous bone marrow transplant at the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, as the bone marrow transplant program had not yet started at UNC. During the ensuing 13 years in which he was cancer-free, Warren saw sons married, a daughter in college, volunteered with his church and in the community, and excelled professionally. Fifteen years after his original diagnosis, Warren succumbed to acute myelogenous leukemia. Excellent medical care, and especially knowledgeable, compassionate nursing care, were vital pillars in his life story.

The fellows shared the reasons for their interest in oncology nursing. For many, it was witnessing a family member’s experience with cancer.

Bekah Friday

Friday said she has been inspired by personal experiences with cancer. Her grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer when she was 12 years old, and she witnessed his battle with the disease for four years before he died. In addition, her best friend’s mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when Friday and her friend were 18.

Cancer does not discriminate, and its patients are diverse,” she said. “Nearly everyone knows somebody whose story has been changed by this disease, yet many people do not fully understand what cancer patients live through. These patients deserve doctors and nurses who are not only experts and professionals but also supporters in the midst of their pain, exhaustion, joy, and resilience. Someday I desire to help implement change so that I can improve cancer care and this fellowship would help me begin my journey.”

Celina Jimenez

Jimenez said her interest in oncology nursing also stems from watching close family members battle the disease. She also described how, during the 10th Annual Coping with Cancer Symposium, she realized that the cancer journey rarely looks the same for two people.

This program would give me a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the real and multifaceted nature of oncology,” she said. “My passion for direct patient and family care, deep curiosity for oncology, and previous experience makes this program the perfect next step in my educational career.”

Nusser’s interest in the program stems from a desire to gain experience working full-time, and to gain clinical experience from leading nurses. She became passionate about oncology during a clinical experience on 4 Oncology, where she learned a lot about providing care to patients as well as comforting family members.

Hayley Nusser

“I was inspired while caring for these patients to dedicate my career to working in oncology, and I know that this program would provide me with a great foundation for my future,” she said.

Valchanova said she has personally experienced losing a loved one to cancer. She was in her first year of high school when she learned that her grandmother in Bulgaria had died after a battle with stage four colon cancer.

“I remember that day so vividly, sitting across my computer screen on a Skype call with my grandfather as he and I mustered the strength to accept our new reality: one without my beloved ‘Baba,’” she said. “My eyes welled with tears and my voice began to shake. Thousands of miles separated her life from mine as she took her last breaths. I wanted so desperately to leap through the computer and hold onto her one last time. How could cancer take away such a beautiful spirit?”

In addition to Bryant and Mason, UNC Lineberger’s Deborah Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, provided support in administering the program. Program leaders would also like to thank the patient services managers of 4 Oncology: Crista Creedle, RN, BSN, OSN, and Summer Cheek, RN, BSN, OCN, PSM, as well as Joshua Bradley, RN, BSN, of the inpatient Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and many other nurses in the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

Story by the UNC School of Nursing.