Driving Lung Cancer Research With Compassion

We are writing this letter to strongly commend Livia Szeto, BSN, RN, OCN for the 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award.

We have prepared a collection of letters in support of Livia for this recognition. When I asked everyone involved in this effort to write something about Livia, I received a single universal response: “YES, absolutely, no one could deserve this award more.”

With that in mind, I am adding letters of support from all levels and experiences of the cancer care continuum. Most importantly, I include letters of support from patients and a patient’s family members. Support also comes from Evelin Kolek and Buerkley Opalecky, nurses who were trained by Livia and have worked alongside her for many years, and Kelli Buckley, her former supervisor. Also included are letters from two physician assistants, Maggie Colleton and Denise Rouse, who have worked with and been supported by Livia for more than 3 years. Doctors from the University of Chicago also lend their support: Dr. Everett Vokes, President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Chair of Medicine; dr Phillip Hoffman, professor of medicine and a distinguished clinician; dr Marina Garassino, an internationally renowned thoracic axoncologist; and dr Christine Bestvina, a thoracic oncologist.

While we cannot adequately capture Livia’s compassion, skill and tenacity, we hope that all of our experiences and reflections on Livia taken together will give the committee a sense of how much she deserves this award.

Livia has worked for the University of Chicago since 1987. The length of their career at an institution reflects their dedication and loyalty. She has been an oncology nurse navigator for most of her career, working primarily in thoracic oncology.

I’ve been a faculty member at the University of Chicago for less than five years and having Livia’s in-depth knowledge of the university and its staff was crucial. Over her years, she has developed strong relationships across disciplines, from interventional radiology to intravenous therapy and bedside access. She is able to leverage all of these relationships to improve the care of her patients by giving our patients early access to the services they desperately need.

Her direct patient relationships are unparalleled. She will always work overtime if a patient needs anything. Your compassion in these moments is incredible. She is able to elicit sensitive information from a patient, from illicit drug use to end-of-life fears. By allowing her patients to express their needs and sensitive information, we can all take better care of them. She never tells anyone something is not her job, never closes her laptop until the last patient request has been answered, and never fails to reach out if there is anything she can do to help.

Your research skills are unparalleled. She understands research protocols and clinical trials from concept to execution, from understanding the scheme to data reporting.

For example, she was the research nurse for all 37 patients treated in the COSINR study—simultaneously or sequentially (Yervoy [ipilimumab]), (Odivo [nivolumab]) plus body stereotactic irradiation for patients with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. This was an intensive and toxic therapy for these patients. She knew this study as well as all the participating researchers and knew each of the 37 patients incredibly well as she accompanied them on their journey.

In addition, Livia brings intangibles to work every day – joy, hope and fearless optimism. When we face struggles as a team, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Livia never backs down. She never shows her own fears or emotional struggles. She brings her best to work every day and creates an infectious energy that allows our team to care about our patients day in and day out.

We hope you will recognize all of the hard work Livia has put in in her career by presenting her with the 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award. Nobody could earn more. We hope that the letters attached reflect what Livia brings to the nursing field as she is an incredibly ambitious woman.

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