9 posts tagged “Schwartz”

Compassion for all: Melody J. Cunningham, MD – Schwartz Center NCCY Award finalist

Posted November 12th, 2015 by

We’ve already introduced you to Rick Boyte, MD, one of the finalists for the National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year (NCCY) Award presented by our partners at the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare. Today, we’re happy to introduce you to another nominated healthcare provider who has displayed extraordinary devotion and compassion in caring for patients and families.

Melody J. Cunningham, MD
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital (Memphis, Tennessee)

“Melody’s character shines through her every action and her kindness is immeasurable. Her compassion for treating the whole family can not be put into words.” – A former patient’s mother

A series of losses, including the death of her father, during Melody Cunningham’s childhood taught her the definition of compassion and the depth of the human experience. As a pediatric palliative care and hematology/oncology physician and medical director of Threads of Care, the palliative care program at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Melody treasures every individual she comes in contact with.

A winding path of jobs and experiences led her to oncology, where compassionate mentors taught her a powerful distinction: to look at medical relationships as human relationships.

“I teach our medical students, residents and fellows that it’s OK to be human, to make mistakes and to say we’re sorry. As caregivers, we can laugh with families and we can cry with families,” says Melody.

Caring for her team is just as important as caring for her patients. Melody often arranges for her team to gather at her house to prepare food for the week, drops off food at team members’ homes when she knows they’ve had a difficult week, and has also been known to provide free babysitting services for colleagues. An active participant of the Schwartz Center Rounds® program, Melody emphasizes that it’s important for caregivers to remember they are human and to take the time needed to process thoughts and emotions.

Together, Melody and her team work to make sure families feel like they always have a safety net. With a 24/7 phone line, caregivers are never out of reach.

“Throughout our son’s illness, Melody was available, day or night, to answer questions and provide comfort. Melody became our friend, caregiver, confidant and biggest advocate during the darkest period of our lives,” says a former patient’s mother.

Melody approaches her practice with listening ears and an empathizing heart. She often wears a bracelet with a pair of moccasins on it, which reminds her to step into the other person’s shoes and picture their journey from their perspective. Melody believes that listening to patients and understanding their point of view and how they define quality of life is integral to the healing process.

“Melody hugged us, cried with us, laughed and celebrated milestones over the course of our daughter’s illness,” says a former patient’s mother. “With Melody by our side, we never felt alone or incapable of caring for our daughter.”

 

Stay tuned for the remaining NCCY Award nominees as they’re featured on the blog leading up to the 20th Annual Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Healthcare Dinner in Boston on November 18. 

Let’s celebrate compassionate care, together.

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Compassion for all: Rick Boyte, MD – Schwartz Center NCCY Award finalist

Posted November 10th, 2015 by

Back in April, our partners at the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare called for nominations for their National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year (NCCY) Award, a national recognition program that honors outstanding healthcare providers who display extraordinary devotion and compassion in caring for patients and families. This year’s expansion of the award marks the award’s 16th year, and its first year as a national distinction.

Six 2015 NCCY Award finalists have been named, and the winner of the NCCY Award will be announced on November 18 at the 20th Annual Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Healthcare Dinner in Boston. In anticipation of next week’s award ceremony, we’ll be featuring the NCCY Award finalists here on the blog. First up is Rick Boyte, MD.

Rick Boyte, MD
The University of Mississippi Medical Center (Jackson, Mississippi)

“Dr. Boyte is the most selfless and caring person I’ve met. He cares more about patients than protocols and more about residents than research. Here is someone I could learn from—here was a man worth emulating. Many doctors can claim to have saved a life—very few can say they healed another’s spirit.” – A resident

Those who witness the care Rick Boyte provides his patients, experience the compassion he has for the children and their families, and feel the camaraderie he shares with colleagues, can immediately understand the special bond he has with patients, their families and care teams.

As a physician and the division chief of pediatric palliative medicine at Batson Children’s Hospital in the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Rick is not only interested in the science and technology that could be afforded each child, he strives to equip families with all they need in order to cope with their child’s complex and fragile condition, no matter what the outcome.

“From starting the PICU to forming the palliative care team, from chairing the Ethics Committee to leading Schwartz Center Rounds® program, and from teaching medicine to modeling compassion—he seeks out the needs of others and gives of himself so willingly,” says a resident.

Rick consistently treats each child as if they are the most important one in the world. And it was no different the time when an expecting couple received devastating news that their baby girl had a very rare birth defect with a poor prognosis. Rick met with them immediately and discussed the best and worst possible scenarios for their daughter. Together, they decided to focus on quality of life, no matter how long or short it might be.

“Dr. Boyte walked with us on this life-changing journey. He was not afraid to be there for us during our darkest days of planning her funeral and deciding where we would want her buried if she died,” says the mother. “He listened to us and got to know us and our heart’s desires for our precious daughter. He was sensitive to our every emotion, from joy, celebration and hope, to sorrow, grief and pain. He supported us in unimaginable ways. And I’m sure he would say he was just doing his job.”

Rick was there for their daughter’s birthday and continued to celebrate every milestone with the family until she was a year and half, when she became Rick’s first graduate. She didn’t just survive—she thrived. Today, she is a happy four-year-old little girl.

“I’m absolutely inspired by my patients and their families. They are the most courageous people I’ve ever met,” says Rick. “They’re just getting through their lives. But the love and the focus I’ve seen from families, from parents, the devotion they’ve given their children—it’s just amazing.”

He supports families through active listening and communication while including the families’ goals, values and desires into each patient’s plan of care. He has accompanied a family home with their dying child as their final wish was that she be able to die in the comfort of home. He has remained on the phone with a mother as she sat alone watching her child take her last breath waiting for the hospice nurse to arrive. He has stayed at the hospital with patients for hours to ensure a family felt supported and achieved their goal of their child dying without pain. And he has attended his patients’ funerals to be there for the families.

“I’m so thankful for the privilege of working with Rick Boyte, to be a witness to his care and compassion, and experience his unwavering commitment to his patients and families,” says a nurse colleague.

“I think the ability to be compassionate is within all of us,” says Rick. “Over the years I have learned that compassion is often the best offering we have as humans.”

 

If you have a caregiver you’d like to recognize, stay tuned for nominations for the 2016 NCCY Award, which will open early next year. If you’d still like an opportunity to say “thank you” to your caregiver, learn more about Schwartz Center’s Honor Your Caregiver program, which celebrates everyday acts of compassion.

Let’s celebrate compassionate care, together.

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