Auerbach family chair addressing the psychosocial side of cancer care
More than 40 percent of Americans will be told at some point in their lifetimes they have cancer. “People’s first thought is, ‘Will I survive?’” says Barbara Steele, an oncology nurse and information specialist with the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center’s Mint Jubilee Cancer Resource Center.
More than 40 percent of Americans will be told at some point in their lifetimes they have cancer.
“People’s first thought is, ‘Will I survive?’” says Barbara Steele, an oncology nurse and information specialist with the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center’s Mint Jubilee Cancer Resource Center.
After the initial shock, many patients react by seeking out the latest treatments, finding the best doctors and researching which cancer centers offer the most innovative care. They focus on addressing the physical toll of cancer.
But many people overlook the psychological and social problems that are created or made worse by cancer. According to the Institute of Medicine, cancer patients and their families are at increased risk for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Other psychosocial problems may include lack of coping skills, lack of transportation or other resources, lack of knowledge to improve their health, or problems at work, school or in the family.
“When people talk about the psychosocial cost of cancer, they aren’t talking about the body: the nausea, the pain. They mean feelings and thoughts—especially those negative thoughts when you’re lying there at night and your mind is going in areas that aren’t healthy,” says Steele.
All these psychosocial stresses add an extra burden to the patient and to his or her family. These stresses can interfere with the effectiveness of the patient’s immune system and other functions as well as a caregiver’s ability to offer help.
To address these secondary concerns, the Mansbach Family Foundation recently made a $1 million commitment to create the Auerbach Family Endowed Chair in Pyscho-onology at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. The gift will be paid over five years.
Sy Pearson Auerbach, 49MD, an emeritus assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at UofL, says he decided to make this donation following many of his family members’ long struggles with cancer, including that of his late wife, Minx.
“This endowment will mean so much. It will be used to attract a world-class clinician who specializes in the psychosocial aspects of cancer and who emphasizes collaborative, multidisciplinary care that addresses the whole patient,” says Kelly Wesley, director of development at the Brown Cancer Center.
The chair holder will research the impact of psychosocial cancer care and will develop a teaching program for medical students and others that focuses on the psychosocial needs of patients. The chair will be expected to strengthen partnerships with other support service organizations that provide cancer support for the whole family.
Before retirement Dr. Auerbach was chief of orthopedics at Children’s Hospital and was medical director and cofounder of Southeastern Rehabilitation Center in Clarksville, Ind., which treated crippled children for the state of Indiana. He was also a member of the Kentucky Governor’s Commission for Handicapped (the Crippled Children’s Commission) for six years and created the Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy at Spalding University.
Minx Auerbach was one of the original members the Regional Cancer Center Corporation, which helped found the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. She was also the first woman chair of the UofL Board of Trustees and served on the board of the UofL Board of Overseers, the UofL Foundation, the UofL Research Foundation and UofL Hospital.
In 1998 the Auerbachs created an endowment to fund the annual Minx Auerbach Lecture in Women’s and Gender Studies, which brings outstanding speakers to campus to address issues of importance to women.