This year, an estimated 30,000 patients will come to The University of Kansas Cancer Center for cancer care. To help guide them through their treatment, Tom and Teresa Walsh, of Leawood, Kan., have made a $2.5 million gift to support a nurse navigation program.
Nurse navigators guide patients through appointments, tests, treatments and follow-up, answering questions and providing emotional support. The Walshes' gift will support five new experienced nurse navigators from The University of Kansas Hospital, enabling the program to expand and serve more patients. The Walsh family had previously funded the lead navigator position. Each navigator specializes in a different type of cancer.
Tom Walsh earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from KU in 1980; he is an entrepreneur. Teresa Walsh co-founded Silpada Designs jewelry in Lenexa, Kan., in 1997; Avon purchased the corporation in 2010.
The Walshes personally understand the importance of nurse navigation — something that didn’t exist years ago when Teresa’s father was diagnosed with cancer. He lived in rural Oklahoma and came to The University of Kansas Hospital for treatment at Teresa’s urging.
“We love the idea that with the navigation program, the patient really feels connected to the doctors and to the cancer center,” Teresa Walsh said. “You have somebody with you to hold your hand, helping you along the way. There are so many questions and you’re so scared in the beginning.”
Tom Walsh said they felt blessed and humbled that they’re able to make the gift.
“But the fact that it can do so much for so many people in our community matters more,” he said. “We can help create jobs to provide better care for people right here in our community, and we can contribute a little bit to saving lives, which is what the cancer center is all about.”
Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the cancer center, said the nurse navigator program has become an essential component of coordinating care across a diverse and thriving set of services offered by the cancer center. “Navigation is a vital link that ensures that the entire range of supportive patient assistance programs is individually tailored for each patient,” said Jensen. “We are so thankful for the visionary gift from Tom and Teresa Walsh to expand navigation across the cancer center.”
The support of cancer patients must go beyond advanced medicine and compassionate care, said Dr. Terry Tsue, physician-in-chief of the cancer center. “Cancer patients need the connections provided by nurse navigators to a wide variety of support services,” Tsue said. “Navigators are cancer patients’ link to information they might have missed, questions they forgot to ask and services they didn’t know existed.”
In 2011, the Walshes made a $2 million gift for the cancer center, of which $1 million established the Walsh Family Foundation Patient Navigation Fund.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center is a partnership that includes cancer research and health care professionals associated with the KU Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.; KU’s Lawrence campus; the KU School of Medicine-Wichita; and the members of the Midwest Cancer Alliance.
The University of Kansas Hospital is the region's premier academic medical center, providing a full range of care. The constantly growing facility contains 665 staffed beds (plus 24 bassinets) and serves more than 28,000 inpatients annually. Although independent from the University of Kansas, the hospital works with KU Endowment as its partner in philanthropy.
- Story from University of Kansas