DCI Superstar Awards Bestowed After Hiatus


After a one-year hiatus due to the (pre-vaccine) COVID-19 pandemic, Duke Cancer Institute leadership once again presented the coveted DCI Superstar Achievement Awards. The annual event celebrates and recognizes the achievements and exceptional service of DCI faculty, providers and staff. Awardees are nominated by their colleagues and managers during the summer and fall.

Executive director of DCI Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, and DCI chief administrator Robin Famiglietti, PhD (also associate vice president, Oncology Services, Duke University Health System) and other senior leaders visited cancer centers in Durham and Wake counties with bright gold balloons, flowers and cupcakes in hand — surprising five deserving recipients in person at their workplaces with a special crystal award engraved with their name.

Whether in person or via Zoom, managers, colleagues and family members of award recipients joined in the celebrations — held at Duke Cancer Center Durham (main campus); Duke Blood Cancer Center (Duke North Pavilion, Durham); Duke Cancer Institute at Hock Plaza; Duke Cancer Center North Durham at Duke Regional; and Duke Cancer Center Cary.

Everyone (probably) managed to keep the award winners and proceedings a secret up until the very last moment. Even Kastan attempted to draw out the suspense by reading excerpts from the nomination letters before the big reveal at each celebration location.

“This is really the thing we look forward to all year and we weren’t going to let the pandemic get in the way this year,” said Kastan, who just commemorated his 10th year as executive director. “The superstar award is just a small token to recognize those people who go above and beyond. I realize that we have such extraordinary faculty and staff that everyone goes above and beyond all the time, but the DCI superstar award is to recognize those individuals who go even further.”

Nurse receiving an award
Alice Maupin, MSN, RN, OCN, AGCNS-BC

Alice Maupin, MSN, RN, OCN, AGCNS-BC
Clinical Nurse Specialist – Oncology Services
Duke University Health System

Oncology clinical nurse specialist Alice Maupin, MSN, RN, OCN, AGCNS-BC, based at Duke Cancer Center Durham (main campus), received two separate nominations from colleagues — one from clinical nurse specialist Meg Helsley, MSN, RN, AOCNS, and one from clinical educator Karla Lambson MSN, RN, OCN.

Maupin, who joined Duke/DCI in February 2017, is considered a clinical and subject matter expert in many areas of oncology nursing, wrote Helsley, including evidence-based practice process, genitourinary and gynecologic cancer care (inpatient and outpatient), head and neck cancer, team member well-being, standardized symptom management, and education.

Helsley noted that in addition to "mentoring and coaching others in achieving their professional development goals," Maupin "continues to advance her own personal knowledge and demonstrates what it means to be a lifelong learner, especially in palliative care, end-of-life, telehealth, triage, chemotherapy and immunotherapy for the disease groups she supports."

She’s been invited to speak to local and regional organizations on burnout and well-being in health care and nursing and has been serving in a national focus group on telehealth practices in oncology since the COVID pandemic began. This past year Maupiin served as co-chair for a large interdisciplinary head and neck cancer task force and a DCI-wide well-being committee.

The mother of two young children is becoming a certified death doula so she can ensure more people have access to a supportive and peaceful death.

“Alice exemplifies what it means to be a superstar! She is a highly skilled, extremely knowledgeable, compassionate oncology clinical nurse specialist who consistently displays and promotes Duke values,” wrote Helsley. “She has recently dedicated time to providing clinical support in the Outpatient Treatment Center on days where staffing shortages would impact patient care. She volunteers for a community hospice to provide respite care for the family. She sits with the dying who do not have family at their bedside.”

Lambson, in her nomination, drew attention to Maupin having “led a transformative education redesign with the GU nursing team in Clinic 5-1” (including instruction on GU fundamentals and weekly in-services, in collaboration with the pharmacist, covering all classes of medications the nursing staff would see in the clinic) — a move necessitated by an influx of many new nurses to the team.

She added that Maupin also made sure that the medical assistants in addition to the nurses could partake in this clinical education.

“This format is currently being adapted in other areas of the Cancer Center and the knowledge gained by the nurses will have a direct and positive impact on the patients cared for in the Cancer Center,” wrote Lambson.

On December 7, Maupin entered DCI's Seeley Mudd conference room with Helsley expecting it to be a business meeting. She was instead greeted by her six-year-old son — bearing flowers — her husband, parents, and a room-full of colleagues, including Lambson; Monica Cfarku, RN, MSN, BMTCN, CCM, NE-BC (assistant vice president and chief of Oncology Nursing Services for DCI); Jennifer Frith, MSN, RN, OCN, NE-BC (director of clinical operations for Duke Inpatient Oncology and ABMT); Kerri Dalton, MSN, RN, AOCNS; and Laura Sample, MHA (assistant vice president for Clinical Programs, DCI).

DCI executive director Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, read excerpts from both nomination letters and then, with DCI chief administrator Robin Famiglietti, PhD, presented Maupin with her Superstar Achievement Award.

Therese Hennig, PA-C, MPAS (director of Oncology Advanced Practice, DCI), Ashley Schneider, RN, Nicole Allen, BSN, RN, NE-BC, Carolyn Krisko, RN, Mary Susan Moss, MA, BSN, RN, OCN, and Cindy Bohlin, RN, joined the festivities via Zoom as did Maupin's Aunt Joel, Jeff Chitester, MS, MA (chief human resources officer, DCI) and Cheyenne Corbett, PhD, LMFT (senior director, Cancer Support and Survivorship, DCI).

When asked to say a few words, Maupin said, “I’m completely taken aback and I couldn’t do it without the support from my amazing friends and colleagues, leadership and the most important people in the world to me, my family. I started out 14 years ago as a nurse on 6300 and never in a million years did I think that I would just stay and ride this wave and what an amazing journey it’s been.”
Event organized and led by: Corinne C. Grodski (assistant to Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD; Jeff Chitester; and Therese Hennig, PA-C, MPAS) and Tina Piccirilli (program manager, DUH Facilities and Logistics)

Photo by: Shelby Boyd, APR, Integrated Marketing & Communications Consultant, Duke University Health System

Nurse receiving an award and flowers
Laura Medlin, BSN, RN-BC, CNIV

Laura Medlin, BSN, RN-BC, CNIV
Duke Breast Surgery
Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh & Duke Cancer Center Cary

Clinical nurse Laura Medlin, BSN, RN-BC, CNIV, was nominated by breast surgical oncologist and DCI Clinical Cancer Genetics Program director Carolyn Menendez, MD, and nurse practitioner Jill Barbour, MSN, MA, WHNP-C (APP for Menendez and lead APP for Wake County Surgical Oncology) for her Superstar Achievement Award.

Menendez and Barbour, in their nomination letter, described Medlin — who joined Duke in 1994 — as “a team cheerleader” who, since stepping into her current role at Duke Cancer Center Cary and Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh upon the retirement of her predecessor, has performed at the “top of her scope” with a commitment to excellence in patient care.

“When we first saw this award, we knew we had to nominate Laura! There truly is no one more deserving of this recognition,” Barbour wrote in their joint nomination letter. “She is exceptionally organized and keeps such detailed notes so that no patient falls through the cracks as regards appointments and imaging…She exuberates such kindness and compassion to women who are so frightened with their new diagnosis of breast cancer. She provides much needed reassurance to them. She makes herself readily available to our patients so that they can have easy access to our team. She has volunteered to be with anxious patients for their imaging if needed. She provides thorough patient education and preoperative teaching to every patient being cognizant of each patient’s ability to understand the complexity of their care. These may sound like “typical” nursing responsibilities. I assure you they are not! Patients adore her and Dr. Menendez and I could simply not perform our job without her.”

On December 14, numerous colleagues lined the decked-out-for-the-holidays lobby of Duke Cancer Center Cary to show their support for Medlin. Her husband also joined in the surprise with a congratulatory hug.

After reading excerpts from the joint nomination letter, DCI executive director Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, presented Medlin with her Superstar Achievement Award. Kastan was joined in the award presentation by Jennifer Loftis, DNP, RN, AOCNS, NEA-BC (associate chief nursing officer, DUHS) JoAnn Beaudoin, Ed. D, MSN, MHA, RN, NEA-BC (administrative director, Oncology, Duke Raleigh Hospital), and David Nalepinski (assistant vice president of Community Oncology, DCI) ... and via Zoom, Jeff Chitester, MS, MA (DCI chief human resources officer).

When Kastan asked Medlin if she'd like to say a few words, she wiped away tears and said, "I'm a little emotional."

"Well that's cool," Kastan smiled. "But to really embarrass you," he teased, "we'd like to say how much we love you and everything you do every day. Thank you."

In an email after the event, Medlin wrote, in part, “I just wanted to take a minute of your time to say a huge THANK YOU for the beautiful award. I'm so completely humbled by it. I was completely caught off guard and shocked. I truly am blessed to work with such an amazing team! I strive to give 110% to our patients and our team each day. I pray I can live up to all the things said about me in the letter. I've never been taken so aback. I pray I handled it ok. Thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart!!”

Event organized and led by: Corinne C. Grodski (assistant to Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD; Jeff Chitester, MS, MA; and Therese Hennig, PA-C, MPAS) and Tina Piccirilli (program manager, DUH Facilities and Logistics)

Photo by: Corinne C. Grodski

Man receiving award
Bose Kamineni, PhD

Bose Kamineni, PhD
Manager, Database and Application Development
Duke Cancer Institute Durham at Hock Plaza

Bose Kamineni, PhD, manager, DCI-IS Database and Application Development, was nominated by the DCI-IS (Information Systems) Application Development team that works out of DCI's Hock Plaza offices in Durham: Chad McLamb, Seth Fehrs, Michael Pan, Spencer Dawson and Kelly Corbet.

The nomination letter, which was submitted by McLamb on behalf of the team, described Kamineni as “an extraordinary asset to the Duke Cancer Institute" who provides technical leadership over database management and critical DCI-IS infrastructure, supports initiatives to improve critical computer systems, and manages internal-system and external-vendor support tickets. 

“As a manager, Bose works diligently to uplift and support his team and other colleagues (both professionally and personally). He regularly recognizes, with the submission of High-Five nominations, DHTS team members who go above and beyond on ‘normal’ tasks as well as those colleagues who help support the systems on which the DCI-IS infrastructure relies,” they wrote.

The team also lauded Kamineni, who’s been with DCI-IS since 2015, for his “great care with community initiatives.” They described how during the past few winter holiday seasons, he coordinated the collection of scarves and blankets for donation to cancer patients undergoing treatment, and noted that he leads the Odyssey of the Mind competitive team at his child’s school.

The team also shared this detail: “One more note about Bose’s generosity that makes him stand out as an extraordinary asset to the Duke Cancer Institute. Sometime in the summer of 2021, he learned through an acquaintance of a family that was struggling financially. Whether from the pandemic or simply life, the family had serious car trouble. Bose stepped in and gave them his car!  While many of us are now working remotely, Bose noticed his car was going mostly unused and, yes, he gave them his car! So, now at least the car is being used and the family has one to drive. Way to go, Bose!”

On December 15, several of Kamineni’s colleagues gathered in a DCI conference room at Hock Plaza, Durham, for his Superstar Achievement Award celebration: Karen Kharasch (senior director of Research Strategy & Operations, DCI), Kamineni’s supervisor Emily Norboge, MPA (senior director of Strategic Operations and Informatics, DCI), Claire Howell, MMCi (manager of Clinical Data Strategy, DCI), Rebecca McDaniel, and nominators McLamb, Fehrs, Pan and Corbet.

After reading excerpts from the nomination letter, DCI executive director Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, and DCI chief administrator Robin Famiglietti, PhD, presented Kamineni with his award. A round of congratulatory hugs and cupcake eating ensued.

Event organized and led by: Corinne C. Grodski (assistant to Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD; Jeff Chitester, MS, MA; and Therese Hennig, PA-C, MPAS) and Tina Piccirilli (program manager, DUH Facilities and Logistics)

Photo by: Truitt Avery O’Neal, Communications Specialist, Duke University Hospital

Woman receiving award
Peggy Alton RN, BSN

Peggy Alton RN, BSN
ARPM, Hematological Malignancies, Cellular Therapy, Adult Blood & Marrow Transplant
Duke Blood Cancer Center at Duke North Pavilion, Durham

Assistant research practice manager Peggy Alton RN, BSN, was nominated, separately, by hematologic oncologists Danielle Brander, MD, and Harry Paul Erba, MD, PhD.

“I have been fortunate to know Ms. Peggy Alton for many years since the time of my fellowship training in Hematology/Oncology at Duke when her leadership and dedication to patients and the research team were clearly apparent,” wrote Brander, a specialist in chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment and research who joined the DCI faculty in 2013. “In moving from research nurse, to research nursing lead, to now assistant research practice manager, Ms. Alton has continued to shine and gain the appreciation and respect of all those fortunate to work with her. She has personally taught me so much, and I feel very fortunate to call her a colleague. Even prior to the substantial COVID-19 related changes in research teams and practice, our division was undergoing many changes and staffing losses. Peggy has been the glue to hold the team together, and we cannot thank her enough for her long hours and genuine commitment to the success of clinical research within hematologic malignancies at Duke.”

Erba, who directs the Leukemia Program within the Hematologic Malignancies & Cellular Therapy Disease Group at DCI, echoed these sentiments in his nomination of Alton.

“In the last year, virtually the entire research support staff for the Leukemia Program left Duke including the research nurses and data managers. We needed to hold accrual to studies and scramble to hire and train new staff,” wrote Erba in his nomination letter. “If Peggy Alton did not stay, recruit, and train our new staff members, we would not have been able to restart clinical research in the Duke Leukemia Program this past spring/summer.”

On December 22, DCI executive director Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, stood before several of Alton's colleagues in a conference room at Duke Blood Cancer Center, Duke North Pavilion, Durham. He read excerpts from the two nomination letters, then he and DCI chief administrator Robin Famiglietti, PhD, presented Alton with her Superstar Achievement Award, congratulating her with fist bumps.

“Peggy, I’ve seen how you’ve really been the glue and all the hard work you’ve done over the past year and just can’t thank you enough for your leadership and passion for clinical research in this area,” said Famiglietti, as Erba, Brander, Alton's supervisor Wanda Wray (research practice manager), Karen Kharasch (senior director of Research Strategy & Operations, DCI), Chloe Fournier (associate director, Compliance and Training, Duke Cancer Institute), and Jeff Chitester, MS, MA, (chief human resources officer, DCI), gathered round. Radiation oncologist and researcher Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, senior regulatory coordinator Lynn Volk, and HMCT administrative director Gabe Alcantara, MBA, and others joined the group via Zoom.

“I’m speechless,” said Alton, her husband, father and mother standing nearby. “I couldn’t have done it, particularly over the last year and a half, without my husband as well as Wanda and Chloe and Karen and many others because it has been very hard. And some of you know there have been times when I’ve said ‘I can’t do this anymore, I need to go’ and I haven’t gone and I don’t want to go because this is a passion of mine. I didn’t know when I started in research that that’s what I’d be passionate about. I knew that oncology has been my passion since the very beginning of my nursing career but research just fell in my lap when it needed to, on many levels, and rescued me, in many ways, but it has also taken me down some pretty tough spirals over the last year and a half. And I thank all of you for supporting me and the team and those on the screen and those who are listening virtually, I couldn’t have done it without everybody… And thanks mom and dad.”

Event organized and led by: Corinne C. Grodski (assistant to Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD; Jeff Chitester; and Therese Hennig, PA-C, MPAS) and Tina Piccirilli (program manager, DUH Facilities and Logistics)

Photo by: Natalie Labonge, senior communications specialist, Duke University Hospital/DUHS Marketing

Woman receiving award
Kelsey Ellis

Kelsey Ellis
Patient Support Associate
Duke Cancer Center North Durham at Duke Regional Hospital

Patient support associate Kelsey Ellis, who joined DCI three years ago, was nominated by Juanita Fisher, RN-BC, CNIV, Radiation Oncology, Duke Cancer Center North Durham (at Duke Regional) for her Superstar Achievement Award.

Ellis is the scheduler for all oncology patients at DCC North Durham; both those in treatment and in clinic for post-treatment follow up. She schedules patients for every service offered in the clinic including radiotherapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, iron, IV fluids and bloodwork. She is the assistant to all the MDs, RNs, CMAs, radiation therapists, physical therapists, breast surgeons and staff, plastic surgeons and staff, medical oncologists and staff, and radiation oncology clinical staff.

“I’ve worked with Kelsey for three years and I’ve always found her to be honest, ethical, trustworthy, a great team player, a person that I have NEVER heard say, ‘That’s not my job,’” wrote Fisher in her nomination letter. “She looks at the ‘big picture.’ Patients state they feel more inspired and ‘alive’ because Kelsey gives patients control of their schedules as much as possible. You can see her smile even with her mask on. She has a twinkle in her eyes and the patience she has is very obvious. Kelsey is THE person EVERYONE in the clinic goes to for assistance.”  

Fisher, who’s been with Duke University Health System for more than 33 years, also praised Ellis for her dedication, calling her a “great asset to Duke Regional Hospital oncology and the Duke University Health System” whom she hopes will have “an opportunity to grow and expand her knowledge base” there.

“The patients and staff love her and we want the best for her,” wrote Fisher.

On January 3, DCI executive director Michael Kastan, MD, PhD, with DCI chief administrator Robin Famiglietti, PhD, stood before Ellis' "fan club" (in-person and via Zoom) in the Duke Regional Hospital Watts Boardroom and read excerpts from Fisher's nomination letter before giving her the Superstar Achievement Award.

“Thank you so much for everything you do,” said Kastan. “It makes all the difference in the world to our patients as they go through the hardest time in their lives.”

Getting emotional after receiving the award and a “You go, girl” shout-out from her mom, who joined via Zoom, Ellis said, “Thank you so much. I do appreciate this moment. I love this place and I love all our patients. You know they say, ‘Try not to get attached,’ but after taking care of quite a few over the past three years, you get to know them, you do love them and I just care for them as I would want me and my family to be cared for, every day I come here, no matter what. Good days and bad days, you get through it. And I always have my smile on no matter what. Even my worst days are better than some of the days they go through all the time. You’ve just got to remember that.”

“There’s one thing that she has said, especially when we were short or something and that is, ‘We got this,’" said Candace Gentry, MHA, BSN, RN, CPHQ, director of Strategic Initiatives, Duke Regional Hospital, in comments during the celebratory proceedings.

Addressing Ellis directly, she half-joked, "This is the first time I’ve seen you without the phone attached to your head.”

“Kelsey is an amazing employee,” added another colleague. “There’s nothing that we cannot go to her about and she doesn’t have answers. She’s always willing to come in early, stay late, just to make sure our patients are taken care of.”

Event organized and led by: Corinne C. Grodski (assistant to Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD; Jeff Chitester; and Therese Hennig, PA-C, MPAS) and Tina Piccirilli (program manager, DUH Facilities and Logistics)

Photo by: Corinne C. Grodski

This page was reviewed on 01/12/2022