Fanfare for Three DCI Superstars

Duke Cancer Institute leadership has presented the coveted DCI Superstar Achievement Awards once again. 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 fall and the awards are presented in December and January.

Three deserving recipients were surprised in person at their workplaces by Executive Director of DCI Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, and DCI Chief Administrator Robin Famiglietti, PhD. Other senior leaders also joined the festivities, including DCI Chief Medical Officer Ted Alyea, MD; Senior Director of Research Strategy and Operations David Darr, MBA, MSc; Assistant Vice President of Community Oncology David Nalepinski; and DCI Chief Human Resources Officer Jeff Chitester, MS, MA.

Each "Superstar" was honored with a special crystal award engraved with their name. The fanfare at each personalized ceremony included bright gold and black balloons, flowers, cake, and most importantly an assemblage of colleagues, friends, and family showing their support.

The celebrations this year were held at Duke Raleigh Cancer Center, Duke Raleigh Hospital; Duke Cancer Center North Durham at Duke Regional Hospital; and Duke Cancer Center Durham (main campus).

Everyone (probably) managed to keep the award winners and proceedings a secret up until the very last moment.

Kastan, who marked his 11th year as executive director and is beginning his 12th, looks forward to these awards each year: “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 practitioner Catherine Sellers
Nurse practitioner Catherine Sellers has been part of the Wake County Radiation Oncology team since Dec. 2016.

Catherine Sellers, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC, OCN

Lead Nurse Practitioner, Wake County Radiation Oncology

Works in the Oncology inpatient unit at Duke Raleigh Hospital (DRAH) & the Duke Cancer Center Raleigh outpatient clinic at DRAH

NOMINATORS: John Nelson, MD, and Heather Spencer, MHA

SUPERVISOR: Heather Spencer, MHA

"Catherine is one of the best medical professionals — MD or APP — that I have ever worked with. To Catherine, healthcare is not just a job, but it really is a calling. Anyone working with her sees evidence of that calling in everything that she does. I have worked with her for four years, and she exemplifies the sacredness of medicine, and she consistently does her best and goes beyond what she is supposed to do. She treats people as if they were her own family, always with excellence."

—Grace Kim, MD, PhD

"Catherine is exceptionally gifted in diagnosing, treating, and educating patients and brings a level of expertise to her practice that is hard to match. She is quick, efficient, and effective. She is also caring, compassionate, and supportive of her patients, their loved ones, and our team members."

"Catherine carries a heavy load, caring for our more clinically challenging patients, often splitting her days seeing patients on the oncology inpatient units and outpatient clinics. She is known in our department for going above and beyond to ensure our patients receive the care and information they need and deserve to carry them through their cancer journey. As a teammate, she anticipates patient and coworker needs and will often come to the rescue before she is asked to help."

"Even when Catherine is loaded with work, she will gladly and willingly take on more work to help someone else or relieve another coworker. She has been known to volunteer to cover inbox messages on her day off when other co-workers are sick."

"She helps patients after hours and over the weekends. She always takes the extra time to talk with a family member or a patient. For example, a former radiation patient recently called Catherine when he had a question and needed (unrelated) medical advice. He called her because he trusts her and remembered the level of care she provided. Catherine took his call and spent the time talking with him about his recent medical issue."

"When it is time for end-of-life discussions, Catherine has those difficult discussions because she knows it’s the right thing to do. She spends time with patients and their family members, talking with them, comforting them, and trying to make sure patients don’t go through unnecessary suffering."

"This nomination would not be complete without acknowledging Catherine’s contribution to our team and patient care during the height of Covid. Catherine’s role as an Oncology NP is demanding, but with Covid her role became even more challenging. Catherine quickly worked with physician leadership in Radiation Oncology to develop procedures for testing patients for COVID and treating patients who were Covid-positive. She became the go-to person in DRAH Radiation Oncology for questions related to Covid. Radiation Oncology front-line staff found comfort in knowing that Catherine was making sure they had up-to-date information to keep themselves and their patients safe. Her leadership and communication during this difficult time made a huge positive impact on our team and our patients."

"Through the many challenges over the past several years, Catherine has continued to make a positive difference at DRAH Radiation Oncology. It is an honor and privilege to work with such a wonderful person."

— John Nelson, MD, and Heather Spencer, MHA

Catherine is always so willing to help and teach me as a new nurse so that I can have a better understanding of why we do what it is that we do. She is always willing to jump in and help with anything at any point."

— Sarah Riley, RN

"I have worked with Catherine for five years and have seen her involvement in the patient care setting. Unfortunately, I recently went through a health scare myself. Just like our patients, the fear and the unknown were overwhelming. Catherine was beside me every step of the way, as a medical provider and a friend — taking time out of her busy schedule to help me understand what many of our patients experience every single day. She was reassuring and explained everything in a way I would understand. If I had to experience a cancer diagnosis, I would want someone like Catherine on the journey with me. How lucky our patients are to have someone as caring, empathetic, professional, and friendly as Catherine."

— Wendy Dickersheid, Radiation Oncology Staff Assistant

Event organized 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: Tucker Petty, director of Marketing, DCI

Nurse Nicki Coates and DCI Executive Director Michael Kastan
Nurse Nicki Coates can't believe her eyes as DCI Executive Director Michael Kastan invites some "surprise" guests to the stage.

Nicki Coates, RN, OCN

Clinical Nurse III, Medical Oncology

Duke Regional Hospital Cancer Center outpatient clinic

NOMINATORS: Erika Hannigan, MSN, APRN, AGNP-C; Candace Gentry, MHA, BSN, RN, CPHQ; Jana Linsenmeyer, RN; and Kelsey Ellis

SUPERVISOR: Jana Linsenmeyer, RN

"You want to know something? Ask Nicki. Nicki is the most tenured employee in the DRH Cancer Center. She is a teacher and supporter of all. Although she is the mother hen and wants to know about everyone, it comes from a good place. Nicki is supportive of the providers and staff and looks for ways things can be done better. She is an informal leader and influences many decisions. Nicki is very knowledgeable about clinic functions, provider preferences, and staff strengths. She is someone who will take on new people to show them how things are done. She is always laughing and sharing funny stories and never takes herself too seriously."
— Candace Gentry, MHA, BSN, RN, CPHQ, and Jana Linsenmeyer, RN

"Nicki is the type of person everyone wants on their team. She is an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable individual who goes above and beyond for everyone in the clinic — especially our patients. She is the go-to girl for any issue or puzzling questions for everyone in the clinic. You can ALWAYS count on her to have your back. Nicki is an amazing nurse and person. She deserves to be presented with this award in recognition of everything she has done and continues to do for this clinic and everyone around her."

—Erika Hannigan, MSN, APRN, AGNP-C

Nicki is an amazing part of this team and an exceptionally amazing nurse!"

"She takes time to have heartfelt conversations with the patients, truly listens to what they have to say."

"Nicki is someone I can go to who helps keep me grounded on my difficult days by always telling me take a deep breath and that things will be ok."

"Through the good, and not-so-good, she has a positive attitude. She is definitely the glue that keeps our DRH Cancer Center family going... If anybody at DCI deserves recognition, it is definitely her. She represents the mission, vision, and values of Duke and DCI all while wearing a smile, even when she is exhausted from all of her hard work."

— Kelsey Ellis

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: April Dudash, director of Communications, Duke Regional Hospital

Emily Bolch Assistant Research Practice Manager (ARPM)
Emily Bolch

Emily Bolch

Assistant Research Practice Manager (ARPM), Melanoma and GI Oncology Clinical Trials
Duke Cancer Center Durham

NOMINATORS: Georgia Beasley, MD, MHSc; April Salama, MD; John Strickler, MD; Wanda Wray; Carol Ann Wiggs

"Emily’s leadership has had a profound impact on our melanoma research program, and her commitment to clinical research has been key to achieving our program’s goals."

"She has a deep knowledge base, and we all benefit from her guidance on a daily basis. Yet, this does not adequately capture all that she means to our team. She fosters an inclusive, supportive work culture that allows other individuals to rise to their full potential. She has an approachable leadership style, always leading by example, and works as a true partner with every member of our program. She is a creative thinker, a quick problem solver, and a passionate advocate of the clinical research mission."

"Despite adversity with Covid over the past few years, our program has continued to thrive and maintain access to clinical trials for patients who are in need of novel therapies. It is truly a great privilege to be able to work with such an outstanding colleague."

— April Salama, MD, director, DCI Melanoma Disease Group

"Emily always does extraordinary work. She manages the complexities of both melanoma and gastrointestinal research groups with grace, accountability, and professionalism. She keeps excellent track of records and is an efficient communicator. Her knowledge and experience are key to the implementation of research protocols that ultimately can have a profound effect on patients on their families. The team values and respects her leadership. Whenever I am unsure about a specific policy or how to comply with particular regulations regarding clinical trial research, I am extremely confident that Emily either knows or will find out the answer, and will work with me to figure out how to get it done efficiently and correctly. Emily is a superstar!"

Georgia Beasley, MD, MHSc, co-leader, DCI Melanoma Disease Group

"Emily exemplifies the idea of 'service leadership.' I am continuously reminded of her humility, dedication, and integrity. She treats all of her research staff as family, and she is a tireless advocate for our research mission."

"She leads by example and would never ask someone to do something she would not do herself. It is thanks to her leadership that we have been able to maintain enrollment and bring innovative studies to our patients. She sees clinical research as an invaluable service to our patients, and her devotion to our patients is visible in everything that she does. Her positive attitude in the face of adversity keeps team morale high and reminds all of us why our mission is so important." — John Strickler, MD, DCI Gastroenterology Disease Group & co-leader, Molecular Tumor Board and DCI Precision Cancer Medicine and Investigational Therapeutics Research Program

"Emily is a true DCI Superstar. She works tirelessly for the GI and Melanoma Clinical Trials Groups... She has flexed her roles from research program leader (writing grants and letters of intent) to adding the additional role of managing the regulatory staff of the GI group just by volunteering when asked."

"While ARPM of the GI and Phase 1 teams, she was asked again to take on the role of ARPM of the Melanoma team and for several years, juggled three complex groups with very complex studies. She has covered the clinical area, regulatory area, and data area, growing in her knowledge and expertise. When you need to count on someone to do the "extra work,” I know I can count on Emily."

"In addition, I don’t know that I have ever known a leader who advocates more for her team... Emily does the same for the patients in her group."

"I feel lucky to have Emily on my team and know that the DCI is lucky to have her too!"
— Wanda Wray, Research Practice Manager

"I have had the great pleasure to work with Emily Bolch for the last three years as my direct supervisor and have seen the dedication she has for DCI, her colleagues, and for cancer patients... Emily has been an extraordinary manager, listening to fears and concerns during the early part of the Covid pandemic and ensuring that all of us were safe and cared for in the best way possible. She is truly the glue that holds the Melanoma and GI Oncology research programs together. She allows us to keep putting one foot in front of the other on the hard days and celebrates our successes with us. I could not have asked for a better person to fight this hard oncology research battle with than Emily."

— Carol Ann Wiggs, Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator

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: Tucker Petty, Director of Marketing, DCI