This week’s Hometown Hero is Deborah K. Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN and FAAN. That list of acronyms helps to signify her as an advanced practice oncology nurse whose 40 years of experience make her an essential addition to the UNC School of Nursing.
Dr. Mayer has been the president of the Oncology Nursing Society, a member of the National Cancer Institute’s National Cancer Advisory Board and Board of Scientific Advisors. She has been elected as a fellow to the American Academy of Nursing, and recently was the editor for the Oncology Nursing Society’s Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing along with being chair-elect of ASCO’s Survivorship Committee. She has been awarded the ONS Lifetime Achievement Award and published over 100 pieces of writing and lectures on oncology and oncology nursing.
“About ten years ago, there was a seminal report called ‘Lost in Transition’ that talked about how patients sort of get lost along the way,” said Mayer. “Not that they’re forgotten, but that we’re not paying as much attention to them as when they’re on treatment – yet they may have great needs during that time.”
The annual Cancer Survivors Day event, held by UNC this Saturday, is being hosted by Dr. Meyer – who is a cancer survivor, herself. Her unique perspective on cancer treatment and extensive experience on both side of treatment allows her to connect with patients and care providers alike.
“The purpose of the day is to provide a place for people to come and just be with other like them,” said Mayer. “Because if you haven’t been in that situation, it’s one thing to talk about it but it’s another to talk about people who have been walking in your shoes.”
The Cancer Survivor’s Day is an important event for those afflicted by cancer, both directly and by association. It helps people to understand, and few are better suited to the task of furthering that understanding than Dr. Mayer.
“I think what I’ve seen over 40 years as an oncology nurse is a change in our understanding of cancer,” said Mayer. “How it develops and how it acts and behaves, as well as a refinement in the development of more specific treatments that can get better effects for a longer time. What doesn’t change is the person having to go through it. They’re not going to be here through all those changes. They’re here now, their cancer experience is now.”