2013 Nominees Section

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Denise Yoshihara

Denise Yoshihara

Position: Supervisor / Oncology Services

Organization: St. Jude Medical Center / Cancer Center


Why should this person be nominated? (What makes nominee unique; why should they be selected the winner of this category?
Denise's role is to provide counseling, comfort and a wide variety of community resources to the cancer patients at St. Jude Medical Center / Oncology Center.

Denise works with community and senior agencies that provide transportation, assisted living, financial counseling, nutrition information, low-cost prescription medication information, home health, and palliative care or hospice information. She refers patients to bereavement groups and provides counseling and counseling resources. She belongs to the Cancer Coalition of Orange County.

As an example of Denise's responsibilities, recently she met with a senior lady who had been diagnosed with uterine cancer and was deciding on whether to do radiation treatments. The patient was feeling very overwhelmed after talking with her physician. One of Denise's best qualities is to be a good listener. She listened to her senior patient's fears and concerns and provided gentle support & comforting guidance and helped her to lay out a plan by providing written information to understand her diagnosis better and decide which treatment options could work most effectively for her.

Financial issues are a big part of counseling with patients and their spouses ~ this can be especially hard on seniors. Denise sees patients who are losing their homes, barely have enough money to eat, and/or are going on disability or losing their jobs. She looks for organizations that will provide financial support; help pay their rent, co-pays, utility bills, medications, work with seniors, etc. She helps the homeless connect with the right agencies and the disabled homeless to apply for government benefits. She has helped many senior patients in an emergency by giving them gift cards and money and she takes the time to help fill out all the numerous and time consuming applications involved.

What is this nominee’s involvement in senior care or senior issues
Denise has a big heart for her senior patients and she looks for ways to enrich and support them during their oncology process. Of the many activites that Denise is involved with, she also facilitates breast cancer support groups for women and Craft Night for Cancer Survivors and their support person. This group is especially popular with her seniors. They have made cards, jewelry, scarf’s, played Bunco and made a beautiful inspirational quilt for the St. Jude Medical Center Cancer Program. This year they made cards with a Breast Cancer Theme to raise money for the American Cancer Society through the Cancer Center Dream Team. One of her support group members also made jewelry and sold it at the Relay for Life, which she donated to the Cancer Center Dream Team. Denise works to make sure that her seniors have the opportunity to participate in other groups and activities by also hosting and inviting guest speakers to the Breast Cancer Support group, Cancer Legal Resource Center, Spirituality seminars, Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Coping with Cancer, Hot Flashes, etc.

Additionally, Denise has found that doing 'Healing Touch' with her elderly patients helps them to relax and cope with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Healing Touch has helped her senior patients sleep better, have more energy, reduce their pain and anxiety, and simply feel better about themselves and their situation.

Helping senior patients apply for social security disability is very overwhelming. Denise typically spends several hours helping her patients with their applications and gathering their support documentation. She helps her seniors do the online application and copy their medical records. It is always such a relief to the individual to have someone who is knowledgeable and who has the patience to help them. Relieving someone’s burden gives her joy.

Not only that, but Denise volunteers with St. Jude Medical Center. She is involved with the hospital's 'Walk Among the Stars' fund raiser ~ a run-way fashion show. This year she had 23 ladies participate from her support groups. They felt comfortable knowing she was in the back helping them dress and giving them support. Her senior patients and others too cherish those happy moments and fill them with courage and hope.

Denise takes every opportunity to sit down with her seniors and learn about them and their life and to help them cope with changes they did not anticipate making. Sometimes her senior patients can't come in to the Cancer Center ~ she cherishs the opportunities she has to visit with her patients in their home. Denise loves being a medical social worker and in return, her patients love her right back ~ because her love shows!