A Winship Cancer Institute physician assistant and a longtime volunteer are the first recipients of the Robert L. "Bobby" Rearden Spirit of Winship Award. Jessica Neely, PA, a physician assistant in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, and Julie Whitehead, a volunteer in the Winship Patient and Family Resource Center, were chosen for the award because they exemplify Winship's culture of caring for the whole patient during and after his or her cancer journey.
The Spirit of Winship Award will be given annually to a faculty or staff member and a volunteer. It recognizes those who demonstrate exemplary service, teamwork, and a commitment to public good. A monetary award will be made in the name of each recipient to an area of their choosing within Winship.
Rearden, who passed away in January 2015 while undergoing treatment for a recurrence of leukemia, served as a patient advocate on Winship's External Advisory Board which is comprised of national leaders at other NCI designated cancer centers. He also served as honorary chair of Friends of Winship and was a founding member of Winship's Community Advisory Board.
"Bobby Rearden was an amazing champion for Winship in so many ways," says Walter J. Curran, Jr. MD, executive director of Winship. "We are pleased to honor Jessica and Julie for their exceptional contributions in advancing and supporting the quality of patient care."
Neely joined Emory's hematology and medical oncology department in 2002. She works with Elliott Winton, MD in helping to treat patients with leukemia and myeloproliferative disorders. She says, "I love getting to know my patients and being able to help them navigate the system. I do my best to be an advocate for them and be someone they can call and turn to if they need anything at all."
Whitehead was inspired to volunteer for Winship following her own cancer treatment. She says, "some of the most helpful individuals were those who had been through treatment themselves. They helped me get through the scary unknown. Their strength showed me that I too could be a survivor. The Rearden Award shows me that I am doing what I set out to accomplish."