Michelle Lasota: Jefferson Oncology nurse runs for her superheroes

For most people who work in healthcare, the goal is the same: do everything possible to heal the sick, mend the wounded, and get people better. For Michelle Lasota, this was not always the case. Michelle is a registered nurse who now works with and treats cancer patients at Jefferson’s Department of Oncology, but for over a decade she had a different specialty. Driven by the sudden passing of her father, Michelle began working as a hospice nurse and caring for those who would not get better. She learned that medicines and procedures aren’t the only tools which can heal people and that patients are more than blood tests, imaging, and assessments. Her experience and expertise in providing light during the darkest hours for patients and families has proven invaluable to her new career in oncology.

During her time working in hospice, Michelle developed a passion for treating the whole patient, not just the disease afflicting him or her. Her positivity has inspired many, including renowned film-maker Sean Cunningham who produced a documentary about Michelle called The Nurse with the Purple Hair. She now brings this holistic approach to healing to those fighting against cancer at Jefferson.

Michelle knows more than anyone the stresses, hardships, and emotions a cancer diagnosis can place on someone, as well as their loved ones. Yet, where many would be too uncomfortable or not quite know what to do or say, Michelle accepts the challenge of being there for her patients when they need her the most. “I like to be the one to calm the storm,” states Michelle. “People aren’t supposed to know what to expect. There’s help out there…that’s what they need to know.”

Grateful for the support Legacy of Hope offers cancer patients in Philadelphia, Michelle and her colleagues are well aware of the challenges that accompany a diagnosis. “Insurance doesn’t pay to keep up with a household and take care of a family,” Michelle points out. “Financial toxicity is a huge piece that people don’t generally think about.”

She recalls a patient she recently cared for that faced many challenges. “I had a patient who was widowed, lost her husband to cancer, and is now battling cancer herself while caring for an adolescent son. How could she possibly plan her time? She drives from two hours away! What is Christmas going to look like for that boy?” Michelle responds the way she always does. “How can I make it better?”

This financial toxicity can rival the physical toxicity of cancer on the body in the stress it imposes, as well as creates obstacles to receiving proper treatments. Michelle wants patients to know they can ask for help, whether it is to cover rent and utility bills or to secure a reliable way to get to appointments. “Transportation is an issue. Sometimes people don’t know they can turn to us, that helping with transportation is within our realm of possibility.”

Fortunately for cancer patients and families in the Philadelphia area, both Michelle Lasota and Legacy of Hope are here to help. Michelle and other oncology nurses are able to refer patients with needs outside of the hospital to specialized social workers who keep Legacy of Hope on speed-dial. To help support these incredible individuals as they battle cancer, Michelle will be participating in the Love Run Half Marathon at the end of March as part of the Philly Runs Free program.

All proceeds from Philly Runs Free will help Legacy of Hope continue its mission to support financially-distressed cancer patients in Philadelphia while also seeking out and funding the most promising research to find new treatments and cures. Everyone is running for someone…Michelle is running for superheroes.

“Every person you meet is someone’s hero,” Michelle explains. “They become superheroes at diagnosis. No superhero fights alone. Being a superhero doesn’t mean you’re invincible…that you don’t get scared. It doesn’t mean you don’t cry.”

Michelle hopes others follow her lead and run for their superheroes at the Love Run. “[Cancer] is a battle they didn’t ask for, but one they don’t back down from.”

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Michele Redrow

Michele is a Director on the Legacy of Hope board and also serves on the Executive Committee.

Gina Mancuso

Gina’s experience as the very successful co-owner of CoreFitness, LLC coupled with her expertise in planning special events makes her the perfect Vice President for Legacy of Hope. With energy, passion, and drive that makes her seem superhuman, Gina’s connection to our mission is a personal one.

“Both my father and my dear childhood friend were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of one another. They were surrounded and supported by friends and family throughout their battle and until their passing. No one should suffer through a diagnosis alone and, without Legacy of Hope, some people would do just that.”

greg garber

Greg Garber is the director of Oncology Support Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

dr. kevin kelly

Dr. Kevin Kelly leads Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board to seek out and support the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia using a merit-based system.  He is Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology.

David April

David is the founder of the Fishtown Beer Runners, an organization with chapters all over the world based here in Philadelphia.

joseph ruggieri, jr

Education: Bachelor’s of Science from West Chester University in Management and Finance

Bio: As a member of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s upper management team, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge regarding finances, management, team-building and planning to the Legacy of Hope board. Joseph linked up with Michael, our President, and Wells Fargo began supporting Legacy of Hope annually.

“My father passed away from what started as Colon Cancer in 2015. Cancer is horrible and if there is something I can do to help others impacted I would want to be a part of it.”

mary chicorelli

Professional:  Mary is a certified city planner for Philadelphia, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Honor Roll First Judicial District of Philadelphia.

Bio: Mary’s insight into the legal world is invaluable to Legacy of Hope, both in keeping our daily operations moving fluidly as well as making connections for our patients and their families when needed.

“Michael reached out to me about 2 years ago through mutual friends. We worked together to help a woman with stage 4 cancer get her electricity turned back on after it was shut off during the winter. I’ve been 100% supportive of Mike’s vision since then.”

Kimberly S. Reed

An award winning international speaker, author, corporate trainer and diversity, equality and inclusion executive, nationally recognized thought leader, expert, strategist and advisor to some of the world’s most influential organizations in global professional services, health care, financial services, consumer products and pharmaceutical industries.

Kimberly is a seasoned leader in transforming organizations into high-performing enterprises and challenging leaders to live without limits, with more than 20 years of HR, talent acquisition, and diversity & inclusion experience; successfully turning around troubled diversity practices by designing, building, leading, and shaping high-performing cultures at global organizations with robust strategies, global employee development programs and enterprise-wide initiatives that have increased revenue growth and organizational brand eminence.

Dr. Claudia Capparelli, PhD

Affiliations: Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Education: PhD, University of Calabria, Cosenza, Italy – 2011

Focus & Impact:  Focus on the role of the SOX10 transcription factor with regard to tumor cell heterogeneity and plasticity across multiple genotypes in melanoma. Investigating how SOX10 plasticity/heterogeneity affects the response to MEKi and anti-ErbB3 combinations in WT BRAF melanoma patients. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Outrun the Sun Melanoma Research Scholar Award

  • Unical Fellowship Visiting Scholar

  • International Pigment Cell Conference Travel Award

  • Best Poster Presentation, Ninth Annual Jefferson Post-doctoral Research

  • INPDAP Fellowship for Student Merit 

  • University of Calabria Fellowships for Student Merit 

Bryan Lathrop

Bio Coming Soon

Maree Lavo

Bio Coming Soon

Carol Sollenberger

Bio Coming Soon

Rebecca Blinn

Bio Coming Soon

Nia Andrews

Bio Coming Soon

Dr. Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Affiliations: The Wistar Institute, The Chen Laboratory, University of Maryland

Education: PhD,Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo (Dean’s Award for outstanding dissertation) – 2006

Focus & Impact:  Focus is on the molecular mechanisms of brain metastasis originating from primary tumors like breast cancer, and the interplay between cancer cells and the stromal cells that populate the brain microenvironment. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards​:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy Award

  • Susan G. Komen, CCR Basic/Translational and Clinical application

  • The V Foundation for Cancer Research Award

  • Dissertation Research Award, Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 

Michael Rowe

Awards:

Volatile Media Management’s Mover, Shaker, Changemaker Award – February 2017

Miles Mack Community Services & Leadership Honorable Mention – 2016 TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2015

TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2014

Bio:

With his free time so limited, Michael manages to fuse his work with his other passion: running. Whether it is with the Fishtown Beer Runners, our own Team Relentless Hope, or his closest friends, Michael can often be spotted on the streets of Philadelphia keeping himself fit and active.