According to Victoria Baranowski, “Kathy Masella is the best.”
Baranowski is not only a staff member, but is also a patient at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. She speaks highly about the care she received at Lovell FHCC’s breast clinic, where Masella is the breast clinic coordinator.
Baranowski, a breast cancer survivor and active-duty Servicemember, said that Masella “did everything for me. From counseling me on procedures, offering me advice, recommending doctors, and answering questions from me and my family. She did so much.”
Baranowski is just one the many patients who has appreciated Masella’s knowledge and comfort during a traumatic time. “It’s a really stressful time and you have a lot of different thoughts,” said Baranowski, “but Kathy was so great. She really was a strong anchor for me.”
As the breast clinic coordinator, Masella works with the facility’s female patients, which include active duty Servicemembers, Veterans, military retirees and Department of Defense beneficiaries. The clinic offers its patients care for a wide range of breast diseases and disorders, which includes a menu of services ranging from consultation to imaging, outpatient surgical procedures and education.
“We are pleased to have state-of-the-art breast imaging available, including digital mammography and stereotactic biopsy capability,” Masella said. The clinic keeps busy with the services offered, performing more than 2,500 mammograms and 40 biopsies last year. Next year, they hope to offer even more.
“We are also working to add more imaging and diagnostic services in the next year. We constantly work to bring the latest, most advanced diagnostic and treatment services to our patients.”
Providing the latest advances in diagnostic and treatment services, however, is only part of what Masella and the breast clinic staff do for their patients.
According to Kathy Serbin, section chief of Lovell’s women’s health department, “the breast clinic coordinator’s main goal is to serve as a consistent care coordinator, a support person and a facilitator of available community resources and a personal advocate. Our focus is to offer specialized care within a supportive environment, hopefully reassuring the patient and giving her peace of mind.”
In her role, Masella is responsible for overseeing the patient’s total care, from their diagnosis to their post-treatment plans. “I coordinate the patient’s care. I make sure they are meeting with the right doctors, whether it’s a Lovell FHCC doctor or a community doctor. I also make sure they receive additional services when necessary, like arranging for counseling sessions or meeting with a nutritionist.”
The rest of the breast clinic team also uses the same approach. “This clinic really puts the woman at the center of her care,” said Dr. Jared Bernard, a surgeon in Lovell’s general surgery department who consults with Masella on breast clinic cases. “Kathy and I are a great team. We work together to help chart the patient’s best course of treatment. Beyond patient care, she also helps keep me up-to-date on the latest research in breast cancer treatments.”
The clinic’s approach has proven successful. Of the 400 patients served in the last year for breast pain, 98 percent saw their pain decrease or discontinue within a month of making a treatment plan at the breast clinic. Masella, Serbin and the breast clinic staff are very happy with the high success rate and care offered to all patients – in particular, the Veterans, who have not always had access to high-quality breast care services at other VA medical centers.
“What sets the Lovell FHCC Breast Clinic apart is its interdisciplinary approach to breast health, in which physicians with different medical specialties, nurses and other allied health professionals collaborate on patient care,” said Kathy Serbin.
The health care center is a first-of-its-kind partnership between VA and the Department of Defense, which integrated the former North Chicago VA Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes into a combined facility on Oct. 1, 2010.
As Masella noted, “Before the integration of the Navy and VA (health care services), the Navy really offered more breast health services than the VA. Since the integration, Lovell FHCC has been able to offer female Vets more comprehensive in-house care than they could receive before.”
Comprehensive care is great news for all breast clinic patients, from the young female sailor to the retired combat Veteran. The members of the breast clinic staff are proud to offer high-quality care to women for all their breast health needs. As former patient Baranowski said, “Cancer changes your life. It was great to have such an awesome team to work with.”