Patient Navigator: Carmen Cunningham
With degrees in occupational therapy, sociology and Spanish, Carmen Cunningham has the credentials and experience that support her desire to make a difference in someone’s life.
“Being a Patient Navigator is a challenging job,” Carmen says, “but very rewarding. The extent of social-economic needs that patients have and navigating through the programs that exist can be complex.”
Carmen has experience in cultural mediation and medical interpreting. Many of the people she works with do not have health insurance. Others are international patients and others come from outside the Seattle area. Carmen helps them find services and resources for things like transportation and childcare so they can concentrate on getting well. She also helps people work through insurance questions and fill out insurance applications. In some cases, she helps others find financial support and grants for high-cost medication co-pays, durable medical equipment, utilities, gas for their car or even healthy food.
“Referrals come in when a person is diagnosed,” Carmen says. “I will introduce myself to new patients at their initial conference with their doctors. I will then explain the Patient Navigator role and offer services.”
Women’s Center patients receive a questionnaire to fill out that helps Carmen determine what assistance she can best provide for each person. She helps patients navigate the healthcare system and directs them to departments around Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, like Social Work, Nursing, Housing, Pharmaceutical Services, Nutrition, Pastoral Care and Financial Services.
The biggest part of her job is listening, Carmen says, “and I’m a very good listener. Everyone copes in different ways, and I learn a lot from the people I meet.”
Carmen grew up in the Dominican Republic and has lived in Seattle since the early 1980s. When she isn’t working at the Women’s Center, she loves to hike, swim, entertain friends and go dancing.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Third Floor