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.
“We are interacting with patients at one of the worst time of their lives,” says Carmen, who also has experience in cultural mediation and medical interpreting.
Many of the people she works with at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Women’s Center do not have health insurance. Others are international patients; many come from out of state and Seattle surrounding areas. For these reasons, Carmen has developed a comprehensive resource database. In partnership with community agencies, she links patients to charitable funding sources at the federal, state, and community levels. “This allows men and women diagnosed with breast cancer to focus their attention on getting well and completing their cancer treatment without having to worry about how they will meet their basic needs for food, shelter, childcare, and many other household needs,” she explains.
Referrals come from medical teams or from patients and families themselves. After meeting with patients to determine their needs, she helps patients navigate the health care system and directs them to appropriate departments at SCCA, including Social Work, Nursing, Housing, Pharmaceutical Services, Nutrition, Chaplaincy, and Financial Services.
“Assisting patients in meeting concrete needs and seeing them smile makes my day,” Carmen says. “The biggest part of my job is listening, as everyone copes in different ways. Learning about the unique differences of everyone I meet is very rewarding.”
When Carmen isn’t working at the Women’s Center, she loves to hike, sail, entertain friends, and go dancing.