Last week, I had the privilege to attend an amazing patient navigation training lead by the man who started the concept in the NYC neighborhood of Harlem, Dr. Harold P. Freeman.

I had been looking forward to the training for a while, and not just because the training was held in NYC! I was so excited to meet the person who started the patient navigation concept 40 years ago. My goal was to be able to pick Dr. Freeman’s brain and to learn from his established program. Additionally, I wanted to learn how some of our programs at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center could run more smoothly and how to better serve our young adult cancer patients. Bottom Line: I had been gearing up for this training since being accepted into the program in January.

On the first day, Dr. Freeman gave a wonderful introduction and then opened the training up to his lead lecturer, Rian Rodriguez, and his patient navigation staff. Elizabeth and I loved talking with Rian, who has been with Dr. Freeman for 17 years as he knew the ups and then downs of the program. I was fascinating to ask about certain issues they had encountered and how they dealt with each problem.

The second day of training started out as a question and answer session with Dr. Freeman. He picked out three individuals in the room to discuss their programs in detail with the rest of the group. I was one of the three. YAY! (talk about nerve racking) I first briefed him on our patient navigation program and UCF as a whole and then talked about working with cancer survivors and training them as mentors to better serve our current young adult cancer population. Dr. Freeman gave Elizabeth and I some great pointers about some areas in our programs that could be problematic. He also said that our Peer Mentoring program was a very creative way to get more resources to young adults and he had never thought about recruiting survivors to help newly diagnosed patients.

The training was amazing and I truly learned a great deal from Dr. Freeman and his team. Elizabeth and I hope to integrate some of the new ideas we now have thanks to the training. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from Dr. Freeman. He has done so much for the under served and he continually tries to help other patient navigation programs become great. I look forward to seeing how our programs evolve from this point forward. It will be exciting!

About Ashley Portrey

Volunteer Coordinator, AmeriCorps member, tennis player, Thanatologist, volunteer, and bargain shopper. Loves anything green, red skittles, tennis, and traveling.
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