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Radiation and Oncology Team Takes Pride in Concierge Approach to Veteran Cancer Patients

Radiation and Oncology Center staff at Bay Pines VA.
From L to R, Dr. Huma Syed, along with Susan Beedenbender and Jean Martin, are three of the 19 professionals who make up the Radiation and Oncology Center at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

When Dr. Huma Syed arrived at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in 2010, she had one goal – to build a program and team from the ground-up that could serve as a benchmark of health care for Veterans receiving radiation and oncology services.

“I tell people I only applied to come to Bay Pines VA because I knew this was an opportunity I might never get again,” said Syed who serves as the Bay Pines VA radiation and oncology chief. “Leadership put a lot of faith in me, and over the course of the past 14 years, it’s become my passion.”

Dr. Syed has built her team, complete with a stand-alone Radiation Oncology Center (ROC), and now she plans to turn the corner on treatment with a new goal.

“I recently finished a two-year fellowship in integrated medicine, and I’ve realized the importance of treating the entire patient, not just the diagnosis,” said Dr. Syed. “This process has to be more concrete, factor in all aspects of pivotal moments, and allow us to tailor a plan that encompasses every Veteran’s complete health care journey.”

When asked what makes the ROC stand out, the oncology chief gave all the praise to her 19 coworkers, including Therapeutic Radiation Therapists Susan Beedenbender and Jean Martin, who have been with her for more than a decade.

“Customer service is king to Sue, Jean, and every person who works in the ROC,” added Dr. Syed. “We take pride in being there for every Veteran, and we are defining an approach to health care that we hope will be the beginning of concierge medicine in VA.

Dr. Syed added that a large benefit to receiving oncology services through Bay Pines VA – and across other VA healthcare systems around the country is the way teams are set up. 

“We’re able to give Veterans, their caregivers, and families full, unfiltered access,” continued Dr. Syed. “When a Veteran comes in here, that patient receives a social worker and a navigator; we are with Veterans every step of the way to ensure there is no disjointed care.”

Another factor that has made the ROC successful over the years is the unwavering support from leadership and other services across the healthcare system – including the Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) Service.

“Without a strong team across the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, we would be ineffective,” continued Dr. Syed. “HTM directly supports medical devices, and without them, we would struggle to meet our requirements and the needs of Veterans. We value the importance of our relationship with HTM – many of whom are Veterans – and the invaluable support they provide the ROC and those we serve.”

As oncology continues to modernize with new treatments and services, the service chief believes her team has the right approach, at the right time, to make an immediate and lasting impact. 

“In terms of oncology across VA, the ROC at Bay Pines VA continues to be early adopters of accepted practices, and we’re growing a lot in our focus toward oncology research,” continued Dr. Syed. “I feel confident that the work we are doing is why Veterans and families entrust us with their health care needs before, during, and after treatment.”

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