New director brings new vision

Personal experience helps shape focus of breast cancer program.

By Courtney Bisig

From prevention and early detection to the latest in breast cancer treatment, the Norton Cancer Institute Breast Health Program is uniquely designed to care for the specific needs of women with breast cancer and related conditions. Combining the latest cancer-fighting technology with renowned patient navigation and support services, the breast health team of experts heals not just the body but the mind and spirit.

Natalie Stephens, MD, has recently been named the new director of the Norton Cancer Institute Breast Health Program. Both her professional and personal experiences have made her the perfect fit for this program. As Norton Healthcare expands their catered services to women and their families, Stephens will assist in making sure community needs are met through the breast health program. She has many goals and ideas for the program, some of which come from her own family experience.

Stephens, a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, completed her general surgery residency at the University of Connecticut at Hartford. She is board certified in general surgery and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. Her passion for helping others was strengthened after she spent a year with her husband in Pakistan, India and Nepal. While there, Stephens performed relief surgeries for several organizations.

Right from the Start
A part of Norton Healthcare since 2012, Stephens enjoys taking on new responsibilities as the Breast Health
Program’s new director. When originally approached about the position. Stephens was going through a personal experience that led her to believe this was the perfect fit. Her mother-in-law recently moved to Louisville after finding out that she had advanced ovarian cancer. Stephens was there through the overwhelming diagnosis, as well as the process to navigate the system, make appointments, find the right medication and more. It was then that she Stephens realized how much she cared about and could impact oncology programs at Norton Healthcare. Today, Stephens’ mother-in-law is doing well.

The vision Stephens has for the program centers around patient needs while navigating through the Norton Healthcare system. Patients will be able to navigate easily whether they have an abnormal mammogram, a cancer diagnosis or have already completed their cancer therapy.

Another strong focus for the Norton Cancer Institute Breast Health Program will be on patients with abnormal mammograms. These patients will be provided with a mammography nurse navigator to help walk them through all procedures from the time of the abnormal mammogram diagnosis until the problem is treated.

While most facilities only offer patient navigators once cancer has been diagnosed, having one present as early as an  abnormal mammogram is detected is important, as several studies have shown the stress levels spiking in women for several months from an abnormal mammogram, whether a cancer diagnosis was given or not.

Team Approach
In those cases where a mammogram does result in a cancer diagnosis, Stephens’ vision is to use the entire Norton Cancer Institute team to help determine a plan of action for each patient. After being diagnosed, patient cases will be presented at a multidisciplinary conference so that the oncology team can work together in determining the best possible treatment and outcome for each individual.

Once these patients have been treated and complete their therapies, the goal is to create a survivorship program to keep them engaged and promote overall wellness in their life. Stephens noticed that once her mother-in-law was finished with weekly visits from doctors, massage therapists and others, she was slightly lost on how to continue on her own. A strong survivorship program will allow patients to see a clear path to overall wellness after all of the treatments have been completed.

“While the Breast Health Program has been wonderful for years, I am excited to bring my own personal touch and vision to make it even better,” said Stephens. “By putting everything our patients need in one place, we are proving that they come first to us—before, during and even after a cancer diagnosis.”

How Stephens’ Vision Fits with Expansion
Natalie Stephens,’ MD, vision for the Norton Cancer Institute Breast Health Program is a welcome addition to the
already expanding women’s services at Norton Healthcare. As the St. Matthews campus transforms into Norton Women’s and Kosair Children’s Hospital, the facility will provide innovative care dedicated to the unique needs of women and children. In the fall of this year, a new breast imaging center will open at the facility, giving women a one-stop breast health center. The new center will allow women sameday services for scheduling and reviewing their mammograms, enabling the working women of the community to receive both efficient and high quality breast healthcare in one location.

Courtney Bisig is communications project manager at Norton Healthcare.