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Gift allows Siteman Cancer Center to establish resiliency program for nurses

Washington University School of Medicine

A $500,000 donation to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will be used to provide resiliency training for nurses at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine. The program will be aimed at improving care for them and, ultimately, their patients.

The gift establishes the Josh Gottheil Memorial Endowment for the Promotion of Resiliency, which will support symposia and other programs to teach nurses scientifically proven methods for maintaining good mental and emotional health so they may continue caring for patients with empathy and understanding.

The donation is from the Josh Gottheil Memorial Fund for Lymphoma Research, which raises money to support nurses who work with patients undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. Also known as Josh’s Fund, the Urbana, Illinois based nonprofit was established in memory of Gottheil, a lymphoma patient who died in 1989 at age 19.

Since 1995 Josh’s Fund has worked with the Oncology Nursing Society of America to provide educational grants to oncology nurses working in bone marrow and stem cell transplant units.

“Thanks to the generosity of donors to Josh’s Fund over the years, the fund is now in a position to find a second worthy cause,” said Diane Gottheil, Josh’s mother and the fund’s president. “At its outset we were inspired by the dedication of the nurses in the bone marrow transplant unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where Josh was a patient, and we immediately thought of finding a cause specifically for nurses and their colleagues at Siteman Cancer Center. We are grateful to Siteman for identifying this important way in which nurses and their patients can directly benefit from support from Josh’s Fund.”

Resiliency training topics include:

* Compassion fatigue and lowering the effects of stress and burnout

* Providing ongoing support to staff members, recognizing signs of struggling, and using tools to manage everyday challenges

* Using storytelling to strengthen resiliency, energize one’s brain and create a sense of belonging and connectedness

* Writing letters of gratitude, learning to give oneself credit for handling adversity, and identifying ways to reduce negativity

Christi Longnecker, Siteman’s vice president of oncology services and a registered nurse, said caring for the sick, while one of the most rewarding endeavors, can take a toll emotionally.

“You get to know and care for your patients, which isn’t something you shut off at the end of your shift,” she said. “With this generous gift, Josh will be remembered and nurses will receive important support when it’s needed, so they may continue giving their patients the compassionate care they deserve.”

Family and friends remember Josh Gottheil as having a special charm and a big heart. A drummer turned rock music promotor, he established his own production company during high school to promote concerts in Champaign-Urbana. A few months into college he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, but while undergoing treatment his spirits were high and he continued producing rock shows. After Josh’s cancer went into remission he moved to Chicago to continue his career and had plans for concerts in Chicago and St. Louis. Unfortunately, this was not to be as the cancer returned and, despite Josh undergoing a bone marrow transplant, would take the young man’s life.

“Always remembering Josh, we remain inspired by the oncology nurses who, committed to their profession, meet the challenges of patient care,” Diane Gottheil said. “We are proud of what Josh’s Fund has accomplished to date and look forward to how the Josh Gottheil Memorial Endowment in Support of Resiliency will enable the Siteman Cancer Center to provide for their outstanding team of nurses and their colleagues and to the patients in their care.”