Unsung Heroes Class of 2020

Oncology Professionals

Annabelle Arejola
Dr. Erik Dunki-Jacobs
Blake Dwyer
Dr. Rod Flynn
Dr. Noel Free
Dr. Peter Fried
Lisa Grate
Stephanie Green
Dr. Ajit Gubbi
Mary Heinichen
Marilyn Kugler
Beth Limke
Diane Neltner
Randy Nutter
Michele Redden-Borowski
Abigail Hilton
Lisa Shelton
Tamara Smith
Patty Rose
Judy Wilson


Jack Berninger
James Petro, Patty DeMarco, and Ashley DeMarco
Angela Eccles
Rosalind Ivins
Jeff Krumpelman
Connie and Dave Laug
Eric Lorta
Michelle Murphy
John Rossi
Angela Wilhoit
Paula Zeek


Elaine Berninger
Beth Brubaker
Columbus Cook
Tracy Kinney
Emily Schaefer
Barry Stuft
Randy Thaman
Brian Thomas

Oncology Professionals

Annabelle Arejola nominated by Stacey Reese
Annabelle is a social worker at the TriHealth Cancer Institute who works tirelessly for her patients.  She always goes above and beyond to make sure they and their families have what they need.  Annabelle bridges any gaps in care to ensure the best possible outcome and doesn’t hesitate to work long hours.  She arranges those early morning uber health rides and stays late making sure her patients emotional wellbeing is intact.  Her hard work and care are appreciated by both her patients and her team.

Dr. Erik Dunki-Jacobs nominated by Dr. Ed Crane
Dr. Dunki-Jacobs is an outstanding surgical oncologist who has done tremendous work to further advance cancer care in Cincinnati through his leadership within the TriHealth Cancer Institute.  A TriHealth administrator stated,” Dr. Dunki-Jacobs is never egocentric and encourages everyone around him to reflect, measure, and improve.  He has an incredible passion for patient care and is one of the most compassionate physicians.”  Outside of work, he is a wonderful father to four young boys.   “You are a wonderful and intelligent team player, and I am honored to work with you!,” Dr. Crane wrote.

Blake Dwyer nominated by Priyanka Ranatunga
I would like to nominate my Dietitian Blake Dwyer of TriHealth for a 2020 Unsung Hero Award. I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer 6 years ago, and stage 1 Breast Cancer a year after that. During the past few years as I have been on the journey to beat cancer, I realized that my A1C numbers were gradually climbing up. My Oncologist Dr. Ed Crane of TriHealth advised me to see a Dietitian and referred me to Blake. Blake is very knowledgeable in food and nutrition and has given me very valuable expert advice and helped me make changes in my food selection and health alternatives, food preparation techniques, portion control, eating habits, etc. His advice has enabled me to achieve a healthy weight change and to keep up with my strength and energy levels. Additionally, I am also able to plan my meals to combat side effects from my medications. Blake’s help, encouragement, and expert advice on proper nutrition and diet have contributed in a major way in my journey to beat cancer.

Dr. Rod Flynn nominated by Kevin Reynolds
Dr. Flynn is a surgical oncologist who worked with Kevin after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer a second time.  Throughout his treatment, Dr. Flynn answered all of his questions and concerns and provided assurance to him and his family.  “Having a surgeon with the skill and humanity of Dr. Flynn certainly provides comfort and confidence when all you’re mostly feeling is fear and anger,” he writes.

Dr. Noel Free nominated by Suzanne Partridge, MD
I cannot think of anyone who would meet “unsung hero” more than Dr. Noel Free.  The reason I say this as he cares for me so I can take care of cancer patients to the best of my mental ability.  I, Suzanne Partridge, am a medical oncologist with OHC and Dr. Free has enriched my life in ways that have helped me be a better physician.  Dr. Free is a psychiatrist-and in this case he is a Doctors doctor.  It is becoming more discussed that physician self-care has become a health crisis in itself and physician suicide a silent but major problem. Physicians are burnt out in many ways-patient loads, insurance company frustrations, health care system politics, and many barriers that make this job emotionally draining exhausting, and often unfulfilling. In 2011 I was worried I was going to be unhappy for the rest of my life.  I was a young physician just joining a practice trying to find my place.  I was quickly hit with many stressors-balancing home life and work life, finding enjoyment in my work, trying to navigate a broken health care system, trying to live with the business of health care, and frankly just emotionally dealing with many very hard emotional situations one faces in caring for cancer patients. I knew I never wanted to be a physician who did not feel anything-I still wanted to feel human and connected to people.  I felt that if I was in a sad state how could I be a light for my patients?  Thus someone told me about Dr. Free.  I started seeing him -just to discuss how depressed I was and how to cope with losing patients, dealing with unhappy patients, feeling paranoid in a health care system that didn’t make me feel safe at all, and not knowing who I could trust.  I never turned to drugs or alcohol-I just needed coping skills.  Just having Dr. Free to sit and listen to me and help me through my intense symptoms of moral injury -probably saved my life.  He gave me various options to help me restore faith, help me cope with sadness, and frankly -just feel more reassured with myself.  Dealing with sick patients that often pass away under one’s care can be quite draining-and he has given me such ability to be able to feel good about my career.  I started noticing I was not as sad as I was and I was able to share coping skills that he gave me with my cancer patients.  IN the past few years I myself feel better as a physician because I now can give others the strength to try to cope.  I help my patients cope with the ideas he has given me.  I have referenced books that he gave me.  In a sense-he kept me the physician to remain human and not a physician robot.  This is a silent problem in health care-we are often discouraged to seek help-in fact we are seen as weak if we need help-but I’m proud I took a healthier route to seek self-care and hope others will feel brave.  It is scary potentially for my career to admit to this but I want the community to know that the health care workers need help to stay strong too.  I want Cincinnati to know that Dr. Free has been a godsend to me -and I appreciate him every single day!  I hope by sharing my vulnerable story it leads others to seek help if needed.  By helping me he helped me save others-thus a hidden gem!

Dr. Peter Fried nominated by Terry Scott, Sr.
Dr. Peter Fried is a radiation oncology doctor with OHC.  When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was very scared, to the point I wasn’t going to do the treatment.  To hear that you have cancer scares you, but thanks to my wife, Dr. Fried, and my urologist, I’m now a two-year survivor.  This is how it all started.  I had a PSA level that wasn’t normal and was referred to a urologist.  While I was having my biopsy done by Dr. Pliskin, Dr. Fried walked by the waiting area and my wife saw him.  She immediately stopped him and told him about me and that’s when MAGIC happened.  (My wife and Dr. Fried both work at OHC so they knew one another).  Dr. Fried said he would speak with Dr. Pliskin and they would work together to develop the best care for me.  That sort of care and teamwork is what makes magic for a patient.  From the first time I met Dr. Fried, he was great.  I thought I would have to go through chemo and surgery but Dr. Fried reassured me that I didn’t have to because they caught it in time.  Thanks to him, I am here to welcome my newest grandbaby.

Lisa Grate nominated by Stacy Holdeman
Lisa is a pharmacist in medical oncology at UC Health.  She constantly goes above and beyond the call of duty, helping her patients as well as other providers, with whatever she can. She strives to make personal connections with patients and invests herself emotionally in their care.  Aside from her caring personality and unfailing generosity, she is wickedly smart and resourceful. “I feel very lucky to have worked beside her and she certainly deserves to be recognized for her hard work and dedication,” Stacy wrote.

Stephanie Green nominated by Dr. Richard Curry
Stephanie Green is a nurse practitioner for brain cancer patients at TriHealth.  She is noted for her compassion and selflessness.  She is the first to volunteer her help no matter the issue. She puts others’ needs before her own, and her patients recognize her efforts. The patients and families are always relieved by her assistance.  Her skills and abilities cannot be taught or learned. “We all are so fortunate that she is on our team, and our patients’ lives are better because of her,” writes Dr. Curry.

Dr. Ajit Gubbi nominated by JoAnne Abramsohn, Sarah Hughes, and Alicia Weber
Dr. Gubbi is a gynecologic oncologist at OHC where his patients describe him as hardworking and honest with an incredible bedside manner. Dr. Gubbi provides his patients with a realistic assessment of their condition and outlines treatment options with a positive outlook.

Dr Gubbi is my oncologist. He has been there every step of the way. He put my husband and I at ease from the very beginning and has always been upfront and honest about diagnosis, treatment, and results. He is a very hard-working Dr.

His professional, calming and peaceful nature really made an impression on us.  He not only took the time to answer a lot of our questions, and my husband asks a lot of questions, believe me, Dr. Gubbi never seemed to rush our conversation.  His bedside manner was incredible!
I’m quite sure he had other patients to attend to at the hospital, yet I felt like he was always there just for us and to answer our endless questions every time we asked.   Every step of the way he was there for us.  He continues to answer our myriad of questions as I continue to receive blood work and exams.  Though I did not know him at the beginning of this journey, I feel like he is more than just my oncologist.  He’s become a friend that I trust my whole life upon!  He saved my life and continues to show care and gives me his best professionally.  He is my Unsung Hero.

Mary Heinichen nominated by Michelle Ruscher
Mary is a Financial Advocate, Navigator, and, Counselor for Trihealth.  Mary is dedicated to meeting with and helping oncology patients understand their out-of-pocket costs, secure copay programs, and receive foundational support.  Mary’s office hours are often extended due to the sheer volume of patients she tirelessly supports. There are many after-hour exchanges with Mary as she navigates the various systems and programs to heroically support her patients!

Marilyn Kugler nominated by Dr. Vinita Takiar
Marilyn is the primary and veteran nurse navigator for UC head and neck cancer patients.  Her role in smoothing their treatment course, from meeting them at their first appointments to making sure they know what is happening and where to be at what time, holding their hand or getting them a tissue, to rearranging their appointments so they don’t have to sit in traffic, to celebrating their successes and to getting them through their complex and multidisciplinary head and neck care cannot be understated.  She is a lifeblood that runs through our head and neck multidisciplinary care team.  She understands the dynamics of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, speech, swallowing, transport, and financial toxicity.  She researches important questions to improve patient care.  She makes care packets for our patients and goes over their calendars.   We are so much stronger for having her with us, and our patients absolutely adore her.
Courageous, patient, motivated, motivational, caring, clear, confident, collaborative, willing to learn, willing to take on the challenge, willing to do whatever it takes.  Nurse navigators do a lot of behind-the-scenes work and do not get the credit they deserve.  For all of these reasons, and so many more, I (on behalf of the UC Head and Neck Cancer Team) would like to nominate Marilyn for this Unsung Hero award.

Beth Limke nominated by Chantal Reyna
Beth serves as a medical secretary at the Barrett Cancer Center. She is the first and last person patients see at their visit and the first one to answer their calls. On numerous occasions, she has calmed patients and provided guidance.  She continually finds a way to make things better for all around her and genuinely cares for all those whom she meets. “I would not be able to care for patients as well as I do without her outstanding efforts,” writes Chantal.

Diane Neltner nominated by Shayna Hamilton
During the Christmas season of 2019, Diane worked with a patient and family to provide a nice Christmas. She was able to work her magic to get their rent paid and collaborated with the staff to purchase Christmas gifts. All knew that the patient did not have a lot of time due to the seriousness of their cancer, but Diane wanted to make sure, in this situation, this Christmas was a memorable one. Unfortunately, the patient did pass before Christmas. Diane was able to help get the funeral paid for and still provide gifts and rent for the family so they did not struggle during such a sad time. I could type forever examples of Diane’s gifts that she gives to her patients. She is a great asset to us and the patients and families.

Randy Nutter nominated by Kevin Schuler
Randy reliably and consistently explores every possible avenue to help a patient with many of the financial, psychosocial, and spiritual needs that are oftentimes overlooked in mainstream oncologic care, but have profound repercussions when left unaddressed. When he is not sure of the resources available to a patient, he spares no time in trying to achieve the best possible care for the patient. It is through people like Randy that patients can truly thrive while in treatment for cancer.

Michele Redden-Borowski nominated by Karen Burke, RN
I have worked both directly and indirectly with Dr. Redden-Borowski for the past 20 years.  Over the course of that time, I have seen her function as a direct care provider as well as a figurehead in the oncology department.  She has been responsible for treating numerous cancer patients as well as handling administrative tasks for private practice, hospice, and more recently, St. Elizabeth outpatient oncology.  She has taken thousands of hours of call and rounding, sometimes even offering to work on her days off or extra time in the morning or evening, to help cover overwhelmed or ill partners.  While quietly in the background, she is not only a wife who cooks dinner (almost)every night, a very active mother to a special needs son, as well as two other children, and a wonderful and thoughtful grandmother to 3 children. Her advocacy for her patients as they travel their cancer journey has been a joy to witness. Recently, she had a 2-3 week trip to Italy planned for March 2020.  With the pending Coronoavirus issues that presented, she canceled her trip 24 hours before departure.  Not only did she cancel her trip to ensure the safety of herself and her family, but she also had the interest of our cancer patients in mind.  Her selflessness shown through once again as she came back to work after just a few days off in order to avail herself to her patients.  In her limited free time, she can be found volunteering or donating to Redwood for the benefit of special needs individuals of Northern Kentucky. She is truly an Unsung Hero.

Abigail Hilton nominated by Kristina Marcum
It is my pleasure to nominate Abigail for the Unsung Hero Award.  She is full of energy, and always willing to lend a hand. She is kind and compassionate with her patients and puts them at ease with her positive attitude.  Thanks, Abby, for all that you do!

Lisa Shelton nominated by Terri Kirkpatrick and Grace Smith
Lisa is the breast cancer nurse navigator at Christ Hospital. Lisa takes the time to check in on all her patients during their time in the infusion room just to “touch base” and to make sure they have everything they need to make their journey a bit more bearable. The particular instance that stands out in my mind is one in which our patient is VERY young and VERY overwhelmed with all that has been handed to her. Lisa went out of her way to sit with this patient during her entire treatment and explain things to her, she colored one of our coloring pages with her and just “chatted” with her to occupy the patient’s mind. By the time the treatment was completed the patient was totally at ease. This was all thanks to Lisa’s caring and giving, unselfishly of her time. On another visit, Lisa waited until this same patient was finished with her visit and helped the patient pick a BEAUTIFUL wig from our collection. Watching Lisa interact with the patients warms the heart. She does this NOT because it is her job, she does this because she wants each patient to know that she cares and that they are not alone in this journey!

She is incredibly loving, compassionate, and caring for her patients. Lisa is definitely an Unsung Hero as a Nurse Navigator – walking with women through dark and scary times. Lisa is always nominating her patients to The Karen Wellington Foundation and wants so much for her patients to experience joy and hope on their breast cancer journey.

Tamara Smith nominated by Julia Chambers
Tamara is a Financial Navigator at OHC.  She gives 100% to every patient, treating them as a family member. As our Financial Navigator, she fights to help them with every penny they owe.  She pulls in every resource she can to get them the help they need.
Tamara helps outside of the office also. She recently made scrapbooks for 2 of our patients that went on the Honor Flight using her own resources.

Patty Rose nominated by Stacy Holdeman
I have had the sincere pleasure of working with Patty for the past three years or so, and I can confidently say that she is the world’s BEST clinical research coordinator! Patty is not only thorough and intelligent but caring and nurturing with our patients. Patty sticks by the sides of our patients throughout the entire journey, often becoming the “point person” whenever questions arise. She is excellent at her job, and even more importantly she puts 100% of her heart into the care of our patients. We don’t always see the hard work she does behind the scenes, but her dedication is so greatly appreciated and she deserves to be recognized for that. Thank you Patty for all you do for our team and for our patients!

Judy Wilson nominated by Shayna Hamilton
We had a very sick patient that decided on hospice. Judy Wilson worked to get the patient to our Hospice unit. The patient’s husband was here and very anxious and rightfully upset. The husband was going to transport his wife in his own vehicle. Judy wrapped the patient up in several blankets to keep her warm while transporting her out in the cold to the car. She said what should have been a beautiful walk was full of construction noise, barriers, scaffolding, and people going about their business. It broke her heart knowing that this lady that the team had become so close to was making her final exit in a construction zone with no one realizing that this was happening. Judy rode over to the hospice unit with the husband and patient to comfort each other as they entered. This is nothing new for Judy, this is just one example of her compassionate, loving care she gives every day.

Judy said the patient and husband probably did not notice all the noise of construction but Judy did and it just did not feel right. This is another example of the care that the associates here give. They are true to St. Elizabeth’s Mission of providing comprehensive and compassionate care even to the final exit.

Tina Steele nominated by Robert Stover
Tina is an oncology nurse at TriHealth who cared for Robert during his cancer journey. “Tina changed my life and I see it very differently now. What she has is something that can’t be taught. God has put her right where she belongs: in these peoples’ lives. You either have it or you don’t and she has it. For sure, she is a keeper.”

Mary Welage nominated by Sarah Barwell
Mary is a nurse who worked in administration for many years and decided to go back to patient care. She works with the high-risk cancer population at Good Samaritan.  Mary bridges any potential gaps in care. She finds them rides, food, shelter, heat, delivers their medications, holds their hand, gives lots of hugs, makes hospital/hospice visits, and comforts the families at funerals. God put Mary on Earth, with her giant warm heart – to be this person for our patients.


Jack Berninger nominated by Stacy Holdeman
For the majority of his wife’s treatments, Jack always sat quietly to the side reading (yet another) book. He never seemed to be an outspoken person, but I could tell that he played a starring role in supporting Elaine at home. I never saw Elaine without Jack; he was constantly by her side– a testament to their friendship and commitment to each other. Not only is he a caring husband, but he also entertained his many grandchildren during school breaks by organizing “science camps” for them– even while Elaine was undergoing treatment. I know that it must have comforted Elaine to know that her grandchildren were continuing to make happy memories, even during a difficult time. Quiet folks like Jack often fly under the radar, but he deserves to be recognized for the strength that he displayed during his wife’s battle. I can only hope that every patient of mine has a spouse like him. Thank you, Jack, for all that you have done to take care of Elaine and for keeping her smiling until the end.

James Petro, Patty DeMarco, and Ashley DeMarco nominated by Kristina Marcum
I am honored to nominate James Petro, Patty DeMarco, and Ashley DeMarco for the Unsung Hero Award.  They have selflessly supported Judy through her journey, accompanying her to every chemo treatment.  Judy’s treatments are long, lasting 4 hours or more, and sometimes over the lunch hour.  Patty always makes sure that James has something to eat, most of the time walking down to the cafeteria herself because his leg pain limits how far he can walk. This is just one example of how they take care of each other.  They are a true example of a dedicated family.

Rosalind Ivins nominated by Alayna Buescher
When I saw this title, I immediately thought of Rosalind. Day in and day out, Roz is an absolute force for good. She does whatever is necessary to ensure our patients get their treatments approved, which is no easy feat. She is on the phone nonstop working with insurance companies in order to provide our patients with the best care. She frequently goes above and beyond, assisting in seeking out financial aid for patients, taking phone calls outside of her work hours, etc. Outside of her incredibly efficient and steadfast work ethic, Roz is someone who radiates positivity and would do anything for anyone in need. She also just happens to be extremely intelligent and quick-witted. She is inspiring and insightful and has the biggest heart. Christ Hospital is truly lucky to have an employee who is so dedicated to her work, her patients, and those around her.

Jeff Krumpelman nominated by Stacey Dotson and Shelby Krumpelman

Measuring the experiences that make someone a hero is different for everyone. For some, a hero could be a favorite basketball player, a fireman, a doctor, a soldier, etc. For the Krumpelman kids, we’ve been blessed to be raised in a household with two of our truest heroes – Debbie and Jeff Krumpelman or, to us, Mom and Dad. Both of whom sacrificed a great deal for the benefit of others. Debbie fought for more time with her family and friends, despite the pain and fear; Jeff fought for Debbie.

Our mom’s six-year battle with colorectal cancer was life-changing all the way down to the simplest, everyday responsibilities. Every day seemed a little different from the last. As a family, we adapted to the ever-evolving routine and made room for caregiving to be at the forefront of priority in our household.

It wasn’t long after Debbie’s initial diagnosis that Jeff was digging through his contacts to find any person that had a connection to the best doctors in the country. He read news articles, studied up on the changing methods for cancer treatment, and organized meetings with key leaders in the field. He always let Debbie take the lead with her care and determine which treatment was best, but made sure that her journey was always filled with hope: hope of a cure, hope for more time and hope with a safe place to land.

Six years of bi-weekly chemo treatments intermingled with a hospital stay for dehydration, twisted bowels, surgeries, or fluid build-up in the lungs made hope hard come by every now and then. On July 3, 2019, Debbie found peace in her decision to stop treatment. This decision was not an easy one to share nor hear, but Jeff held her hand tightly and simply told her how proud he was of her, as if on repeat. In the four remaining months of her life, it was more than apparent that Debbie was Jeff’s hero and Jeff was Debbie’s. Jeff gave Debbie a hand-written note every night before bed to walk her down memory lane, express his feelings, or simply offer a reminder of how important she is to him. He made sure to hold her hand all night long over the mound of pillows she put between them, likely out of fear of him waking up to her still body.

As the months turned into weeks and weeks turned into days, it was harder for Debbie to be present but she always made sure to open her eyes for Jeff. On their final anniversary, the family was up at 2:00 am giving her more medicine for the pain when Jeff mentioned it was their special day. If you’ve ever met Debbie, you know her smile was radiant; she lit up that morning like a Christmas tree. Debbie passed away a few days later peacefully in her home with Jeff again holding her hand, encouraging her that the pain would be over soon.

Six hundred words could be both too little and too much to describe this man, and the lengths he went to fight to give Debbie, the love of his life, as much of a beautiful experience he could with the measured time they had left. He sacrificed for her and she sacrificed for him. Although, if you ask them, I’m sure that neither would say it was a sacrifice. So, if you had to ask us why Jeff deserves the Unsung Hero Award, it is because Jeff loves Debbie selflessly, fearlessly, and fully.

Connie and Dave Laug nominated by Kent Wellington
Connie and Dave were constant caregivers for Karen Wellington before she passed away in 2007. Connie was in hospice w/me when the phone rang from the Enquirer and we decided to give one vacation instead of flowers at Karen’s funeral. 13 years later, Connie and Dave Laug (a cancer survivor, still battling) have been instrumental in planning vacations and spa days for recipients. Dave (an artist) leads an annual art auction to raise money for vacations and fun for women and families LIVING with cancer. Their 23-year commitment to families living with cancer has been amazing.

Eric Lorta nominated by Dr. Ed Crane
Eric’s dad, Ray, has been receiving intermittent treatment for his lymphoma since 2014.  Eric is an incredibly supportive son who accompanies his dad to all his visits.  He provides excellent emotional support.  Despite the several relapses of his dad’s cancer, Eric is uplifting and positive.  He is smiling and optimistic.  He enjoys joking with his dad and his dad’s treatment team to provide a good mood.  The staff in the clinic are always happy to see Eric as he brightens their day.  He asks excellent questions regarding his dad’s care.  He puts forth considerable effort to ensure that his dad’s medications are organized and that his father understands the medications he is taking. Eric is also a wonderful father to his two kids.  He works full-time for the NorthWest school district.  His father’s cancer is in remission, and Eric’s tremendous support has played a big role in that success.  Thank you Eric for being such a wonderful and compassionate person!

Michelle Murphy nominated by Indu Adhikari“
Compassion is of little value if it just remains an idea. It must motivate how we respond to others and be reflected in all our thoughts and actions” Dalai Lama
April 2015 one morning, I noticed a new nurse with long hair, fine make-up introduced herself to me as Michelle. I introduced myself with my heavy accent. I was working the night shift and she was starting her orientation. I was giving a report to Michelle and her preceptor. I do not know whether she understood me or not since I have a heavy accent. Nowadays she understands me very well. She completed her orientation, we started working together. Working with her is so nice and easy. We came to know each other’s family.
In December last year, she pulled me aside and shared her good news as she is pregnant. I was so happy, and I can see the happiness on her face too. She was already enrolled in a BSN program, expecting another baby, having a decent job. Life was all good. In February 2019, she shared the bad news that her husband is diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I was shocked. How can be God so cruel? How Almighty God can shatter her happiness in a minute? So many questions rumbled in my mind. How hard it would be for a woman who is pregnant, a full-time job holder, taking care of a sick husband and raising 9 years old child, and on top of that a full-time student, I cannot even imagine. In that tough situation, I have not seen Michelle losing her mind. I saw her as more dedicated and compassionate to her job and her responsibility. I have never seen her losing hope. She took care of her husband and family so as taken care of her job in a very professional way. In that tough situation anyone can lose their mind but Michelle she took her responsibility in a heroic way. She took care of her husband very well and respect his will. She tried all possible things to make him happy. She walked extra miles, to make him comfortable, taking care of him. I see her more and more kind, compassionate, loving, and caring person. She always treats her patients in a holistic approach (body, mind, and soul). She is an unsung hero. She is an example of a hero who cares more about others than herself. Michelle is a person with a bigger heart, there will be always less how much I talk about her. November 2019, I was in Japan. Early morning, I saw the news that her husband got wings to meet Angel. I was speechless, shattered, and shocked. I could not type a word to send her text. With courage, I sent her a text. She replied with a nice note. She won my heart. She taught me many lessons that do not lose hope. Go by the plans that God has already set up for you. Do good to everyone and do not expect a return from them. Life is short, live with full. Enjoy your life, live learn and laugh. From now on live your life in full. Do not worry about the things that you do not have power over it. Do not stress out about the things that you can not control. So be nice, positive, and pray to Lord. In the end, you will embrace happiness.
“Be Kind Whenever Possible. It is always possible” Dalai Lama

John Rossi nominated by Haley Holmes
John’s wife Bonnie is currently undergoing treatment for lymphoma that has spread to her lower legs. Although Bonnie is able to walk, she requires a lot of care including dressing changes to her lower legs and frequent blood transfusions. Bonnie is usually seen in the office once or twice a week in our office (Cancer Care) but that doesn’t include her frequent trips to wound care. John takes Bonnie to all of her appointments (including 6 or 7-hour long chemotherapy appointments and 3-4 hour long blood transfusion appointments). He manages her care and takes care of all her appointments. Bonnie and John are both very pleasant to be around. He is kind and cares for his wife unconditionally and does so without making Bonnie feel like an inconvenience. More of our patients need a “John Rossi” in their lives.

Angela Wilhoit nominated by Mary Page Dalrymple and Andrew Allan
Angela is the daughter and caregiver I hope to be.

Angela’s commitment to her mother Patricia Eccles, during her cancer journey was truly inspiring.  Angela knew that her mom wouldn’t come in for treatment unless she picked her up, so every Friday morning, she would bring her in for her appointment.  They would traipse into the Cancer Center, the “dynamic duo”, with their card games and their jokes.  Every Friday, Angela would sit by her mom and be her rock, her joy, her advocate, and her partner in crime.

One Friday, when I was taking care of Patricia, I walked into their bay to chat and let them know we were waiting on labs, just to find the “dynamic duo” literally sneaking around the corner.  “We’re making a run for it!” they exclaimed.  Laughing, they told me that they were going to the cafeteria to get some food and they would be back… eventually…and they did return… eventually…  😉

Typically the area around whatever bay Patricia was assigned to was filled with joy and sarcastic wisecracks, but this was no easy journey, and some days the cancer, the chemo, and the exhaustion would catch up with Patricia. Angela was there on those days too, supporting and advocating for her mom, asking the hard questions, pressing for answers, or for further workups when something seemed amiss.

Patricia’s cancer journey did not end the way we all wish it could have, but witnessing the bond that Angela and Patricia shared and the true joy that they exhibited when they were together, is a reminder to us all to take stock of those things that matter, to remember to be there for those that we love.  I hope that I am able to love and support the people in my life as beautifully as Angela loved and supported her mom.

Paula Zeek nominated by Jeanne Kinney
Paula is the daughter of a patient that is seen at the McCullough Hyde Infusion Center. Our patient, Jackie has dementia with behavioral disturbances and Paula cares for her mother unconditionally. She accompanies Jackie to every doctor and infusion appointment. Paula puts Jackie’s needs before hers, cares deeply, and even when she’s on the edge of breaking down still manages to hold it together for her mother’s sake. I know sometimes Ms. Jackie can be challenging but Paula continues to be passionately by her side.


Elaine Berninger nominated by Stacy Holdeman
I will never forget the first day that I met Elaine– she was intelligent, sharp, and motivated to do whatever she could to prolong her time with her dear family. If she were ever discouraged, I never knew about it because she was always so pleasant with a smile on her face and fight in her heart. Elaine took great interest in working with many members of our team and always thanked us for our time– a small gesture that goes a long way in healthcare. Her unfailing appreciation for life and for nature has made a lasting impression on me. I hope that her family can find comfort in knowing that she will never be forgotten by me or our team.

Beth Brubaker nominated by Allison Franzen
I am writing to nominate Beth Brubaker for the Unsung Hero Award because of her immense courage, strength, and positivity that she displayed while receiving her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. Not only was Beth a young, 32-year-old woman receiving a terrifying diagnosis, she was also pregnant with her first child. She handled the situation with such grace and dignity that she is the pure definition of what an Unsung Hero should be.
Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer on a Wednesday and found out she was pregnant the following Sunday. What a whirlwind of emotion, especially given that she had suffered a miscarriage just months prior.
I will never forget Beth’s first day of treatment at the St. Elizabeth Ft Thomas Cancer Care Center. Before meeting her, all I could think about was how terrified I would be if I were in her shoes. Although I’m sure she was very nervous, I was blown away by how strong and brave Beth appeared. She had the most optimistic attitude and was a breath of fresh air in our treatment room. She had the ultimate ‘kick butt’ attitude and was determined to take her cancer treatments head-on. She even adopted her own mantra which she sported on her t-shirt for treatment: “Fight like Fiona.” This was in reference to the baby hippopotamus born prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo. The baby hippo had to fight for her life being born so early and this became Beth’s mindset and motto for her treatments as well. She was going to fight like Fiona to beat her cancer and to deliver her healthy baby girl.
Beth endured surgeries and months of chemotherapy all while maintaining that same amazingly positive attitude. She was so caring and put others before herself even with all she was going through. She was constantly talking to and encouraging other patients she would come into contact with in the waiting room, building relationships with her doctors and nurses, and keeping herself as healthy as possible while growing her baby.
She gave birth to her beautiful daughter Harper Jaye on May 21st, 2019. Harper was born healthy and happy and was Beth’s double miracle: a chemotherapy and rainbow baby. Beth then had to resume and finish out her chemotherapy treatments just weeks after giving birth. In true Beth fashion, she remained positive and optimistic. Always a ray of sunshine no matter the circumstances and especially when having to be away from her newborn for hours on end.
Beth deserves more praise than I could ever put into words. She was and remains an amazing patient. She has inspired all of us caring for her as well as other patients, her family, and her friends. Harper Jaye will get the privilege to grow up with the best role model who fought to give her the healthiest and happiest life imaginable.
It has been an honor for our team to care for and to know Beth. She epitomizes kindness, compassion, and courage. She is everything I hope I would be if I were in her situation. It is my honor to nominate Beth Brubaker for the Unsung Hero award.

Columbus Cook nominated by Soma Sengupta
Columbus is a Desert Storm War Veteran, who was diagnosed with a glioblastoma. He has turned his life around by becoming a phenomenal artist despite the diagnosis.

Tracy Kinney nominated by Mary Cadek
Tracy is an amazing lady. She brings pet therapy dogs to the Christ Hospital Cancer Center to help our patients relax while they receive chemotherapy. She and her dogs are a joy to see coming for patients and staff, especially me. Tracy is also a cancer survivor, and she is able to talk to patients from a “been there, done that” standpoint that is very helpful. She has many dogs and cares for all of them incredibly well.

Emily Schaefer nominated by Suzanne Partridge, MD
This is a nomination in a posthumous manner.  Emily passed away in February and the number I gave you is her mother’s phone.  Emily really should have been awarded this years ago and silly me realized this too late.  She deserved to be physically present for this and for that I have high regret. I also think her spirit knows she got this though. I want the community to get a glimpse of what it was like knowing Emily.  I met Emily about 8 years ago. She was a young 40-year-old woman with a malignant pleural effusion and it turned out to be ovarian cancer.  Any time I’m faced with having to meet someone young with a serious cancer diagnosis it’s always challenging.   I know what I have to say is going to be devastating to the patient and the family.  What struck me about Emily from the beginning had to be her bravery.  Emily wanted to know what to expect and wanted it delivered honestly and directly.  She amazed me at her ability to handle her diagnosis.  She truly took it on with the most maturity that is possible.  She also had a talent for making it somehow fun.  I’ll never forget when she showed me her painted scalp when she lost her hair her first-time around-it was  Ohio state football helmet!  I mean-real silver paint-the details were amazing.  I knew her spirit was just so wonderful-she truly was able to at least try to show that cancer was not going to get in the way of having fun in life.  I knew Emily had so many friends and such a support team-she had a “team Emily” team at the ovarian cancer walk and you bet it was a very decorative experience.  She would tell me of adventures such as a polar plunge one year when she jumped into some freezing water for some cause I believe-or maybe just for fun-more or less it made me laugh.  Emily truly had to be on and off therapy for most of her life since her original diagnosis after an original 1.5 years of remission. She knew eventually the disease would take her.  She lived with that but yet still carried on in her job and never forgetting to smile or laugh.  I never expect everyone to be happy about their situation or disease-in fact I expect the opposite.  That is why I found her so incredible.  She did have her low times but could still find joy.  I often thought her soul was one of those special ones sent to us to learn.  I think one of her purposes was to show me this.  I had often wished how I could show others how she thought and handled her disease.  She often accepted things better than people twice her age. I sure wish I had recognized her sooner-but she made me feel like she was immortal-and I often forgot she was sick.  This is why she was so special and it was a gift to care for her.  Sadly Emily had developed a terminal complication of her disease in February one that I prayed would not happen to her and when it did -she had to face some very difficult decisions about her care as her disease became more difficult to control.  Once again she proved highly able to make a good decision and show she was at peace.  In the end, she was telling me it was going to be ok. I was the one trying not to cry when we had our last hug.  Thank you Emily -I love and miss you!

Barry Stuft nominated by Jenifer Buttram
Barry is a survivor. He has now beaten four primary cancers over the last 12 years. Throughout his treatments and multiple diagnoses he has maintained a positive attitude and stayed true to his faith. After he completed treatment for his first cancer Barry began volunteering in the chemotherapy suite, spreading his love and positivity to other patients undergoing treatments. He has continued volunteering at the cancer center and other local hospitals. Barry’s smile and kind words provide comfort and reassurance to those in need. He is an amazing man that so selflessly provides light to other people who are going through a time of darkness.

Randy Thaman nominated by Craig Roberts
Randy was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in January of 2017 and further learned that the cancer had spread to his spine.  Being a successful business owner that I had the pleasure of working with through the years as his real estate consultant, I witnessed firsthand Randy’s tenacity to make hard decisions and propel his company into ever greater successes through the years.

When he first shared with me the diagnosis, I knew cancer was about to encounter one of the toughest battles it would ever come to know.  If cancer in any way expected Randy to lay down, well…. that was a miscalculation of epic proportions!  Randy literally “turned on a dime” when receiving this devastating news, but true to form, he geared up for the fight in ways typical of the prizefighter I knew he was – he completely altered his diet, rallied his friends to be in his corner for the championship fight, relied on his faith and asked his prayer warriors to “kick it in high gear,” and kept us all apprised of what information he was able to share through the multi-round battle.  It was an epic struggle, but in the end, cancer really didn’t stand a chance.  When the final bell had rung signaling that the match was over, it was clear that “Evil C” – as Randy called it – had met its match.  Doctors declared Randy in remission in October of 2018.

Since that time, Evil C continues to make puny attempts at staging a comeback fight, but now with Randy sporting the championship belt, doctors have nonchalantly zapped the cancer away with one-off radiation treatments.  Randy and all of us in his corner sincerely hope that Evil C never gets another rematch nor shows its ugly face again in these here parts!

Randy doesn’t take the victory lightly, though.  I’ve heard him explain his days now as “+11, +12, etc.” – i.e., the number of months of living past the date the doctors indicated that he would likely have passed away by.  Yet, here he is, standing strong before you this evening, in full remission status and showing us what a victorious prizefighter actually looks like.  As his friend, I am so blessed to call him such, as well as a hero and a cancer survivor.  Proud of you, bud!

Brian Thomas nominated by David Waterhouse, MD, MPH
The term “Unsung” does not quite feel right when you are talking about a well-known radio personality. My friend, Brian Thomas is a staple of 55KRC morning talk show radio and a true Cincinnati treasure – and probably not so “Unsung.” But, the term “Hero” describes Brian Thomas very well. Now by all accounts, Brian Thomas and I probably should not get along very well. I am a physician, while he is a former lawyer (with a law degree from the University of Cincinnati). Also, he is a well-recognized conservative talk show host while I lean a bit more towards the left. Yet some things are far more important than the petty squabbles between doctors and lawyers, or the differences between right and left politics. We both share a passion for fighting cancer, and we both are staunch and committed supporters of cancer research. I have had the pleasure of being on Brian’s morning show multiple times. It is simply amazing how he can juggle the conversations while conducting the work that he does. Yet he always has this time to ask about research progress and about the work that we are doing at OHC. He is genuinely interested in the scientific underpinnings of the research and is the first to offer encouragement and thanks for the work being done. Brian’s show on 55KRC has significant public impact and reach. He does not hesitate to educate his listeners and promote cancer research and its importance. He also uses his pulpit to promote clinical trial participation and for that alone, I am personally very grateful. What Brian’s listeners may not know is that he is also a cancer patient. He purposefully does not promote his being a lymphoma survivor because he does not want to be defined by his cancer. He does not let his cancer limit him. And his listeners probably would be surprised to learn (though he will likely be mortified that I have shared his story) that his eyes welled up with tears when I asked his permission to nominate him as an Unsung Hero. I did not think it correct to throw his name out there, knowing that he is a public figure, without his permission. Though never short on words, Brian so very humbly and reluctantly accepted the nomination, believing that others were likely more deserving. This is the side of Brian Thomas that I know and wish his listeners to share. He has been a consistent voice for cancer patients, their families, and their providers, even when his radio topic may be health-related but not necessarily cancer. He continues to push the agenda. To me, his relentless cancer research championship has earned him the title of “Unsung Hero.”