Oncologist Shelby Terstriep with Sanford Health continues to see improved results with her work on cancer survivorship care

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) granted Sanford Health and medical oncologist Shelby Terstriep, M.D., $1.8 million as part of a five-year program. The funding was awarded to Dr. Terstriep for her work in cancer survivorship care.

Now, after three years, she is seeing effects in a variety of areas.

Dr. Terstriep stated, “When we originally received the money, we did a great deal of work with young breast cancer survivors because that was the intended audience.” “These women’s top priorities included fertility and family planning, support for their children, altering their lifestyle to lower their chance of cancer recurrence, managing stress with integrative care modalities, and receiving equitable care. This award was used to build new programming that was based on what these ladies told us was lacking. We were able to hire and educate cancer fertility navigators with the grant funds. Therefore, they act as the link between these two disciplines.”

Increasing survivor care

However, the scope of the award has expanded significantly beyond that initial group. Sanford has employed program coordinators in each part of its service area to maintain contact with patients throughout their survivorship journey.

Sanford has also begun delivering CLIMB, a program that provides children of cancer patients with the resources and assistance necessary to cope with their loved one’s illness.

In addition to faster detection and diagnosis of Native American patients and more equal care of LGBTQ+ patients, the grant addressed several areas.

Dr. Terstriep explained that as part of the health care equity program, all of the policies, processes, and intake forms were analyzed and as many errors as possible were corrected. “Our work will fundamentally alter the scope of care during the next decade.

“How can we make people feel at ease while receiving care? How can we demonstrate that Sanford is a friendly community that genuinely seeks equitable solutions? It must be a commitment for the foreseeable future. I am ecstatic about how far we’ve come.”

In fact, Dr. Terstriep’s patients encouraged her to advocate for change before she was received the funding.

“A 50-year-old lesbian patient of mine stated she had never disclosed her sexual orientation to a physician. Dr. Terstriep expressed astonishment at this revelation. “I had another patient who stated, ‘I had to dig you up because I was afraid my oncologist wouldn’t work as hard with me.’ Those instances simply motivate you to make a difference. I believe we have evolved significantly.”

Moreover the grant

The award will continue to fund significant changes to Sanford’s cancer survivorship program for an additional two years, but its legacy will extend far beyond that. The current programs have always been funded by more than simply grant funds, and in the future, the Sanford Health Foundation and the Edith Sanford Initiative donation will continue to fund the programs long after the grant expires.

Regardless of funding, the culture at Sanford Health is already centered on cancer survivors’ ongoing care.

“The cancer treatment, chemotherapy, was only a small fraction of a person’s life. But then, how can I assist them throughout the remainder of their lives? said Dr. Terstriep. The fact that I see (patients) for years is one of the perks of being an oncologist. It motivated me to become a survivor since that is the only way I can effect change in their lives.

“What now motivates me is progress. Continuous advancement. I am not a researcher who will discover a cancer cure. I do not conduct this type of research, but I can build programs to improve the quality of life for others.”

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