Published: February 2022
We are happy to present Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Spotlight Series, featuring one of our dedicated physicians, scientists, nurses, and other important staff members so you can get to know the talented multi-disciplinary team serving our community.
Meet Amber Thomassen, APRN-BC, AOCNP, team manager of research clinical operations. In 2017, Thomassen was the first fellow to graduate from Sylvester’s Nurse Practitioner (NP) Fellowship Program, one of nine in the country accredited for oncology training specific for new NPs in the field. The quality improvement (QI) project that she created during her time in the rigorous program to screen ICU patients for delirium is now being incorporated as a standard practice throughout the UHealth system. Today, apart from her various administrative duties, Thomassen oversees current fellows, both as direct supervisor and as a valuable mentor.
What brought you to Sylvester?
The NP Fellowship Program, a year-long training program rotating through all areas of Sylvester to learn about each site disease. You must complete a QI project, present at a Nursing Grand Rounds and/or conference, publish an article and pass a certification exam in order to graduate. Each step along the way helped me grow professionally, not just as a clinician but as a whole practitioner. It helped make my transition to practice a lot easier and gave me a broader perspective. It’s really an invaluable experience. If I hadn't done the fellowship, I would never have ended up where I am now.
What do you enjoy most about your role at Sylvester?
Currently my role is a mix of clinical and administrative.
Clinically, I work primarily with the leukemia team to manage the care of patients who are enrolled in hematologic clinical trials, both inpatient and outpatient. I have some lymphoma and myeloma patients as well, but mainly focus on acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome patients. I enjoy working with our patients, getting to know them and helping them through their journey. I have met so many wonderful people who have taught me something along the way. I feel very fortunate to be a part of their lives.
In my administrative duties, I oversee the operations of the research clinic and supervise the nursing manager and other APRNs who work in research. I also oversee the APRNs who run the Lung Cancer Screening Prevention Program, the Firefighter Cancer Initiative, and those who provide supportive services to our patients specializing in oncology mental health needs. Some of the APRNs are now in the fellowship that I once graduated from, and it’s fulfilling to share my own insights and experience with them.
Why did you choose this specific area of focus?
I found through the NP Fellowship Program that I loved hematology as well as research, and eventually found my home in Phase 1 Experimental Therapeutics as the hematology NP. I decided to work in Phase 1 Hematology Research because it is an exciting area of focus. I feel like I get a sneak peek into the future. We work with drugs that are in early development and get to offer patients a potentially life-changing treatment. It is exciting to see changes in practice as well as the effects they have on prolonging lives and offering patients quality of life. Today, I'm a sub-investigator on over 20 trials. The program opened this door to me through the experience I had in my training.
What developments are you most excited about?
I am excited about the continuation and expansion of the NP Fellowship Program. I was the first fellow we had at Sylvester and since me, we've had six others graduate, and three currently in the program. I am very grateful for this program because it was one of the best decisions I've made for my career. The opportunity was amazing—I learned so much and came out of it feeling more comfortable as an APRN managing oncology patients who are very complex and require specific care. Completing the NP fellowship opened many doors for me, and it’s exciting to be a part of and witness the success of others who have come after me.
How does philanthropy make a difference?
Philanthropy is what keeps us going. The kind donations from the community allow us to build our team, expand our practices and offer additional services and treatments for our patients. For example, some of the positions in the NP Fellowship program are funded by The Pap Corps, helping our caregivers to acquire crucial training to enhance our patient care.
Philanthropy is vital to our operations: without it we would not be able to continue funding research that saves lives, provide ancillary services to enhance quality of life and upgrade our facilities to best serve our patients.