Dorothy Austin, a nurse navigator in the University of Kansas Cancer Center's Department of Otolaryngology, was recognized on October 7, 2018, by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and the Kansas City Chiefs for her service to head and neck surgery patients. Austin served as the Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion for the Chiefs home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and conducted the ceremonial first pass prior to the 12:00 p.m. kickoff.
"I feel so honored to be chosen," said Austin, who has served in her current role for more than a decade. "I have lived in the KC area for most of my life and take pride in my community and doing what I can to make it better."
As part of the Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion program, Blue KC and the Chiefs recognize local citizens who make Kansas City a better place "to live, work and play" by giving them a chance to conduct the ceremonial first pass to a former Chiefs player or celebrity. Following the pre-game activities, honorees are given a tour of the Chiefs Radio Network broadcast booth and taken to a suite to watch the game.
In honor of the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer program, Blue KC and the Chiefs elected to honor Austin for her dedicated efforts as a nurse navigator and her commitment to improving the care received by the patients. While working in radiation oncology, Austin observed a need for navigation/care coordination for the head and neck surgery patient population and stepped in to address barriers to care for these patients. The model of navigation Austin established was then what KUCC used to develop its entire navigation program.
"Decreasing the amount of time between diagnosis and treatment and hearing feedback from my patients who appreciate that a nurse navigator was there to assist them with getting though the health system and prepared for treatment has been incredibly rewarding," said Austin, who also established the KUCC's first support group for head and neck surgery patients in the community. "My patients are my heroes. They are such strong survivors."
As the October 7th Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion, Austin is the fourth honoree to be recognized during the 2018 season. Previous honorees have included Pam Sanders of Cornerstones of Care, Wesley Hamilton of Disabled but not Really and Don Sumple of Angel Flight Central. With one honoree selected for each Chiefs home game, six more Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champions will be recognized this season with the potential for additional honorees in the postseason.
"The impact Dorothy Austin has made on her patients is immeasurable," said Christina Lively, Department Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Blue KC. "Not only has she impacted the emotional and mental health of her patients by starting a support group, she's also helped ensure that they get the best care possible by helping to ensure the quality of the care process. We're thrilled to honor her as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion."
Nominations for the Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion program are submitted online by the public and then reviewed by representatives from Blue KC and the Chiefs to determine honorees. Nominees can be those who have served as the catalyst for a cause that enriches the lives of others, have made a significant impact on individuals or the community at-large, have gone above and beyond for a cause or have simply dedicated their lives to selflessness and serving others.
Blue KC and the Chiefs are still accepting nominations at www.chiefs.com/bluekc for Chiefs Kingdom Champions for the 2018 season.