New cancer center dedicated at St. Elizabeth Edgewood

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

It’s a week for new beginnings and an advent of hope at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Edgewood. The new Cancer Center was dedicated Sept. 29 by Bishop Roger Foys after the ribbon cutting ceremony, and opened to its first patient Oct. 1.

Mr. Garren Colvin, president and CEO, said, “This building, and the programs in it, has a soul. It’s a soul tied to the mission and vision of our institution, which goes back 155 years. When this building opens Oct. 1, the amount of lives who will be impacted by the people, programs and medicine that will fill these halls, is positively overwhelming.”

Bishop Foys, who brought a first-class relic of St. Elizabeth, patroness of the hospital, blessed the space and led those gathered in prayer.

“Let us ask for God’s blessing on all the sick who are patients, and on those who devote themselves to caring for them,” he prayed. “We ask a divine blessing on this center, dedicated to the care of those in need. … Grant that, comforted in their illness, the patients will quickly regain their health and joyfully thank you for the favors they have received.”

Bishop Roger Foys prays a blessing over the new St. Elizabeth Cancer Center at the dedication Sept. 27.

Bishop Foys expressed his gratitude for the new center and all the good work it will do. “One of the primary things that Jesus did in his life, beside teaching, was healing the sick … this facility continues the work of the Lord Jesus,” he said. “I’m so pleased to be here.”

As part of the dedication, Jospeh Bozzelli, staff chaplain, read from Scripture and led those present in a responsory psalm and prayers of the faithful.

Debbie Simpson, Board of Trustees chair, also addressed those gathered. “I’m extremely proud to know that this center is being built for the benefit of our community and through the support of the community,” she said. “The structure signifies the unity of people throughout our region, who have come together to change cancer outcome for our region. … Together we will change the cancer narrative for our family, our friends and our community.”

The idea was conceived about three years ago after a Community Needs Assessment, according to Dr. Doug Flora, MD, executive director. The St. Elizabeth staff surveyed educators, politicians and local community leaders on what they thought the most pressing needs were for healthcare in the region. The results showed it was cancer care, cardiac care and mental health and addiction. Two other centers, dedicated to cardiovascular care and mental health care, were completed since then.

“This was the final cog in the wheel for us,” said Dr. Flora.

Kentucky is currently first in the country for cancer-related diagnoses and deaths, first for lung cancer deaths and first for colon cancer. St. Elizabeth’s solution is the region’s first world-class cancer center, featuring screening and prevention, precision medicine and genomic health, clinical research and the most advanced technology in the field. Ground was broken in 2018, and the center has continued in construction since then, leading up to fall 2020 and the grand opening.

The center, Dr. Flora said, is a promise. “I feel like we have had thousands of meetings, planning and scheduling and schematics … now we’re actually inviting patients into our home. To finally have these guests who are able to take advantage of the gifts of this building means a lot to me.”

As a former cancer patient himself, Dr. Flora said he made sure the new center was built around the patients and their convenience. At every level of decision making, even interviewing for navigator positions, patients set the bar.

(left to right) Kathy Jennings, senior vice president patient care, cancer care, Dr. Doug Flora, MD, executive director, Cancer Center, Debbie Simpson, St. Elizabeth Board of Trustees chair, Garren Colvin, St. Elizabeth president and CEO, Bishop Roger Foys and Father Dan Schomaker, vicar general.

One of the major advantages of this facility, said Dr. Flora, is its capacity for multidisciplinary care. “All of the providers that a patient would need to see can combat that cancer under one roof … You can see three or four doctors in a half day in the same clinic, that’s unique. Sometimes these things take three or four weeks and different offices to get through the queue of medical oncology and surgeons and radiation doctors. Now we’re all going to see you on a Tuesday morning, within an hour and a half of each other … I think that relieves some of the burdens off the patients themselves and also makes us expect a little bit more of ourselves as caretakers to make sure that the process is built around the patients themselves, rather than around the doctors, which has been the traditional way.”

Another asset is the attitude around the center of addressing the whole person — body, mind and spirit.

“We’ve got places for prayer and quiet reflection, for massages or acupuncture, in addition to cutting edge clinical trials … This is worthy for our patients, they deserve access to clinical trials,” said Dr. Flora.

“What we’re going to do here is challenge the rest of the community to keep up, and if you want to provide the same level of care that we’re going to afford our patients, you’d better be ready to do screening detection, precision medicine, cooking classes, all of these softer touches I think will distance us from the field and maybe make the other centers realize that it’s about the whole person and not just the cancer,” he said.

The center opens for its first chemotherapy infusion on Oct. 1, and the following Monday the medical oncologist practice moves in. Mr. Colvin said overall, it’s taken 700,000 people hours, employing 2100 employees during a pandemic. “When the world slowed down, this building kept going. We were able to do it safely, on time, and for this community.”

“Today is a momentous day for the fight against cancer in Northern Kentucky,” said Mr. Colvin in conclusion.

Holiday advisory for schools during COVID-19

Messenger staff report

As the diocese continues in-person instruction at its 39 schools, COVID-19 cases are developing at a slow but steady rate. Based on the details of Catholic school cases in the diocese, students are not contracting the illness at school. Instead, exposures are mostly from small family gatherings. In many cases it is a parent or a college-aged sibling who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I can’t stress enough how important decisions on seemingly limited travel and small gatherings outside of school have on individual students and the school community,” said Laura Keener, diocesan COVID coordinator. “A single positive case in the classroom can put dozens of students in quarantine. The student of a parent who has tested positive will need to transition to at-home instruction for 24 days. When choosing to travel or to participate in social gatherings — even small family gatherings — we are asking parents to seriously consider whether or not the activity is absolutely essential. If it is, remember to wear a mask and practice safe social distancing.”

As the holidays approach, it is important to adhere to guidance offered by Kentucky Public Health and the Center for Disease Control on how best to celebrate in ways that are safe.

For Halloween, KPH is encouraging parents to avoid high-risk activities like door-to-door trick-or-treating, haunted houses, hayrides, costume parties or traveling to fall festivals. Instead, the KPH encourages low-risk activities like carving and decorating pumpkins, watching movies together as a family, having a scavenger hunt around the house for Halloween treats or dressing up for a drive-by Halloween costume contest.

KPH also encourages parents to focus on keeping Halloween fun and safe for children by avoiding adult activities that further increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“These are difficult choices parents are being asked to make, that include sacrificing many fun experiences we all want our children to enjoy, but we have to weigh the benefits against the risks. Is it worth my child transitioning to at-home instruction for nearly a month to go trick-or-treating? Is attending or hosting a party worth 12 or more of my child’s classmates missing out on in-person instruction for two weeks? Especially viewing on social media the many drive-by birthday celebrations over the summer, our parents have already demonstrated that they can find safer, alternative ways to celebrate that in some cases become new traditions after the pandemic,” said Mrs. Keener. “We are trusting our parents to make in-person instruction and the health of our school communities a priority every day, especially during the upcoming holidays.”

Trick or treat the safe way:
If trick-or-treating is permitted in your community, please trick or treat the safe way.
— Maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from anyone not within your household.
— Always wear a face covering.
— Halloween masks DO NOT count as a face covering.
— Clean hands before and after touching the wrapped candy.
— Trick or treat in family groups and don’t congregate in large groups.
— Trick or treat in your own neighborhood. Do not travel to other neighborhoods.
— Use hand sanitizer often, especially after contacting frequently-touched surfaces and before eating anything.

Consider safer alternatives:
— Carve or decorate pumpkins for display.
— Decorate your home or living space.
— Have a virtual Halloween costume contest.
— Watch Halloween movies with the people you live with.
— Have a scavenger hunt for Halloween treats in and around your home.
— Drive-by costume or car decorating contest with judges who are social distancing.

Avoid higher-risk activities:
— Traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating.
— Trunk or treat events with large groups in parking lots.
— Costume parties.
— Haunted houses.
— Hayrides or tractor rides.
— Traveling to fall festivals in neighboring towns.
— Any event with large crowds.

— Stay home if you are sick.
— If your child is at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, use extra caution and avoid moderate and high-risk activities.
— Consider the people in your household who may be at risk of greater complications from COVID-19.
— Focus on keeping Halloween fun and safe for children by avoiding adult activities that further increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Information provided by Kentucky Public Health.

Schools are now offering complementary lunch to all students

Messenger Staff Report

All schools in the Diocese of Covington who participate in the National School Lunch Program will begin participating in an expanded program offered by the U.S.D.A. This program has been offered as a way to provide relief to families during the pandemic and ensure all students have access to meals.

Schools will begin participation in this program beginning Monday, Oct. 5 and will continue through Dec. 31 or until federal funds have been depleted. During this time, students will receive complementary meals. There is nothing for school families to do to qualify for or enroll in the complementary meal program — all students are welcome and encouraged to participate. This means, all students may choose a hot school lunch or grab-n-go meal at no cost to the family.

Schools can also choose to offer a morning snack or a grab-n-go breakfast as an additional option for families. This will be served at 8 a.m.

As part of the program, schools will also offer these complementary meals to children who are not enrolled in a Catholic school. This means families with younger children may preorder meals and pick them up at the designated time and location. Children up to 18 years of age are eligible for the free meal. More information on the procedures for this option will be available on the school website.

“We hope this program will be helpful to families during these challenging times,” said Jackie Kaiser, director, School Lunch Program for the Diocese of Covington.

For more information visit your school website or contact the school office or cafeteria manager.