ST. LOUIS – St. Mary’s Cancer Care will be welcoming students from SLU and WashU to its campus. The patient navigator volunteers provide one-on-one support to patients, actively listening for other needs like financial, food insecurity, and transportation. They share the data with the cancer care team, and the patient is connected with resources or services.

Food insecurity has been a long-standing problem in our communities, but began receiving lots of attention during COVID. In the United States, many households are food insecure, and that number increases with chronic illness.

“At SSM, we’re very, very lucky. We have a patient navigation program for our cancer patients, and what that is, is we recruit volunteers that are cancer survivors, caregivers, or we also have students coming over from Wash U and SLU that want to give back, or they’ve been touched by cancer in some way,” said Kim Thorwegen, an oncology specialist at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital.

Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2022, SSM Health Cancer Care referred 121 cancer patients to Food Outreach and 95 of those patients are now enrolled clients. Each client receives a monthly box of food, providing three meals a day. Food Outreach has helped us provide over 100k meals in 2022.

“Having been through it, these are things that you can help these people to understand and, you know, help align or maybe ease their fears a little bit,” said Kathy Gallagher, a breast cancer survivor and a current patient navigator.

SSM Health knows this program will reach even more people in 2023. If you are interested in volunteering for cancer care, please call 314-768-8867 or click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.