Q&A With Dr. Allison Applebaum

62516028_10151282904409949_8656037170932350976_oTell us about your cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

I am a clinical psychologist by training and my program of research is broadly focused on the development of psychosocial services to assist caregivers – family members and friends – of patients with cancer. My studies currently range from an examination of the utility of a distress screening process to connect caregivers with tailored support services, to trials of psychotherapeutic interventions that target common caregiving-related concerns, such as anxiety, insomnia, and existential distress, to a communication training program that will help caregivers to communicate more effectively with their loved ones and the medical team. I am the Founding Director of the Caregivers Clinic at MSK, and my research is very much inspired by the experiences of those seeking care our clinic. I want to do what I can to assist caregivers at every stage of their journey, so there is a lot of work to be done!

Since your work centers around caregivers, what would you tell someone whose loved one was recently diagnosed?

For a caregiver whose loved one was just diagnosed with cancer, I would remind them of the following: (1) you cannot do this alone, it is imperative to have a support network both for your loved one with cancer and for you; (2) in order to take the best care of your loved one, you must take very good care of yourself, and this includes recognizing and acknowledging your own limits; and (3) as a caregiver, you are a key member of the treatment team, you are on the front lines, so push yourself to speak up in medical appointments, get your questions answered and make sure your voice is heard.

Who introduced you to the T.J. Martell Foundation?

I was first introduced to the T.J. Martell Foundation in 2014 by Dr. Jimmie Holland, who received the Foundations’ Pioneer Award in 2015. Dr. Holland founded the field of Psycho-Oncology and the Department of Psychiatry at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, so she was a true trailblazer in medicine, and in life. I had the great honor of receiving mentorship from Dr. Holland during my first years on faculty at MSK, and it was her encouragement to examine the larger impact of cancer on families that led to my interest in cancer caregiving research.

You recently spoke at our New York Honors Gala Kickoff about the connection between music and medicine. Can you share that here?

My work with the T.J. Martell Foundation is very special to me, as I come from a family of musicians. My father was a world-renowned composer, arranger and orchestrator and my mother, a brilliant concert pianist. Music filled my childhood home and from an early age, the transformative and healing power of music was clear to me.  Today, playing and listening to music is one of the ways that I ground and take care of myself, and I encourage my patients to do the same. Music is oftentimes the best medicine; even just a small dose can transport us to a different time and place and create within us a different emotional or physical feeling. So, my work with the T.J. Martell Foundation has in some ways brought things full circle for me and knowing that the spirit of the music industry is behind all of our science is incredibly powerful.

For details on the 44th Annual New York Honors Gala, please click here.


Helping Cancer Patients Through Psycho-Oncology, by CEO Laura Heatherly

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQvAAAAJDc2Nzc3ZWRmLWFjZTItNDRhNS1hYmUxLWE0YWMxOTg1YWE2ZgRecently in the New York Times, I read an article written by Susan Gubar regarding her bout with cancer and dealing with occupational therapy.  Basically, after eight years of physical therapy, she felt that she had not received any professional assistance for many of the issues that come with being diagnosed with cancer such as fear, weakness, fatigue, insomnia, etc.

Each year 12.7 million people discover they have cancer which is one of the most mysterious and terrifying diseases in our lifetime.  Thanks to research, scientists work round the clock to find new discoveries that will turn into clinical trials and new drug discoveries that will save lives.  However, patients are living daily with fear – the fear of dying, fear of coping with the disease while taking care of their families, fear of the unknown and more.

Thanks to Dr. Jimmie C. Holland who is the Wayne E. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, she pioneered ways in which counseling, psychosocial interventions, and medications can reduce the distress experienced by cancer patients and their families.  As a psychiatrist for more than 30 years, Dr. Holland has devoted her career to helping patients, their families, and medical staff as they cope with the psychological burden of cancer and its treatment.

The T.J. Martell Foundation has been supporting psychiatric oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for many years and has navigated patients to getting the help they need to be able to deal with their disease.  Our goal is to create positive energy in hopes that patients can overcome their fear and anxiety and tackle their disease.

Believe me, Dr. Jimmie Holland is a pioneer – she is from my home state of Texas and she is one of the best people that I know who are helping to change the world in the way we deal with cancer .