Patient getting out of a car in front of the Tate Center

When Melody Belcher received cancer treatment at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, she had to go on short-term disability, adding more stress to an already scary situation.

Thanks to the generosity of community members and donors, a program at the Tate Cancer Center at UM BWMC was available to support Belcher in purchasing healthy food and arranging rides to her appointments.

A cancer diagnosis affects all aspects of life. The Patient Care & Comfort Fund helps relieve burdens so patients can focus on healing.

Understanding there are many additional concerns that patients may need to think about in addition to their cancer care, leaders at the Tate Cancer Center created the Patient Care & Comfort Fund, a program aimed at removing some of life's everyday worries that can keep someone from accessing the cancer care and treatment needed.

"The goal of the fund is to give cancer patients comfort," said Harvinder Singh, MD, medical director for medical hematology oncology at UM BWMC and clinical assistant professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine. "That little happiness can really change patients' outlook and perspective toward their disease and what they are going through."

"For me, having people at the Tate Cancer Center offer this program and ask if there is anything else that I needed, and if I needed additional assistance, it made such a difference," Belcher said. "It takes a lot off you. You're already stressed enough as it is. This program is necessary and beneficial."

Compassionate Care and Support

The Tate Cancer Center at UM BWMC is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023, and the fund is an example of the continual work of improving patient care and quality of life. The Patient Care & Comfort Fund started more than a decade ago when Dr. Singh saw patients struggling to make ends meet. He and his colleagues began collecting what they could to support patients.

The fund looked for simple ways to lift the spirits of UM BWMC oncology patients. For some, this meant paying for a nice lunch so that a patient could celebrate an anniversary with a loved one. For others it was helping to order equipment such as a shower chair or buying nutritional supplements.

"Financial support for food is impactful and important, but so is just feeling like you get to do something normal," said Kelly Harris, LCSW-C, OSW-C, an oncology social worker at UM BWMC who works closely with cancer patients to understand their needs and connect them to resources. "With the Patient Care & Comfort Fund, we can make things happen more quickly, which is just what our patients needed."

Over time, the fund has grown and is now managed by the Baltimore Washington Medical Center (BWMC) Foundation.

"Moving the Patient Care & Comfort Fund to the foundation gave us the ability to strengthen it and build upon earlier grassroots efforts," said Susan Iaquinta, director of development at the BWMC Foundation. "We're committed to growing the fund so it's self-sustaining."

Get Involved

The Patient Care & Comfort Fund is one of the many ways UM BWMC supports patients.

"It's an honor to be able to help add light and relieve the burden that comes with a cancer diagnosis," Iaquinta said. "When you donate, it makes a direct and immediate impact on a patient."