Sentara in the Community

A Legacy of Care

Philanthropy Keeps Martha Jeffersons Caring Tradition Alive

“It is our aim to make this institution a blessing to this community.”

—Dr. J. Hamilton Browning, a Martha Jefferson Hospital founder, 1906

For more than a century, the Martha Jefferson Caring Tradition has been the hallmark of our commitment to patients and families: skillful, safe, compassionate care, defined by an abiding respect for the community we serve. 

Since our move to Pantops Mountain a decade ago, your generosity has expanded the margin of excellence at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, enabling us to be even more responsive, innovative and flexible in providing care. With your help, we are creating an ever-strengthening culture of excellence among our staff, while serving our community of patients, families, friends and neighbors.

The following pages share a few examples of the lives touched by our community’s generosity through the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation over the past decade. Thank you! 

Caring for the Caregiver

For well over three months, Laura Marks attended the bedside of her daughter, Maria, at Sentara Martha Jefferson, waiting anxiously as Maria fought to recover from pancreatitis. Like many caregivers, Laura struggled to manage her own physical and emotional needs as she grappled with the impact of Maria’s illness.

A month or so after the family’s ordeal began in February 2021, a team member invited Laura to visit the hospital’s new Caregiver Center, which opened during the summer of 2020. Free of charge and fully funded by philanthropic support through the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation, the center provides a lifeline of emotional support, assistance and resources for caregivers, whether they be family members, medical staff or community members. 

“Often, right next to the patient is a caregiver who is under a tremendous amount of stress,” says Katy Kreienbaum, Caregiver Center coordinator. “Our goal is to provide a place for people to come in, recharge and take time for themselves.”

The Caregiver Center offers a welcoming and relaxing oasis, centrally located near the gift shop and Phillips Cancer Center, yet removed enough to provide a quiet place of rest. The space features a fireplace, expansive windows to let in abundant natural light, and beautiful artwork by local Virginia artists. The center also includes a business hub equipped with a computer and phone-charging station, a snack station, and a private meeting space with a tranquil water feature for relaxation and meditation. 

For Laura, a favorite spot in the center was the small, quiet personal retreat room equipped with a massage chair. “I began to visit the Caregiver Center whenever Maria was taken out of her room for a procedure or test, because it was pretty depressing to sit in the hospital room all day, every day,” Laura recalls. “It was wonderful just having a change of scenery and getting away from the beeping machines. The center was a peaceful place where I could close my eyes for a few minutes.”

One of just 22 such programs in the United States, the Sentara Martha Jefferson Caregiver Center is a model for the entire Sentara Healthcare system. 

Continuing Care After Cancer 

Nearly four years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Elizabeth “Betsy” Raich says she doesn’t have time to dwell on the disease. With multiple surgeries and radiation treatments behind her, Raich is now focused on two particular personal interests that bring her joy: applying her newly attained Master Gardener certification to revive the landscaping around her beloved Howardsville home, and training her English lab puppy, Kirby, to be a therapy dog who can comfort others.

Cancer-free for three years, Raich recently “graduated” to the Sentara Martha Jefferson Cancer Survivorship Program, which focuses on patients’needs after they complete treatment. At least once a year, she will see the Survivorship Clinic’s dedicated nurse practitioner, who provides follow-up visits and long-term monitoring. The program also assists patients with physical, emotional and nutritional rehabilitation needs to help manage the long-term effects of cancer treatments.

“The Cancer Survivorship Clinic is such a nice bridge between the end of treatments and some needed ongoing medical support,” Raich says. “By using these services, I’m not taking up an appointment that someone just beginning the cancer journey might need immediately, but I’m also not completely out of the web of medical support, should a need arise in the future. This program keeps me plugged into those resources.”

Launched with philanthropic support in 2018, the multifaceted Cancer Survivorship Program offers a wide range of support services and resources, including chaplain-led support groups for patients and family caregivers; access to mental health care, nutrition counseling and fitness training; and genetic testing and education through a certified genetic counselor. Patients also may participate in the 12-week Cancer Rehab and Renewal Program to help them adopt or sustain a healthy quality of life during and after diagnosis. 

Raich feels blessed to have had a compassionate, capable medical team to help see her through her cancer journey. Thanks to the Cancer Survivorship Program, she can dedicate her energy toward restoring her home and farmland, which have been in her family for five generations. 

“I can't say enough good things about the care I received at Sentara Martha Jefferson, and it feels good to know there's a team continuing to look out for me,” she says. “I have a lot of interests, and I don't want to spend my time thinking about cancer. Cancer isn’t my identity.”

Holistic Care Planning for You and Your Loved Ones

Soon after Joyce Massowd was admitted to Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital with sepsis in March 2021, her condition deteriorated rapidly. As infection began to affect her lungs, doctors discussed performing a high-risk, but potentially lifesaving, procedure. In preparation for the procedure, they asked Massowd’s daughter, Deneen Bivona, if her mother had an advance directive in place. 

Although Massowd had never officially signed any documents, she and Bivona had already discussed how much medical intervention she desired in the event of life-threatening circumstances.

Alex McGee, chaplain at Sentara Martha Jefferson and a member of the Palliative Care team, recommended putting Massowd’s wishes into an official, legal document, and helped the family complete the form. Bivona scanned the document and now keeps a digital copy on her smartphone. 

“I’m so grateful to the doctors and nurses at Sentara Martha Jefferson who guided us through these hard decisions,” says Bivona. “When you are the caregiver and have authority over someone’s medical care, it doesn't matter how you feel—it’s their wishes that matter. And when you know your loved one’s wishes, you don't have to feel guilty, because you know you’re doing what they would want.”

Thankfully, Massowd recovered. 

Guiding patients and families through difficult discussions about issues such as end-of-life care is an essential function of the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital Palliative Care Program. Established in 2006 and significantly expanded with philanthropic support over the past decade, the program’s goal is to improve quality of life for patients adapting to chronic, progressive conditions. McGee and other members of the Palliative Care team collaborate with physicians, nurses and clinicians to provide holistic, person-centered, patient-directed care to more than a thousand patients each year. 

Palliative care services may range from managing symptoms like pain, anxiety, depression and sleep problems to providing emotional and spiritual support, guidance in navigating the healthcare system, and help making tough decisions about treatment options. Sentara Martha Jefferson piloted Sentara Healthcare’s first outpatient palliative care program, and other Sentara hospitals have since replicated this model. 

For McGee, facilitating difficult conversations among family members is extremely rewarding. “I was so touched and moved when I saw that Deneen and her mother were talking and laughing and eager to fill out the advance directive form together,” she says. “Like many other families, they found that doing so gave them peace of mind.”


Advance Care Directives

Have you told your doctors and loved ones how you would want your medical care to be handled if you are unable to communicate due to a life-threatening injury or illness? These conversations can be difficult, but they are necessary to ensure that your health care is handled as you would wish. The Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital chaplains can guide you and your family through these discussions.

Available at Sentara Martha Jefferson, advance care plan information and directive forms may be picked up at the display table next to the concierge desk in the front lobby. You can also call our Palliative Care team at 434-654-5597 to request the forms, and you can find sample advance care directives and other related information at Sentara.com. 

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