Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Children’s nurse’s work picture perfect

Jonathan Matters is a registered nurse at Children's cancer and blood disorders clinic.

Jonathan Matters is a registered nurse at Children’s cancer and blood disorders clinic.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and all month long we’ve been sharing photos of some of our shining stars from our cancer and blood disorders program on our social media channels. These beautiful photos are the work of Jonathan Matters, a registered nurse who works in our cancer and blood disorders clinic. Get to know more about Jonathan and what inspired his photography project in this week’s Five Question Friday.

five_question_friday111What is your role at Children’s?

I am a registered nurse working at the cancer and blood disorders clinic in the infusion center. I spend a lot of time administering various infusions like chemotherapy, blood products and antibiotics as well as assisting with sedated procedures like lumbar punctures and bone marrow biopsies. I work closely with a large group of professionals dedicated to helping people affected by these horrible diseases. It takes an army of nurses, doctors, child life specialists, social workers, therapists, clinic assistants, volunteers and many more to support children and their families through treatment. I am extremely proud to be part of that team.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s since 2007 when I started as an inpatient nurse on eighth floor, which was the hematology/oncology unit back then. I began in the clinic in 2012.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I spend my time outside work with my family. My wife and I have 2-year-old and 4-month-old daughters who make our lives rich beyond belief as well as very, very busy. I love photography, which mixes well with our beautiful daughters. I also photograph various hematology/oncology charity events such as Camp VIP, St. Baldrick’s, Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic, Shine Bright Bash and the CureSearch Walk.

You created a moving photography series of patients from our cancer and blood disorders program. Can you tell us more about this project and what inspired you?

In late August I approached our hematology/oncongology medical director, Dr. Susan Sencer, about an idea for a project for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I was inspired by a powerful image of a patient with her mother that was burned into my mind. That mental picture had everything: innocence, strength, beauty, love. Anyone who works with these kids sees this kind of thing often. I wanted to take a photo for each day of the month to show people on the outside what childhood cancer really looks like. Most people don’t really know, and many simply don’t want to know. I thought if I could capture even a fraction of the beauty and strength of these children it would go a long way making people more aware and perhaps even encouraging them to donate to the cause. It happened that Dr. Sencer was meeting with Jimmy Bellamy, Children’s social media specialist, that very afternoon and could relay the idea. He had a parallel project called Shining Stars that was meant to raise money and promote Shine Bright Bash. It was a perfect match. I spent the next several weeks bringing my gear to the clinic and working quick portrait sessions into busy infusion days.

subscribe_blogWhat do you think makes kids amazing?

One thing that consistently amazes me about these kids is their resilience. Treatment puts massive physical and mental strain on these children. Both the disease and the cure assault their minds, bodies and spirits and yet they remain largely intact. All the different personalities also amaze me. No one child is the same but each one is incredibly complex and interesting. They have so much character despite their young age and the fact that they are undergoing a process that would bring a strong adult crashing to their knees. Some are hilarious, some are serious, some are quiet, and some are chatty. You get to know them and their parents very well because you see them at regular intervals over a period of years. You learn how to work with their unique personalities. It is both challenging and rewarding on a scale that few people can appreciate. When I tell people what I do for a living, the No. 1 response is “I couldn’t do that.” They don’t know how amazing these kids are and how rewarding it is to work with them. They don’t understand what it is like to go home with absolutely no doubt that your work meant something to someone.

Children’s employee has worn many hats in 20 years

five_question_friday111Desiree Wallace is a familiar face at Children’s. She’s celebrating her 20-year anniversary with the organization this year and has worked in a variety of roles — as a child life specialist, a family relations liaison, an organizational development consultant, a Lean consultant and currently as a human resources business partner. Get to know Des in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Desiree Wallace has worked in a variety of roles in the past 20 years at Children's.

Desiree Wallace has worked in a variety of roles in the past 20 years at Children’s.

What is your role at Children’s?

I am a human resources business partner. My primary role is to support leaders of various divisions and help them achieve their goals, specifically when it comes to people management. I am successful when my areas attract and retain the best talent on their teams, when teams feel they have skills and tools to do their best work, and when leaders feel confident they have the information and competencies to be high-performing managers and directors.

What’s an example of a time you saw a Children’s team member or team living our values?

I didn’t have the pleasure witnessing this example but was copied on an acknowledgment to a manger about his employee. The message came from Bieta, a unit operations coordinator in pre-op, who is REMARKABLE and works hard every day to collaborate and coordinate volunteers and interpreters for families in the waiting room. She sent this message: “It had been a particularly busy day on our unit and Osman (interpreter) was a tremendous help. He was troubleshooting printer issues, directing patient traffic, filling in until another interpreter arrived — all on top of his own duties. He goes above and beyond the call of duty with each and every family.” My thanks to them both for JOINING TOGETHER to meet our patient and family needs.

subscribe_blogWhat do you love most about your job?

I am passionate about the mission of Children’s. I love my current job, and every position that I’ve had here, because I get to make a difference, and Children’s makes me feel like that contribution is valued.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with friends, trying new restaurants, taking gym classes and playing volleyball. My time to do these things is limited, however, because the other way I get to touch lives and make a difference is by being the full-time night manager at Ronald McDonald House – Oak Street.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

At which point of my childhood? I wanted to be a detective, then a lawyer, then an engineer (but only because the boy I had a crush on me told me I should because I was good at math and science). I ultimately thought I would be a child psychologist… and kind of am!

“Children’s Pedcast”: Dr. Susan Sencer on pediatric cancer

subscribe_blogDr. Susan Sencer, medical director of the hematology and oncology program at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and named one of the Top Cancer Doctors in the U.S. by Newsweek, joins the show to discuss pediatric cancer. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and one of Children’s signature events, Shine Bright Bash, raises money for the cancer and blood disorders program and takes place Sept. 12 at the Metropolitan Ballroom and Clubroom in Golden Valley.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Children’s Susan Sencer named Top Cancer Doctor by Newsweek

Dr. Susan Sencer

Dr. Susan Sencer has been part of Children’s hematology/oncology program for 25 years.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota congratulates Dr. Susan Sencer for her recognition as a “Top Cancer Doctors 2015” by Newsweek.

Dr. Sencer has been part of Children’s hematology/oncology program, the largest in the Upper Midwest, for 25 years. She has been the program’s medical director for the past 12 years. Dr. Sencer has a special interest in complementary and alternative therapies and has been instrumental in founding the integrative medicine and pain and palliative care programs at Children’s.

Dr. Sencer was one of 55 doctors in Minnesota named to the list, which is published by Newsweek in conjunction with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The list was compiled through peer nominations and extensive research led by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. of nearly 100,000 nominations.

On behalf of Children’s, and our patients and families, we are proud to congratulate Dr. Sencer on this accomplishment.

Meet Children’s new medical director of anatomic pathology

Megan Dishop, MD, is the medical director of anatomic pathology at Children's.

Megan Dishop, MD, is the medical director of anatomic pathology at Children’s.

Megan Dishop, MD, comes to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota via Denver. She joined our team in March. Get to know her in this edition of Five Question Friday.

five_question_friday111What is your role and title?

I am a pediatric pathologist and one of five full-time pathologists here at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. My title is medical director of anatomic pathology, which means that I am responsible for the administrative oversight of our histology and immunohistochemistry laboratory, our surgical pathology and cytology services, and the autopsy service. In that role, I work closely with our medical director of laboratories, Dr. Carlos Galliani, our team of pathologists, and our pathologist assistant and histology supervisor, Melissa Turner, as well as our larger team of histotechnologists, laboratory information systems specialists, and administrative leaders in the laboratory and throughout our health system.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I’ve been here about five months. I started in early March and moved from Denver. A lot of people ask me why I would want to move to Minnesota — especially in light of the milder climate and the mountains — but the answer is pretty simple. I saw a really great opportunity — a chance to be part of a laboratory and an organization that is ambitious and growing, that strives for clinical excellence above all else, and that offered me a chance to work with some truly stellar, hardworking and open-minded people with an obvious commitment to a transformative mission. And the lakes are nice, too.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the challenge of recognizing rare disease. I am a visual person and a problem-solver by nature, so making diagnoses from examining tissues and cells suits my natural abilities and the analytical part of my personality. Just when you think you have “seen it all,” something new comes up that challenges the prior dogmas or challenges me to go to the books or the medical literature to understand what I am seeing. While I don’t often get to meet our patients and families, personally, I have a strong sense of mission as a diagnostician, and my role allows me to have a significant impact on treatment decisions in many different pediatric specialties, and to contribute to the care of some of the sickest kids in the hospital, even if it is at a distance. In particular, my expertise in rare forms of lung disease enables me to see diagnostic lung biopsies from babies and children from all over the world — it’s a great feeling to be able to make recommendations and help physicians who are struggling with difficult diagnoses. There is no limit to what we at Children’s can do for the kids in our community and all over the globe.

subscribe_blogWhat’s your favorite memory from working at Children’s?

Well, I have only been here a short time, but so far my favorite memories are of people reaching out their hands and introducing themselves. Everybody has been very welcoming, and I love it when people initiate conversations and tell me about what they do. It helps me to learn more about the many “niches” of the talented people that work here.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I spend time outside of work taking walks with my 11-year-old blue merle Great Dane, Samson. He is a wonderful old dog with a lot of presence and a magnetic personality. I find that he is helping me to meet all of my new neighbors, and the kids on my street just love him.

Passionate runner and Children’s employee to go extra mile for kids


Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota employee and Team Superstars member Nathan Branson is running the Twin Cities Marathon to raise money for Children’s.

When Nathan Branson isn’t at Children’s repairing and maintaining medical equipment, you’ll likely find him at Lake Harriet, pounding laps with his local running club.

subscribe_blogThis summer, he’s running with extra purpose. He’s training for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, which he’ll run on behalf of Children’s charity team, Team Superstars. He’s also fundraising for Children’s urgent needs.

“After my last marathon in 2014, I was thinking about taking some time off, but when I heard about running TCM for Children’s, I was all in,” he said. “What a great idea to be able to do something I love like running and be able to give back to the place I love to work, Children’s.”

He has worked at Children’s for eight years in the biomedical department as an engineer. He loves starting his mornings at Children’s, where he says everyone he encounters wishes him a good morning.

Nathan regularly participates in Children’s HeartBeat 5000 and Pine Tree Runs 5K/10K and gives back by donating paid time off.

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer for the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Meet the man behind “The Dude”

Eriq Nelson (left) portrays "The Dude" inside Star Studio at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Eriq Nelson (left) portrays “The Dude” inside Star Studio at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Eriq Nelson is an improv actor who plays a vital role at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota as “The Dude,” the face of the hospitals’ in-house TV station, Star Studio. Nelson talks about how he got his start at Children’s in 2007 and how “The Dude” can provide kids with a different kind of medicine through humor, laughter, play and entertainment.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Team Superstars runner returns to her first home


Children’s child life specialist Melissa Haun plans to run her first marathon in October as a member of Team Superstars, Children’s new running team.

Brady Gervais

At 33, Melissa Haun is back where she started.

Born just shy of 30 weeks’ gestation at 2 pounds, 6 ounces, she spent her first month at Children’s — in the neonatal intensive care unit. After gaining strength and weight, she moved to the transition nursery at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Melissa Haun as a baby

Melissa Haun as a baby

Today, she is a child life specialist at Children’s, where she focuses on our Comfort Promise. That is, she helps Children’s do everything possible to prevent and treat pain in kids.

“Children’s is where my heart belongs,” Melissa said.

After spending her day educating staff organization-wide about taking the sting out of needle pokes and blood draws — part of the Comfort Promise — she’s training at night for her first-ever marathon on behalf of the cause she loves most.

Melissa in the NICU

Melissa in the NICU

In October, she will go the extra mile by running the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and raising money for Children’s child life and pain and palliative care programs.

“ ‘Running ONE marathon’ is a line straight from my bucket list. I am not getting any younger, and when I saw that Children’s was having its first charity endurance team — Team Superstars — I knew it was meant to be,” Melissa said. “I’ve been told that you get addicted to running marathons, but just in case, I wanted to make sure Children’s got first dibs!”

subscribe_blogAlthough Melissa ran in high school and has been running since, she shares the same fear as every other first-time marathoner — stringing 26.2 miles together.

She’s anxious for the big day, too.

“I am most excited about my goal of getting friends and family to sign up to cheer as (S)MILE-MARKERS, and pass every one of them,” she said. “Don’t underestimate the power of each familiar face!”

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Five Question Friday: Meet nurse (and video director) Becky Bogan

five_question_friday111In honor of National Nurses Week, we are introducing you to Becky Bogan, RN, who has worked on our Hematology/Oncology unit in Minneapolis for 14 years. In addition to her day job caring for pediatric cancer patients, Becky recently added video director to her résumé. Over the past few weeks, Becky carried a handy cam around her unit, learned how to edit on the fly and, along with nurses, providers and the entire Hematology/Oncology team, created a video set to the tune “Fight Song” as a show of support for kids battling cancer and blood disorders. Get to know more about Becky and what she loves most about being a nurse.

Becky Bogan, RN, has worked at Children's for 14 years.

Becky Bogan, RN, has worked at Children’s for 14 years.

What is your role and where do you work?

I have been a registered nurse on 7th floor (Hematology/Oncology unit) in Minneapolis for 14 years.

Why did you become a nurse?

  • Cliché answer: because I have always loved kids
  • Funny answer: because kid “messes” are smaller than adult “messes”
  • Sentimental answer: because my mom is a nurse and I saw how she always cared for everyone around her. I truly did (and do) want to be just like her.

What do you love most about your job?

So many things!

  1. The kids! I am amazed, daily, at the strength, resilience and fight in these kids. I really believe they are superheroes disguised in “kid” bodies!
  2. My coworkers. They are some of the best. They make coming to work, even on the tough days, possible. There is nothing better than knowing your teammates are there for you.
  3. The work we do. There is nothing more rewarding than making a difference.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

The kid quotes. Example: The 4-year-old boy who put on his call light at 2 a.m. one night and asked, “Could you please go turn those babies off?”

subscribe_blogWhat’s one thing you want people to know about nursing?

Nursing is a difficult profession… but also one of the most rewarding! As nurses, we have the privilege of being there for the patients and families 24 hours a day. We are there for them in their times of greatest need and also times of greatest joy. Gaining the trust of a patient and family, and making these amazing connections, is one of those unforgettable rewarding moments of a nurse’s job.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Spending time with my husband and two boys (ages 2 and 4). Since my 2-year-old wakes up at 4:30 a.m. EVERY DAY, our days are long and full of excitement. If anyone has any sleep training tips, please help! I definitely will never write a book on that subject.

Longtime Children’s employee goes extra mile for kids

Valerie Butterfield (center) with her dad, Keith (left), and brother, Douglas (Photo courtesy of Valerie Butterfield)

Valerie Butterfield (center) with her dad, Keith (left), and brother, Douglas (Photo courtesy of Valerie Butterfield)

Brady Gervais

Thirty years ago Valerie Butterfield had her first Children’s experience. Her brother, Douglas, who was 7 at the time, was diagnosed with and treated for type 1 diabetes.

This was a scary time for the entire family. Thanks to the progress in juvenile diabetes research and treatment, a diabetes diagnosis is more manageable today.

Knowing what her family went through, Valerie, a longtime Children’s employee in information technology services, has decided to support other patients and families beyond her day job. On Oct. 4, she’ll run her first marathon — the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon — on behalf of Children’s charity running team, Team Superstars.

subscribe_blog“My family thinks it’s pretty awesome,” the mother of two said.

Valerie said she’s excited to raise awareness for a cause in which she believes and is humbled by the financial and emotional support of her friends, family and colleagues. Her dad, Keith, also is a Children’s employee, with more than 20 years of dedicated service. To date, she has raised more than $300.

Valerie always has been active off and on in running and various sports activities. Two years ago, following the birth of her second child, she began running regularly and joined Moms on the Run. She has run many distance races, half-marathons and the Ragnar Relay — an overnight, 200-mile epic relay with 12 of your closest friends (or strangers).

In addition to running her first marathon for a cause, she wants to set an example for her two sons.

“I’m grateful that I have healthy children,” she said, “and I want to show my children an example of healthy living.”

Support your favorite Superstar’s fundraising efforts by giving today.

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.