​2018 Michael Kamin Hart Awards recognize staff who've made an impact on young cancer patients


Clinical Nurse Specialist Kelly McGuigan and Palliative Care Physician Dr. Breffni Hannon (middle) are pictured with members of the Hart family

Three outstanding Princess Margaret Cancer Centre staff members who made an exceptional impact on the care of an AYA (Adolescent & Young Adult) patient have been recognized with a 2018 Michael Kamin Hart Award.

Established in 2014, the annual awards and lectureship are held in memory of Michael Kamin Hart, a young man who lost his battle with lymphoma in 2011 at the age of 25.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Kelly McGuigan and Palliative Care Physician Dr. Breffni Hannon received the award from members of the Hart family during a ceremony at The Princess Margaret on May 7. Nurse Practitioner Simone Charles also received an award but was unable to attend.

“It’s a huge honour to be nominated for this award and caring for young adults with cancer,” says McGuigan. 

She was nominated by a colleague for providing exceptional care to a young woman who was not expected to live until her 19th birthday. McGuigan helped organize an early birthday celebration for her. The patient died the day after the party.

“(I just wanted) to allow her to live as well as she could and ensure she got her high school graduation and her birthday a month before she was expected to celebrate it. This was a team effort … we all participated in supporting her and her family through her illness and her death.” 

Dr. Hannon was nominated by a patient’s wife, who praised how comfortable the palliative care physician made her husband feel in his final days.

“It’s such an honour and a privilege. You don’t expect people to honour you with the work that we do but it’s such a wonderful thing to know that you’ve touched somebody in such a way,” says Hannon.

The AYA Program, open to patients under 39 who have been diagnosed with cancer, was established in June 2013. The program addresses unique psychosocial and medical oncology needs of young patients including fertility, sexuality, school/work, social relationships and finances. It also provides supportive care counseling and resources to patients.

Dr. Mary Elliott, a Psychiatrist with Supportive Care who received the first Michael Kamin Hart Research Award in AYA Oncology in 2017, spoke at the event about the importance of mindfulness and meditation for young adults with cancer. 

She teaches a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) workshop that helps participants live in the present moment.

“We’re trying to teach these young adults to build the skills to really inhabit life fully no matter where they are in the cancer journey.”

Participants who have taken part in the program have reported improvements in their quality of life, as well as reduced depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. 

“I really teach the AYA population from a place of empowering them and mindfulness-based interventions are about empowering people to build skills and develop tools.” 

Elliott was also a nominee for the 2018 Michael Kamin Hart Awards, along with Music Therapist SarahRose Black, Medical Oncologist Dr. Neesha Dhani and Surgical Oncologist Dr. Fayez A. Quereshy. 

The 2018 awards helped kick off AYA Week at The Princess Margaret. For more on the AYA Program and to read an inspiring story about a young woman who credits The Princess Margaret for helping her navigate her cancer diagnosis visit UHN News

Read more about the Michael Kamin Hart Awards here