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An MUSC hero
for HCC contributions
Hollings Cancer Center’s (HCC) Brenda Nickerson has forged a career
focused on service and improving the health of others.
Nickerson and Vicky Agnew, director of Strategic Communications,
discuss details of a new HCC Prevention and Control Program brochure.
For almost 30 years, the Joanna native has devoted her career
specializing in health disparities, cancer care, prevention and patient
education by supporting South Carolina patients and their families. On
June 30, she will retire from what is already considered a stellar
career in public health and patient care.
Recruited from the South Carolina Department of Health and
Environmental Control (DHEC) in 2000, Nickerson came to MUSC to help
HCC get on track for
National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation, plus other projects that
have improved clinical and research activities for cancer patients. In
late September, evaluators are scheduled to conduct a formal sight
visit as part of the rigorous NCI designation process.
Meanwhile, Nickerson’s presence in the Lowcountry was likely by design.
A public health nurse and researcher, Nickerson served as director in
DHEC’s Cancer Prevention and Control Division and Chronic Disease
Prevention and Control Branch areas. She’s been recognized for reducing
tobacco-related malignancies in the Palmetto state and helped advance
women’s health issues in South Carolina by managing the State-Aid
Cancer Clinics Program and developing the Best Chance Network, a breast
and cervical cancer screening program for South Carolina’s underserved
women. She also helped with important state legislation that
established a reporting structure for cancer cases through the South
Carolina Cancer Registry.
While at MUSC, Nickerson shared her vast experience and skills by
contributing to statewide cancer initiatives including the South
Carolina Cancer Surveillance Committee, Cancer Control Advisory
Committee and the South Carolina Cancer Alliance (SCCA) serving on the
group’s steering, finance and policy committees, governing council and
advocacy task force.
Since 2006, Nickerson served as administrator for Hollings’ Cancer
Prevention and Control Program and Cancer Disparities Program.
Throughout that time, she’s guided cancer survivor programs and managed
HCC community outreach efforts including the re-establishment of HCC’s
Mobile Health Unit, a state-of-the-art 40-foot vehicle equipped to
conduct cancer screenings, prevention education, early detection and
health counseling to medically underserved populations.
In 2003, she served as interim HCC administrator while the center
searched for new leadership with the recruitment of Andrew Kraft, M.D.,
as director in 2004 and Anita L. Harrison, an associate administrator
“I’ve worked closely with Brenda on many things including managing the
cancer center,” said Kraft. “The most impressive thing about Brenda is
that she is a caring individual who is genuinely concerned about
Hollings Cancer Center patients and wants to improve their lives. She’s
especially dedicated to South Carolina’s underserved population and
helping them to understand the disease process. She’s wholeheartedly
committed to them and their needs.”
Nickerson also was instrumental in HCC’s major expansion project and
seven-story tower addition in 2005, which added more than 200,000
square feet of much-needed clinical space, research and
education/administrative space to the facility.
“I can describe Brenda as a real can-do person,” said Carolyn Reed,
M.D., chief of general thoracic surgery, Alice Ruth Reeves Folk Chair
of Clinical Oncology. “She was instrumental in the center being awarded
the planning grant and was actively involved in the NCI application
process. She’s a hard worker and consummate team player who was there
when we were struggling. She was a positive force in building the
cancer center and for the people of South Carolina.”
Deborah C. Bryant, R.N., director of outreach services, was hired by
Nickerson in 2005 to work with the HCC Mobile Health Unit and HCC
Breast Health Patient Navigation Program.
“Brenda has been a great mentor to me,” Bryant said. “She’s helped
nurture and foster my career. I honestly don’t think I would have
achieved the success I’ve experienced without her help. Not only was
she my boss, but she also is my friend. Although her retirement will be
a great loss to me, I look forward to working with her in a volunteer
capacity. I wish her success.”
On May 16, Nickerson was honored for her leadership in early detection
and received one of six 2008 SCCA Excellence awards. She was recognized
for her commitment with the patient navigation program at the
organization’s annual meeting in Columbia.
“Brenda has accomplished many great things throughout her career,” said
Tony Alberg, Ph.D., associate director of HCC’s Cancer Prevention and
Control and Blatt-Ness Chair in Oncology. “She possesses a great deal
of spirit and grace in her work that inspires others in everything
she’s accomplished. She has been vital to the HCC’s development.”
“The South Carolina Cancer Alliance was proud to honor Brenda Nickerson
with the SCCA Excellence Award in Early Detection,” said Laura Stuckey,
executive director, SC Cancer Alliance. “Her outstanding contributions
in cancer control will live on for decades to come, through the many
programs she developed and also by the future efforts of the leaders
Now living in Meggett with husband, John, Nickerson hopes to stay
committed to HCC patients and staff. She wants to continue working or
volunteering one day a week at the cancer center and hopes to return to
caring for patients with diabetes and providing help with these
patients’ needs in retirement.
Friday, June 20, 2008
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