Patient Council

Mission Statement

The mission of the Kidney Cancer Program (KCP) Patient Council is to serve as a liaison between the KCP leadership and our community. As an integral component of the KCP, we are poised to shape the future of the KCP and assist the leadership in its mission to provide outstanding and holistic care to patients. Conversely, we seek to improve communication from the KCP to our community and raise awareness about this devastating disease.

Vision

Assist

  • Assist kidney cancer patients in their needs and guide them through their treatment
  • Provide emotional support where appropriate
  • Orchestrate and coordinate volunteer efforts with patient needs
  • Connect patients to support services including educational resources and support groups available at UT Southwestern

Educate

  • Raise awareness about kidney cancer in our community
  • Foster the lay dissemination of advances in kidney cancer
  • Develop educational programs
  • Advocate for research support

Improve

  • Identify and prioritize areas of improvement
  • Serve as a vehicle for patient concerns to the KCP leadership
  • Act as agents of change to help implement patient suggestions

Engage

  • Promote engagement of our community
  • Consider and support initiatives by members of our community
  • Organize fundraising and other events

Council Members

Carole Baas, Ph.D.

Carole Baas, Ph.D.

My passion is serving as a bridge between the patient and scientific communities. I have become increasingly involved in patient advocacy following my diagnosis with breast cancer in 2004 and subsequent treatment at UT Southwestern, and now my goal is to help patients and those who love them understand all kinds of cancer research, from basic science through clinical treatments.

Educated as a biomedical engineer, I appreciate medical research, and I volunteer as a patient advocate for many different cancers in a number of different capacities, including ECOG-ACRIN, part of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network, and the Advocate Engagement Working Group for the NCI Council of Research Advocates, the advocate advisory board to the Director of the NCI. For the past five years, I have been the National Patient Advocate for the NCI Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers program, where I directed advocacy activities at all 12 Centers within the network. Recently I became one of four founding editors of a new journal, Convergent Science Physical Oncology, which will include the patient voice in every aspect of the publication and review process.

I am excited by the opportunity to participate as a member of the KCP Patient Council and to work with a dedicated group of researchers, clinicians, and advocates to develop an active and engaged community that will make a significant impact in the lives of those affected by kidney cancer.

Merlinda Chelette, B.S., R.N.

Merlinda Chelette B.S., R.N.

For 25 years I worked as a critical care and emergency room nurse caring for critically ill patients. In August of 2012, my world was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with Stage IV kidney cancer. I now found myself a patient.

Through my experience as a cancer patient, I understand the physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial difficulties that my patients encountered. Upon entering UT Southwestern, I have enjoyed the superior care and dedication of the UT staff and doctors. As a former caregiver, I was always committed to the personal care of patients and their families. I would be honored to join in that care. Therefore my hope in volunteering and serving on the KCP Patient Council is that I might offer a word of encouragement, a listening ear, and the comfort of an understanding presence to patients and their families in their journey with cancer.

Sophia Moschos, M.Ed.

I am a kidney cancer survivor, not in the literal sense of the term, but I am the widow of a former kidney cancer patient. I bring first-hand knowledge of the challenges cancer presents to patients and caretakers. I am hopeful that by volunteering my support and personal understanding of the journey that the patient and family are on, they will know that they are not alone, and that we can help each other. I want to make my role as a patient advocate a part of my husband’s legacy and I know it would make him happy for me to help others navigate this experience.

Brenda Stinson, B.S. Ed.

As a wife of 54 years, mother of 4 and grandmother of 13, my life has had many unexpected twists and turns. However, the most surprising twist was a diagnosis of kidney cancer. When a diagnosis of kidney cancer is received, whatever the stage, it can be a frightening time … certainly an unexpected turn in this journey of life.

I had so many questions that needed answers; some critical and some trivial but each were important to me. Drs. Brugarolas and Cadeddu, along with other cancer center patients themselves, compassionately answered my questions and calmed my fears. My journey with them has been one of insight, healing, and inspiration.

Today I am cancer-free and grateful that God put me in the care of the wonderful doctors and staff at the Kidney Cancer Program of UT Southwestern. Each doctor is not only highly skilled in his specialty but has a deep concern for their patients. While cancer is an awful illness, UTSW offers the cutting edge technology in a most loving, caring environment. The Simmons Cancer Center at UTSW is a place where people who are facing the worst battle of their lives can find exceptional treatment from extraordinary people!

It is an honor to serve on the KCP Patient Council and to be a volunteer with the KCP at UTSW. I am thankful to have the chance to now help those who have received a cancer diagnosis. While it can be a scary journey, it is a journey that the patient and family do not have to walk alone. Dr. Rachel N. Remen said, "The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give to each other is our attention." It is a privilege to be able to listen and then to help in any other way possible. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.

Anthony L. Towler, B.Sc.

Born in England, I served in the Royal Air Force and I have a B.Sc. in electrical/electronic engineering. I have been involved, until recently, in the technical aspects of pilot training.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with large tumors in both kidneys which were later identified as clear cell renal cell carcinoma –kidney cancer. Due to the risk of being on dialysis, I forewent surgery and chose the option of treating my cancer with medication, which I now continue for the stage IV disease. Since starting treatment some three years ago, I have developed a desire to become more involved and do what I can to make a difference for those who have to tread the same path as myself. Consequently, I was excited to accept the role of patient advocate.

Hopefully, my personal experience and the research knowledge that I will gain can be channeled to our kidney cancer community so we have a better understanding of the 'state of play' with regard to research and treatment options.

Often patients benefit from having someone outside of their immediate family who has walked before them and understands the fear and trepidation that having cancer imparts. This sentiment inspired me to volunteer and as a result, we have started a patient volunteer program.

Knowing that I have cancer is difficult for me, but participating in the volunteer program and as a patient councilor gives me an opportunity to be a part of something that can affect my future and the future of other kidney cancer patients in our community and I'm excited about it.

Victoria Towler

Raised in the Dallas area, I have often heard of the outstanding reputation UT Southwestern has in regards to medical research, but since my husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer, I have learned just how exceptional they are! I can't emphasize enough what a relief it is for us, and how fortunate we are, to have such a knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated kidney cancer team overseeing his care! When a loved one is found to have cancer, it is a very scary life-changing experience filled with many unknowns. Our personal cancer journey and the commitment of this program has inspired my desire to volunteer. As a patient advocate and member of the Kidney Cancer Program Patient Council, I wish to offer comfort, support, and encouragement to patients and their families dealing with this disease and to assure them that they are not fighting alone.