Dawn Piaia is the new Medical Oncology/Hematology Director at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County’s Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center.
Piaia has worked for the hospital for 33 years. She will now lead a staff of four nurses, a receptionist, a medical assistant, and a cancer navigation team. She will collaborate with Dr. Banu Symington, the Cancer Center Medical Director, and with leaders at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, a Cancer Center affiliate.
“In the past, I had never wanted to be a manager/leader,” Piaia said. “Just recently, I felt the time had come for me to step up and take a leadership position. I am honored to be asked to take this position. I hope my years of nursing experience, my experience in oncology, and my knowledge of cancer and cancer therapy will help me transition into my new role.”
The Cancer Center has grown to the point where two directors are needed, said MHSC CEO Irene Richardson. Tasha Harris will continue in her role as the Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Director.
“With the growth of the Cancer Center over the past decade, we are extremely fortunate to have Dawn’s experience to lead the medical oncology group into the future,” Richardson said. “Dawn is a highly-skilled, compassionate nurse. She truly cares for her patients and the staff. We are excited for her to take on the role.”
Piaia has worked in the Cancer Center for the past eight years as lead medical oncology infusion nurse, preceptor, navigator, and Clinical Trial Coordinator.
“I have worked in the operating room most of my nursing career,” Piaia said. “When the Cancer Center opened, I always thought it sounded like an interesting place to work. When a chemotherapy nurse position opened, I applied. Best decision ever. I enjoy going to work.”
Piaia said people often ask if working with cancer patients is sad.
“The answer is ‘yes,’ but the time we do spend with our cancer patients is amazing,” she said. “The medical oncology team becomes very close to our patients and their family members. We get to know a lot about them. In turn, they learn a lot about us.”
Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center treats many patients who have great success with their chemotherapy/immunotherapy treatment, Piaia said.
“Our patients often tell us they really appreciate the more personal care they receive at our smaller Cancer Center,” she said. “All too often, cancer patients and their families feel the need to travel to a larger cancer center in a city, but this is not necessary. Dr. Symington follows NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network) guidelines just like all cancer centers.
If a cancer patient transfers care from another center, Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center follows the cancer patient’s current prescribed regimen, Piaia said. There are very few immunotherapy/chemotherapy regimens SRCC is unable to offer.
“Oncology is such a fulfilling area to work in,” she said. “Cancer treatment is ever evolving. I enjoy constantly learning about how the treatment for cancer has changed. In the eight years that I have worked in oncology, I have seen so many changes.”
Immunotherapy has become a huge part of treating cancer, along with traditional chemotherapy, she said. Another notable change in medical oncology is the use of oral chemotherapy. This has created the need to monitor patients closely for compliance and at-home safety education.
Piaia was named one of the Best Nurses in Sweetwater County in 2018. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Wyoming in 1990. She is also an Oncology Certified Nurse, which is the specialty certification in Oncology. “It was very important to me to study and take the exam to become an OCN as soon as I could,” she said. “I have been certified for seven years. To obtain the OCN is the gold standard in oncology nursing.”
For more on this and all Sweetwater Memorial has to officer, go to sweetwatermemorial.com.
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