Woman honored for her work as an oncology social worker
By Charlie Patton, Florida Times-Union
When she first started her studies at Florida State University, Jennifer Maggiore’s plan was to major in business and “maybe go into the family business.”
Then she volunteered to be a guardian ad litem, an adult appointed by a judge to represent the legal interests of a child. She realized she really liked helping people. That led her to change her major, which led in turn to an awkward phone call to her father, who she describes as “a conservative businessman.”
“I told him I was changing my major to social work,” she remembered. “There was a very long pause.”
But Maggiore stuck to her decision.
“Social work is not a political ideology,” she said. “It’s a belief that all people deserve dignity and respect.”
Maggiore’s decision to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work has proved a wise one. Last week, Maggiore, who has spent the last 20 years as an oncology social worker, first with St. Vincent’s Medical Center and now with Jacksonville’s Ackerman Cancer Center, was recognized as Social Worker of the Year by the Northeast Florida chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
“Jennifer has devoted 20 years of her career to ensure cancer patients have access to care,” Roxanne Miller, herself an oncology social worker, wrote in nominating Maggiore. “She is the ‘go-to’ local expert on working with uninsured cancer patients and it is not unusual for her to receive calls from colleagues throughout our service area.”
After spending the first six years of her career at St. Vincent’s, Maggiore stepped away for the birth of her oldest child, 13-year-old Sophia. (Sophia has an 11-year-old brother, Jonathan.)
But in 2002, oncologist Scott Ackerman convinced her to go to work part-time for First Coast Oncology, since renamed the Ackerman Cancer Center. Initially, she was primarily working with uninsured patients to help them obtain Medicaid funds. Both her duties and her hours soon expanded. Today, she is Patient Services Director for Ackerman Cancer Center, and supervises a staff of three full-time social workers.
Dealing with cancer can be not only physically daunting, it can also be psychologically crushing, Maggiore said.
“We still think death when we talk about cancer,” she said.
So in addition to connecting people with resources, oncology social workers facilitate support groups. Maggiore has started a number of such groups at the Ackerman Cancer Center. When St. Vincent’s received a grant in 2009 to establish a support group for children who have a parent with cancer, Maggiore was chosen to lead the effort to establish the Kids Together Against Cancer program.
As to the award, Maggiore said, “I feel like I represent many people who do amazing things. I really love what I do.”
View the story: http://jacksonville.com/news/columnists/charlie-patton/2015-03-16/story/one-us-jennifer-maggiore-honored-her-work-oncology