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Gratitude inspires
stories of hope

Susana Cowan

Providing a Safe Port in a Financial Storm

This help makes it possible for them to come here and have a chance to fight aggressive cancers that cannot be treated at any other center in Missouri.

Susana Cowan, MSW, LCSW

The cozy little office belonging to Susana Cowan, MSW, LCSW, sits hidden away one level below the first floor of the Center for Advanced Medicine on the Barnes-Jewish Hospital campus. It’s a warm and welcoming space with pink flowers, pink folders and soft lighting from a desk lamp. This is a soothing place where patients come for comfort. But it’s not anywhere they really want to be.

Susana is a hospital social worker who helps radiology oncology patients in financial need. Many have had to stop working because of their disease. Without regular income, it’s difficult for them to pay rent or utility bills and they don’t have money for food, transportation, medicine and other basic necessities of life. These patients have exhausted their resources and their only hope is Susana and her colleagues.

“Patients tell me that if they hadn’t received assistance, they would not have been able to survive,” she says. “We are faced daily with the reality we are the last resort for hundreds of patients.”

Thanks to donors like you, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital is able to provide Susana and other members of the hospital’s social work team with funding to help needy patients suffering from a wide range of medical issues.

“The impact is huge,” Susana says.

Because of you, 90 social workers are able to help some 10,000 patients annually. In Susana’s case, she sees between 15 and 28 patients a day and about 360 a month.

In addition to radiation oncology, Susana works with patients receiving treatment in the breast health and head and neck cancer departments as well as other clinics within the Center for Advanced Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.  

She and her co-workers meet with and counsel patients, learn about pressing situations, determine what kind of help is needed and come up with solutions. Services could include connecting them to community resources, helping with expenses, assisting with Medicaid and other financial aid and legal forms or something as simple as offering a shoulder to cry on.

For example, many cancer patients must travel long distances to receive treatment at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Because these treatments can last for a number of days, patients need long-term housing but cannot afford a hotel. In those situations, social workers find and arrange for low or no-cost lodging. Sometimes an urgent problem can be resolved with a one-time fix.

A patient who had been earning a good income is suddenly faced with the reality he or she doesn’t have the money to pay for gas to drive home.

“Having to ask for one gas card is heartbreaking for them,” Susana says. “They break into tears because they never imagined that they would be the one who would need help.

“We are their last viable option. This help makes it possible for them to come here and have a chance to fight aggressive cancers that cannot be treated at any other center in Missouri.”

Have you been impacted by someone at the hospital? We would love to hear your story. Please contact us at 314-286-0600 or [email protected].