Katya Lezin
Katya Lezin, patient advisor for
Carolinas HealthCare System

The Voice She Provides as a Patient Advisor

Katya is a patient advisor for Carolinas HealthCare System. Our volunteer patient and family advisors serve on committees and contribute to special projects that help Carolinas HealthCare System plan, evaluate and expand services needed. These advisors play a critical role in the development of policies, programs, educational materials and services that support our commitment to putting the patient first, always.

“One of the many ways that cancer – or any catastrophic illness – impacts you is that it robs you of control. You feel powerless in the face of this unseen mutation that is wreaking havoc within your body. For me, an integral part of my recovery (both physical and emotional) has been regaining that control, turning the tables on my cancer by using what I’ve learned and experienced to try to help others. Having a voice and sharing my journey has allowed me to feel that it has served a purpose.

Carolinas HealthCare System has been a partner in this paradigm shift – when I get to tell cancer who is boss and that I’ll write my own story, thank you very much – every step of the way. I have chronicled my cancer journey and the doctors, nurses and fellow patients I have encountered along the way in a series of columns in The Charlotte Observer. I wrote a book about my journey, BUT I JUST GREW OUT MY BANGS! A Cancer Tale, and my entire medical team served on a panel at my book talk in Charlotte, fielding questions and showcasing their dedication to their patients and women’s health issues. When I suggested forming a chemo buddy program at the Levine Cancer Institute – an idea borne from the disparity in support systems I saw firsthand in the infusion room – the hospital administration cut away the bureaucracy and red tape that so often bogs down such initiatives and made it happen in record time.

But the main outlet for my voice and my perspective as a patient has been my involvement with the Patient Experience team. They lined up numerous opportunities for me to weigh in on initiatives or issues, and I always feel that my opinion and experience as a patient is valued. I participate in monthly meetings that are attended – either in person or virtually – by representatives from across the system, and I am always given an opportunity to discuss my ongoing care and experience. I also chime in on the topics being discussed and add my own two cents and my unique patient perspective as warranted.

The Patient Experience team also guided me when I wanted to express my frustration with aspects of my care that fell short of what I know to be excellent standards of care. Here, again, I felt heard and validated. I think it is far easier to solicit a patient’s perspective when it is laudatory, but it is far more impressive to accept and respond to feedback that is critical. I not only felt that my complaints were taken seriously, but I was left feeling empowered and validated by the process and how it was handled.

The fact that the Patient Experience team works closely with me and knows the nuances of my medical care and my own individual strengths has allowed them to continue to tap into my patient’s perspective and my willingness to share my story in ways that are a good fit for all concerned. I look forward to incorporating my patient perspective into initiatives geared at training and supporting medical students and doctors, and I have been asked to speak at forums and conferences as a result of my participation on the Patient Experience team.

It is a win-win partnership that has me tapping into an expertise I never sought but am glad to share now that I have it. I do not have a medical degree or any training in hospital administration. But I have amassed a certain degree of expertise in patient care – namely, my own – and I appreciate the opportunity to share my perspective on everything from the way I am addressed by my care providers to the way medical options and decisions are explained to me to the noise level and cleanliness of my hospital room. I look forward to continuing to serve as an integral part of the Patient Experience at Carolinas HealthCare System.”