Staff Spotlight: Mindy Freund
Job Title: Clinical Research Nurse
Hometown: Plymouth, Minnesota
What motivated you to get into the medical field, specifically neuro research?
I have always found the brain to be an amazing and intricate part of the body. If it’s damaged or not working properly, a person may start acting differently and could be judged and/or stigmatized for something they have no control over. Depending on what area is damaged it can cause debilitating emotional or physical deficits that can force a detour in that patient’s and family’s life. I loved working on the Neuro/Spine floor in the hospital, however, I realized that I didn’t want to just provide the care but that I wanted answers as to why things were done the way they were. Were there better answers out there? Were we always providing the most up-to-date evidence-based care? Being involved in neuro research is helping me answer those questions and be a part of the solution for better patient care.
What made you want to work for the Ivy Brain Tumor Center?
My love for neurosciences and my desire to be a part of something that has the ability to make such an amazing and positive impact on the lives of those struggling with this devastating diagnosis. My nursing career has always focused on making a positive difference in the lives of patients. From day one of nursing school, I envisioned myself being a part of something big, something where I can make changes based on evidence and research while aligning with patient care and keeping the patient at the center of it all. The Ivy Brain Tumor Center does that.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Honestly, I am so fortunate to say that I have a lot of favorites about my job. I love being able to provide that extra hope to patients in our trials. I love being an advocate for them along their journey. I love knowing that we are conducting research for the future, so one day, there will be a cure. I love being a part of creating something new, where my thoughts and ideas are listened to, and where we can truly make the patient the center of it all so they can have the best experience possible through such an unimaginable time.
What does it mean to you to work for the Ivy Center?
It means that I am part of an amazing group of coworkers who have a shared passion and desire to reach the same goal. We are all singularly focused on discovering hope, every day for brain tumor patients. Dr. Sanai has an incredible vision and is a remarkable leader with the ability to guide us and trust us as we move through this journey together, as a team.
What keeps you motivated when dealing with such a complex disease?
Honestly, the patients and their loved ones. Every patient and family I have been in contact with is an absolute inspiration to me. Patients have passed away and it breaks my heart. It is the wishes of those patients and families that keep me going. I can see their faces and the fight within, not only for themselves, but for everyone else out there dealing with this disease.
Explain your role in the research being conducted at the Ivy Center.
My role is to be your nurse and advocate throughout the trial. I meet you at each study visit, assess and notify the investigator for any abnormalities. I provide you with your study medications along with education about them and the trial. I schedule your visits and am your main point of contact while on the trial. I am here when you have questions. I walk you through the journey.
Behind the scenes, I am always working on projects to improve processes, practices, and patient experience.
Have you ever been personally impacted by brain cancer? (i.e. relative or friend diagnosed)
A distant childhood friend of mine was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2019. I haven’t been in touch with her except through social media so it was very shocking to hear as she was only 31. It was difficult watching her story unfold, though fortunately, since her resection, she is recovering very well and getting back into her professional dancing and acting life which is very reassuring. Another good friend of mine lost her dad to brain cancer when she was in her early twenties. I have listened to her stories and heard her pain when she talks about losing him. A previous co-worker and friend of mine also sadly lost her sister-in-law after an amazing two-year battle just this last year. Lastly, over the years as a neuroscience nurse, I have cared for many patients following multiple resections who are just praying it will be the last. As I continue with my career here at the Ivy Center, it is these patients and friends who will always stay in the back of my mind to keep my fight alive.
What’s the culture like at the Ivy Center? What makes working here different than other research centers?
Working at the Ivy Center is different than other research centers because it is truly patient-oriented. Everyone works together as a team, focused on the same common goal. The Ivy Center is not afraid to push boundaries or cause disruption in the ways of doing things in order to find the best results for the patients. We have the resources, the organization skills, the intellect, infrastructure, and the dedication. All of this together is what makes, and will continue to make, the program successful.
How do you keep a patient’s (and their caregiver’s) spirit alive during such an emotional, life-threatening time?
I think that it’s extremely important to live in the moment and to be you. Enjoy each minute, hour, and day as it is. Stop to smell the flowers. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and find someone that you can confide in and talk to. Don’t bury this inside. Look at how far you’ve come and celebrate each milestone. Know that you have a great team supporting you and standing behind you every step of the way.