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A fierce desire to make children’s lives better

Philene Cromwell N.P. has helped hundreds of children in Upstate New York live better, fuller and richer lives.

  Cromwell is manager of medical services for Lifetime Care’s CompassionNet program. She cares for children with life-threatening diseases and is with parents during their darkest hours.

  She is recognized nationally for helping build CompassionNet. The community-based pediatric palliative care program offers specialized care focusing on the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness.

  Cromwell, who goes by "Bean," has a passion to do whatever it takes to support children going through illness. She listens to their dreams and wishes and finds a way to make them come true.

  This has meant picking up a girl in a poor neighborhood and granting her dying wish to see a movie for the first time. She made sure another little girl became a Wegmans Chef-for-a-Day. Cromwell has traveled snow-blown roads to tiny hamlets, making sure ill children are comfortable.

  She speaks with families of seriously ill children in a way that reduces anxiety, answers questions and gives them the courage to handle another day, colleagues say. She also speaks truth in a way that helps everyone focus on the essentials-the child’s comfort, the reality of the prognosis and the choices that remain.

  Cromwell has championed causes to obtain more resources where needed, to shake up the status quo and to speak up for changes in how children are cared for.

  Prior to Lifetime Care, Cromwell worked at the University of Rochester Medical Center with children with brain tumors. A doctor there describes her as unique among the hundreds of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers he has encountered over 25 years.

  "I have never worked with anyone with the extraordinary combination of devotion, passion, intellect and fierce desire to make the lives of children better as has Bean," says David Korones M.D., professor of pediatrics, oncology and neurology at URMC.

  When working with children with brain tumors, Cromwell recognized that their unique needs were not being met. She took what was initially a large, unwieldy group of physicians, nurses and social workers and brought them together to provide consistent, compassionate care for the children and their families.

  These organizational skills and passion were transferred to an even higher level in 2004 when she joined CompassionNet.

  Designed to support Excellus BlueCross BlueShield families, CompassionNet has more than 450 families enrolled across Upstate New York at any given time. Some 200 of the families live in the Rochester area.

  When she arrived, CompassionNet provided mostly psychological and other supportive care for children with life-threatening illnesses. She expanded the scope of the group to include a team of pediatric nurses with training in palliative care. The team also included a pediatrician and a teacher with expertise in educating children with such illnesses.

  This group now provides comprehensive medical-psychosocial care for families and children ranging from birth to adolescence.

  Cromwell started an ongoing training curriculum in palliative care for nurses and other health care workers, and she has helped to train residents and fellows.

  She speaks at national meetings, sharing expertise on how to build a pediatric palliative care program. As a consultant for other programs trying to achieve the same thing, she shares with them one of the most challenging parts of their jobs-how to talk to children, their siblings and their parents about the life-threatening illness they face.

  A magnificent person with heart and soul, Cromwell is gifted in this arena, coworkers say.                                         

Lynette Haaland is a freelance writer and a former Rochester Business Journal reporter.

3/18/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail [email protected].


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