Supporting Those with Disabilities is Focus of New Moffitt Initiative

By Steve Blanchard - July 22, 2022

When Daley Drucker was diagnosed with a chronic illness, she felt stranded, alone and unsure about her next steps. The young research science editor with Moffitt Cancer Center’s biomedical library was just starting her career and was worried that doctor’s appointments, necessary time off and concern over her health would impact her employment.

Fortunately for Drucker, she found comfort and support with her Moffitt team members and decided that she would like to expand that support in the form of a team member engagement network focused on those with disabilities.

Drucker is the chair of DAWN, or Disability Ability Wellbeing Network, which launches on July 26, Disability Independence Day.

"It’s important to have a community of people that recognize what others face and I want to help build an active support system around this unrecognized area."

- Daley Drucker, DAWN Chair

“The support I’ve had at Moffitt during my four years here has been wonderful, but it was still overwhelming dealing with my illness and working,” she said. “It’s important to have a community of people that recognize what others face and I want to help build an active support system around this unrecognized area. I was passionate about starting this because I want that available for anyone going through something similar.”

While the network is still very young, its leadership team has lofty goals for its future, most of which include educational opportunities for allies of those with disabilities to building a support network for those who may not know how to navigate disabilities in the workforce.

For Ashley Leon, who works in Moffitt’s financial department, working with the group as secretary ties directly to her experience with her family.

“I have seen firsthand family members dealing with disabilities and how it affects their work life,” she said. “Co-workers look at them and treat them differently, not on purpose, but they just don’t know how to approach someone like that. Through this network I want to break the stigma on disability and educate people that a disability does not make you less than, it is something about you that makes you special.”

DAWN is the ninth team member engagement network to form at Moffitt, according to Lesley Harris, senior diversity and inclusion specialist with the cancer center’s Enterprise Equity team.

"The networks are unique in that they provide a service to individual communities within Moffitt’s workforce while working together to ensure a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our team members."

- Lesley Harris, Senior Diversity and Inclusion Specialist

“The networks are unique in that they provide a service to individual communities within Moffitt’s workforce while working together to ensure a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our team members,” Harris said. “The TMENs provide an outlet for our team members to voice their concerns, offer support and increase the sense of belonging within our campuses. This TMEN is going to help raise visibility for people with disabilities, diverse abilities, and neuro differences spanning across visible and invisible dimensions of diversity.”

Having that outlet, according to Katie Kyne, director of corporate communications at Moffitt and a co-chair of DAWN, is essential for patients, as well as team members.

“I hope we can see what impact we have on the patient experience here,” Kyne said. “In the short time we’ve existed, we’ve seen connections to patient care in situations where someone has a disability. This could lead to better policies, physical enhancements on campuses and partnerships to help providers learn how to better treat people with disabilities.”

Kyne pointed to the cancer center’s COLORs program, which focuses on best practices for patients from the LGBTQ+ community and how to ensure their experience is as respectful and comfortable as possible.

“I would love to see something like that put in place for people with disabilities,” she said.

As with all networks at Moffitt, those interested in supporting or joining the group are not required to have a personal connection with a disability or be disabled. Amanda Hollis, who serves as DAWN’s co-chair and works as the director of Foundation Giving, said she wanted to join to show her allyship and to recruit more allies to the group’s cause.

“When I learned about this group, I jumped on a call to learn more about it and start learning how to grow and be a better ally to those who have disabilities,” Hollis said. “I feel like this is an opportunity to step up and give back. I want this to become another tool to educate and encourage more people to become an ally.”

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