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Not Your Average Summer Camp, A Fresh Approach to OT Care for Women with Cancer
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012
Written By:  Olivia Fay
Contact:  Brian Kirschner
Contact Email:  b.kirschner@usciences.edu
Contact Phone:  215.895.1186

The road to recovery for cancer survivors isn’t over when treatments are finished.

To help women improve the quality of their lives, Dr. Colleen Maher, assistant professor in the occupational therapy program at University of the Sciences, developed Camp Discovery as a life-changing tool for women diagnosed with cancer.

“Once women finish their treatment for cancer, people assume they just go back to their lives, but they don’t. We see it all the time,” said Dr. Rochelle Mendonca, also an assistant professor in the OT program, who has been working with Dr. Maher to organize the camps and evaluate their effectiveness in enhancing the women’s quality of life.

Camp Discovery is capped at 15 women per group and include three, week-long camps in urban, suburban, and rural settings: July 16-20 at University of the Sciences; July 23-27 at Gilda’s Club in Warminster; and August 6-10 at Renovo Recreation Center and Yesterdays Hotel in Renovo.

Dr. Maher started a program custom-built for women living with cancer two years ago while working at Mercy College in New York and brought the idea with her to USciences. She shared her interest with Dr. Mendonca, who immediately committed to seeing Camp Discovery become a reality.

Dr. Maher and Dr. Mendonca teamed up with Philadelphia Cancer Support Community and Gilda’s Club Delaware Valley to collaborate on program development and recruitment of participants.
All three camps are using local community instructors to conduct activities such as dance classes, craft making, poetry workshops, and healthy cooking, which will allow participants to continue engaging in these activities following commencement of the camps. Also, as part of this effort, the USciences’ Athletic/Recreation Center (ARC) will provide space to conduct the camp activities.

“USciences’ support for this camp has just been unbelievable. Every person has stepped up to the plate and gone further. Marie Kiechel, the fitness manager at the ARC was instrumental in securing space in the ARC and identifying University instructors for most of the activities in the camp. Michele Albert, events manager at USciences, has helped us with catering, marketing, and facilities issues for the camp,” said Dr. Maher.

Additionally, Camp Discovery benefits USciences occupational therapy students, who began working with the professors at the beginning of May on the initiative. Seven graduate OT students (Melissa Ferris-Ozkan MOT’14, Elizabeth Higgins MOT’14, Carly Kukish MOT’14, Paula Ortiz MOT’14, Christina Smith MOT’14, Danielle Cooney MOT’14, and Jacqueline Kodish MOT’14) have been integral in co-organizing the camp activities and will be alongside the women, some of whom will be participating in meaningful activities for the first time since their diagnosis, at every class.

“We want to make sure everyone who is in the camp is doing everything at their own pace,” said Dr. Maher, explaining the delicate approach and life-changing effort Camp Discovery aims for.
The camp does not end after five days. Dr. Maher and Dr. Mendonca hope to see the emergence of lasting relationships and continuous engagement in meaningful activities. Camp Discovery will set the women up with Skype accounts and a Facebook group to link and stay updated with upcoming group activities.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this program, Dr. Maher, Dr. Mendonca, and their students will compare the women’s daily activities and their perception of their quality of life before, at the end of, and six weeks after their experience at Camp Discovery.

To learn more about Camp Discovery 2012, contact Dr. Colleen Maher or Dr. Rochelle Mendonca at c.maher@usciences.edu or r.mendonca@usciences.edu.

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