Early in his career, Rodney Quindoy thrived on being a critical care nurse who helped patients recover from medical emergencies. Little could prepare him, though, for his own daughter’s terminal cancer diagnosis shortly after he joined MD Anderson’s Patient Safety department in 2014.
“She had such a radiant smile and charisma,” he says of Mikayla, who was diagnosed on New Year’s Eve with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). “As parents, we can recall how protective we were: child-proofing the house, feeling bad when she had her first boo-boo. She was a thriving 6-year-old girl; then, out of the blue, she was diagnosed with this.”
DIPG is a rare and aggressive brain tumor that primarily affects children and is notoriously difficult to treat. In Mikayla’s case, a clinical trial at MD Anderson provided a few weeks of symptom relief before she passed away in December 2015.
A passion for patient safety
Quindoy left MD Anderson to pursue other career opportunities. During his time away, he quickly realized that MD Anderson’s commitment to safety is unparalleled. “I knew one day I would return,” he says. “The organization holds a sentimental place in our family’s heart.”
Quindoy returned to MD Anderson as a clinical patient safety specialist in 2022 – this time with a personal mission to inspire hope in caregivers, especially parents of young patients.
“MD Anderson has always set the benchmark in terms of what safety should be,” he says, citing its commitment to daily safety briefings, deep analyses of safety risks, and recent training of all employees in the principles of High Reliability Organizations. Based on data from 2023, MD Anderson maintains a five-star rating in national quality and safety rankings from Vizient and the No. 1 spot in safety.
“My passion for patient safety originated at MD Anderson,” Quindoy says. “It’s embedded in the culture.”
Carrying on his daughter’s legacy
To honor Mikayla, Quindoy picked up a set of drumsticks in May and won MD Anderson’s 2023 employee talent show, known as Anderson’s Got Talent. He dedicated his performance to Mikayla and placed her picture at the base of his drums.
“My goal was to share a message of inspiration, especially for those who've lost loved ones,” he says. “Suffering a loss is traumatic, but you have the power to rise above and become stronger than you ever thought. That’s how I carry on Mikayla’s memory and legacy.”