Asha Demla was first exposed to oncology at just seven years old when her aunt was diagnosed with brain cancer. Watching a loved one go through surgery, chemotherapy and more, only to pass away after four years, left a mark on her.
“That was hard to watch and see her suffer with this aggressive brain tumor,” she says. “It was always in the back of my mind that if I become a nurse, oncology is what I want to do. I wanted to learn more about it, to help people and give back to society in whatever way I could.”
Of course, Demla did become a nurse, following in the footsteps of her mother (who works in maternity). As planned, she went straight from nursing school to a job in oncology, where she stayed for more than five years before pursuing a graduate-level nursing degree. “I knew that I loved oncology, wanted to stay in oncology and learn more about it. That’s why I went back to school for my masters.”
As a student in Columbia University’s School of Nursing, Demla subspecialized in oncology nursing. The more she learned, though, the more she realized the need for additional training. Having heard of MD Anderson’s Post Graduate Fellowship in Oncology Nursing from a fellow student, Demla applied to the program, earning acceptance to the 2014-2015 fellowship class.
As hoped, Demla’s training at MD Anderson helped provide her with a much broader and deeper understanding of cancer care.
Before coming to MD Anderson, says Demla, “I worked in a medical oncology unit, with mainly leukemia, lymphoma and autologous stem cell transplant patients. That was basically what I knew about oncology. The fellowship exposed me to the entire spectrum of oncology care. We basically rotated through every department at MD Anderson. That kind of training in oncology, for an entire year, is not something you typically get in school.”
During these rounds, she benefitted from the guidance and support from each department’s care providers, including nurses, advanced practice providers, pharmacists and physicians. Everyone, she says, made a genuine effort to teach her about the disease and treatment they were providing.
That experience convinced Demla to stay at MD Anderson when her fellowship ended in August 2015. Now a nurse practitioner in the Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy department, Demla appreciates MD Anderson’s team approach to providing care.
“Knowledge only grows when shared,” she says. “Throughout my training and career, I’ve benefitted from the time and effort my mentors have put in to make me a better nurse and nurse practitioner. I hope to one day teach young nurse practitioners, just like I was taught in the fellowship program, and further contribute to our profession.”