UT MD Anderson’s Highest Nurse-Oncologist Honor Goes to Nancy Tomczak

Arceneaux Award Recognizes Clinical Nurse and Chair of the Nursing Practice Congress

MD Anderson News Release 06/13/11 

Nancy Tomczak, a clinical nurse in the inpatient stem cell transplant unit at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is the recipient of the 2011 Ethel Fleming Arceneaux Outstanding Nurse-Oncologist Award, presented by The Brown Foundation, Inc.

A committee of MD Anderson’s clinical faculty, patient care administration and nursing staff reviewed nominations sent from peers and patients alike, before selecting three finalists and ultimately announcing Tomczak as the choice for the annual award. Established by the foundation in 1982, the award is the institution’s highest nursing honor.

Tomczak will receive a cash award of $15,000, a crystal plaque and a commemorative pin at a1 p.m. ceremony June 22 in the Onstead Auditorium at the George and Cynthia Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building. John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of MD Anderson, will lead the ceremony.

“I’m so honored by this award,” says Tomczak, of Waller. “The moment was especially monumental for me because I remember being on the unit 10 years ago when Joyce Neumann, one of my nursing idols, won this award. I’m truly overwhelmed.”

At age 8, after witnessing her grandmother succumb to lung cancer, Tomczak made it her mission to help fight what she calls “the beast.”  Her passion was only fueled more by surviving a life threatening car accident, at age 16, which left her recovering from disfiguring injuries.

“Were it not for the care of the dedicated health care workers at my bedside, I could have easily fallen into a black hole of self pity,” she says. “Instead, I walked out of the hospital months ahead of schedule with my head held high and a heart full of gratitude. I pursued a nursing career knowing that I would have that same opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Straight out of nursing school at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Tomczak landed a job at MD Anderson. She has spent her entire 10-year career here.

“When deciding where to start my career, there was no question — only the best,” she says. “Little did I know that nursing at MD Anderson would prove to be such a rewarding, well-rounded profession.”

Tomczak has proved herself not only as a nurse, but also as a leader. Her dedication and drive for helping others develop their nursing skills led to her nomination as a candidate for MD Anderson’s 2008 Excellence in Nursing Leadership Award. She is a member of the Oncology Nursing Society and serves as chair of the Nursing Practice Congress.

“I’m now able to take my passion for nursing and help develop that in others so that the best nursing care is continually provided,” she says. “I love that my position allows me to have roots and wings. My heart will always be at the bedside, but at MD Anderson, under the support and guidance of the most amazing leaders, I’ve been able to soar to unforeseen heights.”

The greatest gift that nursing has provided Tomczak is the impact that patients have in turn had on her life. As she seeks to make a difference in the lives of her patients, she says, they ultimately make a difference in hers.

“I repeatedly tell others how my job is almost selfish,” she says. “I get more from my patients than I could ever offer them. I spend hours caring for patients as they fight their battle against cancer — administering medications and providing the education, support and comfort that they and their families need to survive. In return, they teach me life lessons, expose me to cultures I never imagined knowing and help me to appreciate each breath I take.”