UT MD Anderson's Louise A. Villejo Recognized for Excellence in Education

Prestigious Rogers Award to Honor Executive Director of Patient Education With $10,000 Prize

MD Anderson News Release 10/06/10

Louise A. Villejo, executive director of the Patient Education Office at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is the recipient of the 2010 Julie and Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Education.

The $10,000 award, which rotates annually among the areas of patient care, research, education, prevention and administration, recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate excellence in their work and dedication to MD Anderson's mission to eliminate cancer. Villejo will formally receive the award at a 2 p.m. presentation ceremony Oct. 13 at MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Building, 1155 Pressler St., eighth floor, Rooms 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Villejo has led the institution's patient education program for more than 26 years. She and her staff design, implement, evaluate and manage patient and family education programs for more than 30 disease and treatment populations. Villejo says she's fortunate to have the support of MD Anderson's leadership in meeting the challenges of an ever-changing cancer care center.

"Our greatest accomplishment has been working with our patients and the clinical, education and multimedia staff at MD Anderson to develop a patient-centered learning environment that provides patients with the resources they need to take control and manage their own learning," said Villejo. "Our work contributes to the mission of education and patient care at MD Anderson by providing support and educational resources to the most important people we serve: our patients and their family members."

Villejo received a bachelor of science in psychology from the University of Houston and a master of public health from The University of Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health, in San Antonio. She has been actively involved in national, state and local advisory committees such as the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, the Surgeon General's Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative and the Hispanic Health Coalition.

Her passion and journey into this field of work was in part driven by her personal observations as she witnessed her mother's experience after breast cancer surgery. She says this gave her empathy for patients who experience barriers to care because of a lack of basic health care knowledge and information.

"My mother was only 47 years old and had never known anyone with breast cancer," Villejo said. "At that time, a doctor's permission was required for a visit from the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program, which matches trained breast cancer survivors with newly diagnosed patients to give support and guidance. The doctor denied the request. It was so frustrating to me that my parents accepted that the doctor 'knew best' and left her to struggle alone with all the physical and emotional issues of her disease."

Villejo is determined to do her part to ensure that patients never have to endure what her mother did. Resources offered through the Patient Education Office include patient education programs, print and audiovisual materials, the website myMDAnderson.org and three onsite learning centers.

"It's important to provide MD Anderson's diverse patient population with pertinent information to use before, during and after treatment as survivors," said Villejo. "My focus is on empowering patients with knowledge about their disease, treatment, self-care, managing side effects and support services."

Regina Rogers, a senior member of MD Anderson's Board of Visitors, established the Rogers Award in 1987 in honor of her parents, the late Julie and Ben Rogers, and in appreciation of the treatment her brother and her mother received at the institution for thyroid cancer and breast cancer, respectively. Ben Rogers served on the Board of Visitors from 1978 until his death in 1994, when his daughter and wife established the Julie & Ben Rogers Breast Diagnostic Clinic in his memory. Julie Rogers died in 1998.

"After a 50-year relationship, MD Anderson is like family to me, and I'm honored to recognize the dedication, excellence and integrity that permeate this institution at every level," said Rogers. "Anderson continues to save people's lives, minute by minute. I don't think there's any greater mission in life." 10/06/10