By Amanda Sangster - January 17, 2023
Advanced practice professionals (APPs) play an important role on the care team at Moffitt Cancer Center, providing expert clinical oncology care, counseling, and education to patients and family members. Several types of health care professionals are considered APPs including physician assistants (PA), advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and anesthesiologist assistants (AA).
In 2010, Moffitt employed 96 advanced practice professionals. As of 2023, we have more than tripled that number with 379 APPs. This breaks down to 131 PAs, 194 APRNs, 36 CRNAs and 18 AAs.
At the 17th annual Advanced Practice Professionals Recognition Reception held in late 2022, Moffitt presented awards for the Advanced Practice Professional of the Year and the APP Awards of Excellence. For 2022, a total of 129 nominations were received from patients and their families, faculty and team members. The winners were chosen by a selection committee made up of clinical leadership, Moffitt Medical Group faculty and administration, and the previous year’s award winners.
And the winners are:
2022 Advanced Practice Professional of the Year: Hardik Thakkar, PA
Hardik Thakkar sees patients in Moffitt’s Department of Internal and Hospital Medicine as a physician assistant. His nomination form included countless comments recognizing his excellent bedside manner, unwavering dedication to his team and ongoing contributions to Moffitt’s mission. Thakkar credits his team and mentors for helping him achieve this recognition.
"I became an APP because I can focus on direct patient care, improve health care access and educate the next generation of clinicians."- Hardik Thakkar, PA, Internal and Hospital Medicine
“I am truly honored to be recognized by Moffitt and have the privilege to work with some of the most intelligent and caring individuals I have ever met in my career,” Thakkar said. “I promise to do my best to live up to everything that this award represents.”
Thakkar was inspired to become a physician assistant after realizing a shift within the health care system that embraces a multidisciplinary team-based approach to patient care.
“APPs are becoming an increasingly vital part within that team,” Thakkar said. “I became an APP because I can focus on direct patient care, improve health care access and educate the next generation of clinicians. It gives me the opportunity to collaborate with a large health care team and create a pathway for ongoing professional growth and development.”
At the APP of the Year reception, Moffitt also presented the Advanced Practice Professionals Award of Excellence in various categories.
Award of Excellence in Education: Sarah Logan, PA-C, Endocrine Oncology Program
Sarah Logan works in Moffitt’s Endocrine Oncology Program as a physician assistant, certified. A culmination of different events led her into this career. As a child, Logan was amazed by her father’s medical knowledge that he gained while serving in the U.S. Army as a medic during the Korean War. Sadly, her father passed away when Logan was only 19 following a leukemia diagnosis. Once a college freshman, Logan listened to a physician assistant speak about the career and immediately knew she wanted to pursue it.
"We chose this path because we want to help people and make a difference in their lives. It's hard work but so worth it."- Sarah Logan, PA-C, Endocrine Oncology
Logan must have inherited her father’s knack for medicine and military discipline. Notable comments from her nomination form included, “a gifted teacher and trainer who exhibits patience and persistence in her role” and “constantly striving for excellence to expand her opportunities to learn and take on more challenges.”
Logan says it’s a privilege to care for her patients. She advises future APPs to remember their “why” and never forget it. “We chose this path because we want to help people and make a difference in their lives,” Logan said. “It’s hard work but so worth it.”
Award of Excellence in Service & Professionalism: Marilyn Plattner, APRN
Marilyn Plattner works in Moffitt’s Gynecologic Oncology Program as an advanced practice registered nurse. Plattner says one of the biggest honors was being nominated by her peers. She’s grateful for her team’s nurturing approach that helps her to learn and excel at her craft.
One of Plattner’s greatest strengths is her passion for women’s health and gynecologic oncology. She entered the field nearly 15 years ago. During her undergraduate education, Plattner noticed that many women weren’t educated about their bodies and health issues. She vowed then to dedicate her career to educating and caring for women. And it was the direct patient care that led Plattner to become an advanced practice professional.
"I worked in research and education, but I missed caring for patients. Providing advanced practice care seemed like an obvious choice to me."- Marilyn Plattner, APRN, Gynecologic Oncology Program
“When I completed my master’s degree in nursing, I worked in research and education, but I missed caring for patients,” Plattner said. “Providing advanced practice care seemed like an obvious choice to me.”
Plattner is truly loved by her team. Comments from her nomination form included, “Her patients love her, and her team trusts her” and “She treats everyone as if they were her own family member.”
Plattner’s advice to future APPs is that there will always be more learning to do. “There are wonderful mentors out there to assist you,” Plattner said. “Some of them will be your patients.”
Award of Excellence in Innovations in Clinical Care: Rachelle Rodriguez, MS, APRN, AOCNP
Rachelle Rodriguez works in Moffitt’s Genitourinary Oncology Program as an advanced practice registered nurse. She has been nominated for APP of the Year every year since she joined Moffitt nearly six years ago. She says just being nominated is one of the greatest honors.
“I have always felt that what I do at Moffitt has had purpose,” Rodriguez said. “Being recognized means a lot, especially after hearing the kind words and praise from my nomination form.”
Rodriguez fell in love with nursing after watching her mother achieve a successful nursing career. While in nursing school, a single interaction with a patient during her final semester was enough to drive her toward oncology.
"I have always felt that what I do at Moffitt has had purpose. Being recognized means a lot, especially after hearing the kind words and praise from my nomination form."- Rachelle Rodriguez, MS, APRN, AOCNP, Genitourinary Oncology Program
“I was able to provide the patient with a different perspective while she was at the end of life and it completely changed her mindset in a positive way,” Rodriguez said. “After seeing that impact, I knew I had to work hard so I could continue making an impact for oncology patients. Being an APRN at Moffitt continues to provide that.”
Her nomination form stated that Moffitt patients receive better care because of her. Rodriguez says that APPs have incredible opportunities to learn, help patients and assist in many different capacities.
“We are truly lifelong learners,” Rodriguez said. She advises new advanced practice professionals to “always ask questions and grow.”