Working in a New Normal: Remote Option Brings Comfort to Patients

Name: Samantha Kwan Verruto

Position: Physician Assistant, Duke Breast Surgery and Team Lead, Breast and Endocrine Surgery Advanced Practice Providers and Nursing Clinicians

Years at Duke: 9

What she does at Duke: Samantha Kwan Verruto cares for patients with breast cancer and patients who need to be screened for breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, or with breast cancer symptoms.

She meets with patients to document their medical histories, conducts clinical trials, orders imaging, referrals to other specialties, and completes procedures such as skin biopsies. She works with Laura Rosenberger, a surgical oncologist, to develop treatment plans for their patients.

“My job is to make sure patients get the best possible care outside of the operating room,” Verruto said. “I take the time for each patient to learn about their medical history and examine them carefully. I want everyone to have a happy ending.”

How her job has changed since the pandemic: Verruto has been working from home one day a week since March 2020.

At home, she writes notes in the clinic or has follow-up telecare appointments with patients she has previously met in person at Duke Cancer Center. The telehealth appointments allow Verruto to monitor patients who have had a mastectomy or are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

“It’s nice for patients to have an option where we can chat quickly and they don’t have to drive 30 minutes to Duke,” she said.

What aspect of the job is she most proud of in these challenging times: Verruto became team leader last September. She arranges schedules and conducts annual assessments for six advanced practice providers and nurses on the breast surgery team.

“I’m proud of myself for taking on a responsibility during the pandemic, but I’m more proud of my team for continuing to show up and do their job,” said Verruto. “Our patients need us.”

What she loves about working from home: Verruto loves the hour when she comes back to her day by not commuting back and forth from her home in Raleigh to Duke Cancer Center.

She uses the extra time to run or play outside with her 5-year-old son Enzo and 2-year-old son Niko.

“I feel like there’s more work-life balance, even if I work from home one day a week,” Verruto said.

TV show or series that got her through: Kwan and her husband, Vinnie, have watched all five seasons of “Breaking Bad.” The show follows a chemistry teacher who sells methamphetamine to support his family financially after learning he has lung cancer.

“The character development is really interesting,” Verruto said. “You start to feel bad for the main character and slowly lose the empathy you have for him.”

How she maintains her well-being: Verruto runs five kilometers twice a week and six kilometers on the weekend.

“Running is something I enjoy myself,” said Verruto. “I can let my mind wander and listen to Dua Lipa.”

Something most people don’t know about her: Kwan’s native language is Cantonese.

She was born in Hong Kong. Her family moved to the United States when she was 3.

“My mother’s side of the family moved to the US, and my father’s side moved to Australia,” Kwan said. “It’s funny to think how different life would have been if we had chosen Australia.”

How do you work in a new normal? Tell us or nominate a colleague by writing to us or filling out this story idea form.

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