Emily Crimmins, MS, Child Life Specialist
“There is a sense of warmth and community at MSK Kids that’s quite special. My job is helping children and their families cope with the stress of being in the hospital. Child life specialists are trained to identify children’s needs through play and come up with the age-appropriate ways to ease their burden and help them be resilient. It’s important to protect their mental and emotional well-being, so they can focus simply on being a kid. We offer weekly programs like bingo, Lego challenges, and toddler story time to give children the chance to connect with one another and do what kids are meant to do: play! It is a privilege to be able to help people in their most vulnerable moments. I am inspired by my patients every day.”
Filemon Dela Cruz, MD, Pediatric Oncologist
When people learn what I do, they often apologize for asking because they imagine it must be so hard to talk about caring for a child who has cancer. While there are sad moments, I remind people that most children with cancer are fortunately cured. I’m a member of the Pediatric Sarcoma and Pediatric Translational Medicine Program, which focuses on bringing discoveries in the laboratory directly to the patient. We use tumor models to identify and prioritize developing drugs that are effective against pediatric cancer and given in ways that minimize side effects. When I speak with patients and families about donating tissue for research, I thank them for this gift — a gift that represents a lasting legacy to future children. It is truly an honor and a privilege to work together with them on a mission to improve outcomes for all children diagnosed with cancer.
Melanie Escalona, Manager, Facilities Operations
Working at MSK Kids is personal for me. During the interview process, my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia. Being deeply involved in his care prepared me for helping others at a very vulnerable time in their lives. My job is to support whatever is needed by patients and their care teams. From making sure our rooms are fully outfitted with equipment and supplies to handling accommodations for a family with a child in treatment, I care about every single detail. Having the right assortment of snacks in the room is important! There is a special harmony here between our patients, caregivers, and every member of the staff. We want everyone walking through our halls to know they are not walking alone. We are all in this together.
Alyson Childers, RN, Clinical Trials Nurse
I really, really love my job because I get to offer something to patients that they aren’t going to have anywhere else. A lot of our patients come to us kind of beaten down with being told that their treatment isn’t working, and I feel like, more often than not, we can offer them hope and a new option. I have a “feel good” folder. It’s for pictures sent to me of special events — playing soccer, the first day of school, graduation, a wedding. I also use it to remind me of things important to my patients — a book they’re reading, someone they’ve started dating — so I can always follow up and ask, “How that’s going?” At MSK, it’s not just about giving medicine to patients. It’s really about treating the entire kid and the entire family. And I just feel really lucky to be a part of it.
Hassan Musleh, MD, Clinical Research Manager
Giving families every possible option to treat their child is a beautiful thing. My main responsibility is managing the research protocols for the neuroblastoma service — everything from logistics to legal requirements to making sure that data collected is accurate. Research protocols can fail or succeed based on how they are managed. I’m proud to say that in 2020, our service led the efforts in receiving FDA approval for a therapy to treat neuroblastoma. I remind my staff that everything we do, we are doing for others. We make a difference in the lives of people who will never meet us or know our names. The work we do might give a child more time with their family, allow them to graduate school, fall in love, and maybe one day have a family of their own.