Scholarships Add Tools to Patient Navigator’s Toolbox

Before she was helping patients figure out how to align their options and understand what's ahead on their cancer journey, Jodi Dake was a cancer patient herself at just 31 years old. Years later, her mother and sister battled cancer at the same time, with different paths.

“It makes me want to make healthcare better and easier for patients,” she said. “Montana is one big small town. We can do this together, and we can do it better.” 

This year, Foundation donors funded 23 scholarships. Jodi, a patient navigator at Sletten Cancer Institute, is using a Foundation scholarship for her master’s degree in healthcare administration. 

“I chose MSU-Billings because they really invest in the students to be leaders in rural Montana and in getting rural Montanans the care they need,” she said. “Improving healthcare in rural Montana is in everybody’s interest, and it’s a priority for Benefis.”

For example, a Malta woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer might struggle with lining up her schedule with a gynecological surgeon’s availability, not to mention hurdles in transportation, housing, employment, family concerns, and weather.

“To upend their lives for cancer and have a lack of resources is super difficult, and they might have worse outcomes if the hurdles prevent care,” Jodi said. “My job and what my education is helping with are getting tools to help them. It takes creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to make things work.”