There are people that you meet in life who just care about people. It doesn’t matter where they come from, how much money they have, what religion they practice or race they are; they are just a compassionate advocate. When you meet these people you know right away that they care by the way they speak to you, look you in the eye and listen to every single word you say to them. They respond with care, concern and real empathy and feeling. They laugh with you, cry with you and offer unconditional support. Alycia Hughes is a compassionate advocate who works at MD Anderson and is a liaison between the patients and their primary care team. She is the warmth and support that cancer patients need when they are going through something as scary as cancer.
Alycia Hughes grew up in St. Louis and was raised by her Mother, who was an English teacher and her maternal Grandmother, so she had strong maternal and female influences in her life. She attended the University of Missouri, where she studied Journalism and where she learned about herself and who she was. The main thing she learned was that Journalism wasn’t just about writing and that she wanted to help people, so she began to study Social Work. Her goal was to work in a hospital setting.
When Alycia graduated, she moved to Houston to find a job, as she loved the city, but hit brick walls, because she was told that without a Masters degree, she couldn’t get the job she wanted, so after 6 months, she moved back to St. Louis and attended Washington University Graduate School, where she received her Masters in Social Work. She moved back home, worked part-time and as soon as she graduated, packed back up and moved back to Houston.
Alycia started as a case worker for the Harris County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority, but quickly realized she didn’t want to work in mental health because working with families who obtained court orders to have their family members committed didn’t sit well with a compassionate advocate. Often, she would have to have a constable with her during her assessments of patients before they were arrested and put in facilities, and Alycia, who has a very soft heart, couldn’t bear it.
After three years, she moved in a private practice for a while, but realized that she still wanted to be in a hospital setting, and her goal was to work at MD Anderson with Cancer patients, who needed a compassionate advocate to care for them and help them through some of the toughest moments of their lives. She knew this was the work she was meant to do.
Alycia Hughes – Compassionate Advocate
In 1987, Alycia got her dream job at MD Anderson. She loved their reputation, the fact that it was a large medical facility and that they had a large social work department. She started in the out patioent clinic in general oncology. She would assist patients that needed help with lodging, transportation, meal tickets, and financial information. In the hospital, she would meet them to help with discharge planning, and help them with the next steps, which sometimes meant nursing homes or hospice counseling or just going home to be with their families.
Alycia has worked in the leukemia center, the GI service, and the general surgery floor, but her favorite place as a compassionate advocate has been in bynecology, where she was for 17 years.
I loved the patient population, and I could identify with them because they were young to old women and it was easy to work with them all. All their needs were different, and all the doctors are so caring in that department. I was respected by the doctors for what I could bring to the team, and you have to have a good team to work with and who appreciate what you do and what you bring to that team. On that floor, we were all a team.
At MD Anderson, every patient has a compassionate advocate in the primary care center, so Alycia is just one of many. She is contacted for all kinds of things, from scheduling issues to billing issues to changes in physicians. No matter what is asked of Alycia, she does it with love and care and a smile on her face. She greets you with a big warm hug, actually cares about the patient, knows your family and becomes your friend. She is kindness personified.
Alycia Hughes found her niche as a compassionate advocate. She has met taken care of celebrities, world leaders, and everyday people and she loves every one of them and the only part of her job that frustrates her is when she can’t get something done for one of her patients. It is people like Alycia Hughes that make going to a place like MD Anderson easier and we thank her for all that she does for people who need her the most.