November 22, 2021
Dr. Elizabeth Bigger joins Medical Staff and Cancer Care team in February 2022
St. Peter's Health announced today the appointment of a new board-certified oncologist and hematologist to the St. Peter's Health Cancer Care team. After a rigorous, nearly yearlong national search for a permanent medical oncologist, St. Peter’s selected Elizabeth Bigger, MD to partner with Radiation Oncologist Dr. Andrew Cupino and the Cancer Care staff. She will begin seeing patients in late February 2022.
"This is a huge step forward in rebuilding our cancer care program and delivering on our promise to be the gold standard for cancer and hematology care in Helena," said St. Peter's Health Medical Group President Dr. Todd Wampler. "Dr. Bigger not only has elite training and an impressive background, her care philosophy and practices align strongly with evidence-based medicine and the team-centered culture we are cultivating at St. Peter’s.”
Dr. Bigger has over 15 years of experience providing oncology and hematology care and is relocating to Helena from Massachusetts, where she is currently practicing at Mass General Cancer Center. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Yale University and her medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine. She completed her residency at Vanderbilt University and her fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, and she began her clinical career as an Instructor in Global Health Oncology at Harvard Medical School. Along with being board-certified in oncology medicine, and hematology, Dr. Bigger is also board-certified in internal medicine.
“We are incredibly fortunate to welcome Dr. Bigger to St. Peter’s Health. It has been a long wait to find the right medical oncologist for our community and we thank everyone for their patience,” said St. Peter's Health Chief Executive Officer Wade Johnson. “Combining the incredible talent, training and experience of Dr. Bigger and Dr. Cupino, along with an amazing cancer care team and our affiliation with the Huntsman Cancer Institute is a huge step forward in our goal to provide world class cancer care in Helena. The future has never been brighter.”
Since announcing the affiliation with HCI in April 2021, St. Peter's leadership, staff and providers have been working closely with HCI to streamline care practices and align with the academic medical center standard of care. In this model, a huge emphasis is placed on care team training, education, and advancement. HCI clinicians have worked alongside St. Peter’s team members at the Regional Medical Center, and several St. Peter’s team members have traveled to Salt Lake City to learn and train at the academic medical center.
According to St. Peter's Health Interim Chief Nursing Officer Kari Koehler, RN, who served as the St. Peter’s Cancer Treatment Center Director for five years, investing in training and advancement has a significant impact on employee engagement and retention, and ultimately translates into a better experience and higher level of care for patients.
“We’ve always believed in empowering our care teams to work at the top of their license, and with support and guidance from HCI, we can really scale these growth opportunities for our team members while simultaneously improving the efficiency, quality and safety of care we provide our patients.”
Most recently, three tenured staff members from the Cancer Care registration team earned their Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) designation and now work closely with patients undergoing treatment.
"By training these team members as medical assistants, we not only helped committed employees advance their careers, we enabled our registered nurses to focus exclusively on aspects of medical oncology care they are uniquely qualified to provide,” said Koehler. “This also means our patients are more likely to have the same team of nurses assisting with their chemotherapy and MAs providing care in exam rooms, which promotes continuity and safety."
According to Dr. Wampler, the future of cancer care at St. Peter's is bright.
"We want our community to know how hard our team is working and the amazing changes that are taking place. Some things, like remodeling the waiting area to enhance privacy and comfort, are very visible to patients and their families, but many of the staff development and clinical care enhancements are happening in the background. We are as committed as ever to continuous improvement and developing a marquee cancer care program our region can be proud of.”