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Joan Olcott will be long remembered as an important figure in the Bloomington community, and the feeling is mutual. In an interview about her early years in Bloomington where she moved with her husband Lloyd in 1953, Joan remembered with some fondness, “the magnificent Indiana University in our back yard.”
In 1996, Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer and was surprised that, despite living in a college town, there were few resources available to help her learn about her cancer diagnosis and treatment options. She wrote to the hospital about her wish that they would consider providing more information, support, and encouragement for women with breast cancer.
Instead of just wishing, Joan and Lloyd gifted funds to establish The Olcott Center for Breast Health which opened in 1998, and later Joan expanded the center through an additional philanthropic gift. The center was renamed the Olcott Center for Cancer Education and offers support for patients with all forms of cancer.
Joan also established a planned gift which will now, after her death in March 2020, ensure that patients fighting cancer will continue to benefit from her generosity with nurse navigation services made available at the new Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Bloomington.
“The Olcott name will stay with nurse navigator services, which was Joan’s original intention,” said Diane Buzzell, IU Health philanthropy director for the South-Central Region. “We wouldn’t have nurse navigators without Joan.”
Nurse navigators are oncology-certified specialists who help patients and their loved ones understand and manage the complex emotional and physical challenges of cancer. When the RAHC opens in late 2021, the Olcott nurse navigator hub will be a one-stop-shop for people who need help working through those complexities. It will include workspaces for five nurses and space to meet with patients and their loved ones.
Most of all, it’s a space to honor Joan’s generous spirit. She once wrote, “My mother was an RN and hoped I would go that route too. However, since I faint at the sight of blood, it wasn’t to be. I have received many verbal and written ‘thank-yous’ through the years from grateful women. I always say, ‘Don’t thank me. It is those wonderful, compassionate nurse navigators who have been so caring.’”
Joan Olcott was a visionary who recognized the need for patient navigation in response to the growing complexity of healthcare service delivery. “I know Joan would be delighted to see that her generosity will continue to ease the journey for patients who are fighting cancer and looking to make sense of it all.”