‘Made a difference’: Cleveland Clinic social worker has helped families for decades, even as she dealt with tragedy

Black History Month

CLEVELAND (WJW) — Despite having a vaccine, the coronavirus pandemic is still hitting the healthcare industry with a vengeance. And while doctors and nurses have often been in the spotlight, there are other unsung heroes we don’t hear about.

In this Black History Month profile, we meet a woman whose been helping families for decades, even as she and her family dealt with tragedy.

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She is the person who many patients and families meet on possibly the worst day of their lives.

“When cancer happens, it doesn’t just happen to the person who is dealing with the physical aspect of the illness, it can affect a person’s relationships … family members, caregivers, spouses, children,” said Christa Poole, the clinical manager of social work at Cleveland Clinic‘s Taussig Cancer Institute.

She leads her team in identifying patients in need due to barriers in care and provides resources to support them, helping cancer patients through an even more stressful time during the pandemic.

“Sometimes people don’t have insurance, sometimes they have inadequate insurance and so, as social workers, what we do is try to provide information,” Poole said. “We try to connect patients and families with resources to help support them.”

Born and raised in Massillon, Ohio, Poole comes from a very small family. And says even at an early age, through college and graduate school, she always had the desire to help others.

“When I was in college, I volunteered for a crisis hotline, but still had no idea that I would end up as a professional social worker,” she said. “…and when I started interviewing and talking with other medical social workers in the field, I was just really drawn to the work and have just loved it.”

But back in December 2017, it was Poole who needed support.

The mother of two says her oldest child, Devin Moore, a senior journalism major at Kent State university and Beachwood High School alum, suddenly collapsed on a basketball court.

“I lost him in 2017. He died of sudden cardiac arrest, he had an undiagnosed heart condition,” Poole said. “My daughter and I are a small unit, but we have an army behind us supporting us.”

And the support continues to this day, especially from her family at the Cleveland Clinic, where she and her colleagues are now dealing with the harsh reality of African-Americans being more likely to contract coronavirus, be hospitalized for it and die in comparison to other racial or ethnic groups.

“The Clinic has really kind of embraced this challenge and started conversations, to make certain that we’re really leading in this area to increase the diversity of our workforce on many different levels,” she says.

And despite the balance of life and death, she says this career, which she’s flourished in for over two decades, remains extremely rewarding.

“Despite the outcome and the loss and the grief, you still really feel like you’ve made a difference,” she said.

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