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Peggy Antenucci, APRN, Tobacco Treatment Program

Just over one year ago, Margaret "Peggy" Antenucci joined Smilow Cancer Hospital's Tobacco Treatment Program as a Clinician Liaison, meeting with and counseling patients of Smilow Cancer Hospital to help them quit or reduce their smoking habit.

With a grant from the National Cancer Institute, the program was able to hire Peggy to help expand its services across the state and into the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Centers. Part of this expansion allowed for updates to EPIC, revising referrals to include prescriptions for smokers as well as notes about the Tobacco Treatment Program, all in one page for busy providers. To launch the service, Peggy traveled to each of the Care Centers informing providers on how they can educate patients on smoking treatment and she currently works with patients at Smilow Cancer Hospital, as well as in the Care Centers in Trumbull, Waterford, Waterbury, Torrington, North Haven, Orange, and Guilford.

"The process is very emotional for patients," says Peggy. "They are struggling with their cancer and their addiction to tobacco, and they are desperately trying to quit."

Peggy uses a two-pronged approach of medication and counseling on behavioral changes but says this can be tailored to work with anyone regardless of where they are in the process. When meeting with a patient for the first time, her first question is always, "How can I help you?" letting the patient lead the conversation.

Prior to joining Yale, Peggy was an English teacher for more than 20 years, most recently teaching college composition at University of New Haven. After counseling freshmen in remedial writing, she realized she really enjoyed this aspect of her work and decided to go back to school. She enrolled in a 12-month accelerated nursing program at Southern Connecticut State University, earning her BSN. She joined St. Raphael's as a psychiatric floor nurse, and soon, Yale School of Nursing's APRN Program, becoming a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. The combination of nursing and education has become the ideal pairing of experience for Peggy.

The sense of helping make a change in a patient's life that could help them achieve a positive outcome in their treatment is one of the more touching parts of her job. She notes, "Seeing patients that are able to reduce or stop smoking is very rewarding-they feel empowered to help their own treatment outcomes with cancer. Making that personal connection at such a critical time is what I really enjoy."

The Tobacco Treatment Program accepts physician referrals through EPIC and self-referrals. For more information on their services, please call 203-688-1378.