Nella Khenkin

Brooklyn Daily
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Nella Khenkin has been a social worker at Maimonides Cancer Center for the past 20 years, but even now, she doesn’t do it for the money. She does it, she says, for the hugs.

Khenkin’s job brings her in constant contact with cancer survivors of varying ages, cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and requires a considerable amount of dedication and energy.

“I help them while they are going through their cancer journey, starting from diagnosis and carrying on through ongoing treatment, remission, survivorship, wellness, life celebration and sometimes with disease progression and end-of-life issues,” she said. “The rewards for my job lie in areas other than financial, such as my patients’ achievements and progress. It is about my patients’ gratitude, their smiles, tears, hugs, and prayers. It is important to me to have an emotional connection with the patients.”

Before coming to work at Maimonides Cancer Center, Khenkin was employed by the New York Association for New Americans [NYANA], a large resettlement agency serving new immigrants. Even then, she says, “I always knew about myself that I wanted to work at a people-oriented agency.”

She found such a place at the cancer center, where, the Woman of Distinction says, “I appreciate the patients’ trust and letting me be with them at the critical moment of their lives. I am inspired and in awe of their spirit, and gain wisdom and perspective from working with the patients and our medical team. I feel good about helping people, making a difference in their lives, easing their suffering and helping society.”

Khenkin’s co-workers value her attitude.

Marilyn Stoch, who worked with Khenkin at NYANA, calls her “an extraordinary person and an exceptional social worker. She is the most genuine person I know.”

Tao Wen Fu, a co-worker at the cancer center, said: “There are always tears, as well as laughter, in [Khenkin’s] office. “Her unique humor is the best therapy. Whenever there is a problem, she advocates and fights for her patients until the mission is completed. She touches patients’ lives in many ways that are compassionate and personal.”

Fu added that she was hired as a social worker at the cancer center about a year and a half ago.

“Before that, [Khenkin] was managing all the social work-related issues for the whole center by herself; which I still have no idea how she was able to do it,” Fu said. “It is an honor and a pleasure to know and work with such an amazing woman. “I was so pleased to learn that she was nominated [as a Woman of Distinction] and it is so well-deserved.”

Neighborhood: Sunset Park.

Occupation: Social worker.

Company: Maimonides Cancer Center.

Claim to Fame: Sense of humor. My patients and colleagues are amazed that I am able to use my sense of humor at my difficult job. It helps lighten the mood, and allows me to connect with people.

Favorite Brooklyn Place: Home.

Women I admire: It is not just one. I have the greatest respect for my patients, who are primarily women, for their courage in fighting cancer and still being able to enjoy life despite the difficulties they face.

Motto: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” (attributed to Dolly Parton).

Updated 2:53 pm, July 3, 2017
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