Michelle Ottersbach recently joined the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute multidisciplinary lung cancer team as a nurse coordinator for the high-risk lung cancer screening program. Otterbach says her greatest success in life was being "rejected from physical therapy school” because it led her to her true passion in exercise physiology and nursing.
After completing her master’s degree in exercise physiology, Ottersbach worked in cardiac rehabilitation for nine years as a registered clinical exercise physiologist and certified strength/conditioning specialist. She then spent four years as a cancer exercise specialist, where she developed a free, ongoing cancer exercise class—called Rebuilding Health—through the Cancer Support Community. Here, she talks about her passion for chronic disease prevention and treatment and how it led to her new role at UC Health and the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute.
Tell us about your current role at UC Health and the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute.
"I am a nurse clinician coordinating the UC Health Lung Cancer Screening Program, which is part of the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute. My responsibilities include assessing eligibility of potential clients and the lateral coordination of care from the initial contact with the client through long-term tracking and specialist follow-ups. I am responsible for community outreach and promotion of the program to physicians and the community.”
How did your professional background lead to your current role?
"I have 13 years of professional experience in chronic disease prevention and treatment, which includes primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. While working in cardiac rehab, I met a holistic health nurse who was teaching our cardiac rehab stress management class. We discussed how other disease populations do not have the same access to resources as cardiac clients. There is cardiac rehab, pulmonary rehab, diabetes management and physical therapy for those with diagnosed with cardiac, pulmonary, diabetes and orthopaedic conditions. But, what about those diagnosed with cancer? This question is what has changed my life and caused me to reflect on my personal and professional goals to find my life calling: improving the lives of clients diagnosed with cancer, regardless of disease prognosis.
"My newly found passion led to the development of the first medically supervised cancer exercise program in Greater Cincinnati and a 12-week multidisciplinary cancer wellness program implemented across to separate hospital systems. As I embarked on my journey, I was able to listen to the stories of those diagnosed with cancer describe the struggles they encountered not only during treatment but after treatment was completed. More importantly, I realized the lack of resources available to them compared to other chronic diseases. I knew what God intended for me to do in life. I went to the University of Northern Colorado to train at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute as a cancer exercise specialist. When the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Cancer Society developed the certified cancer exercise trainer program, I was one of the first people certified in the world.”
Talk about your experience developing cancer exercise programs locally.
"I was determined to improve resources for cancer survivors, so I became involved with the Cancer Support Community. I started a free, low-impact, personalized fitness class ( Rebuilding Health) at the organization open to clients across the continuum of cancer care—from the recently diagnosed to long-term survivor as well as their families.
"My experiences at Cancer Support Community re-emphasized the importance of social support during and after cancer. While the health care team is important in the healing process, our clients also play a role in helping each other heal. I knew I needed to improve my medical credibility to take my dream of improving cancer survivorship to the next level, so I decided to go to nursing school at Xavier University to study in their clinical nurse leader program. This gave me great experience in improving the quality of care and client outcomes, starting at admission through recovery.”
Why were you interested in this new role within the lung cancer screening program?
"This was an opportunity to transition the client across the cancer continuum of care, from prevention to treatment and recovery. It allows me to utilize my passions of cardiopulmonary, oncology, exercise physiology and nursing.”
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
"I enjoy my weekly Rebuilding Health class at the Cancer Support Community, as well as teaching anatomy and physiology at Northern Kentucky University. These classes allow me to give back to the community by bringing people together and assisting others to succeed in their dreams. My biggest joy in life is my family, especially my greatest blessings, my nieces. I also enjoy chasing after my mischievous Labrador retriever.”
About the Lung Cancer Screening Program
Through UC Health, the UC Cancer Institute offers a screening program for people at risk for lung cancer. Individuals who have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 20 years and those with a prior lung cancer diagnosis are considered at increased risk. Screening is performed with low radiation-dose computed tomography (CT) scans at UC Health University Hospital (Clifton) and the University Pointe Imaging Center (West Chester). For more information, call 513-584-LUNG or visit uccancer.com/lungcancer