News

4.01.2011

Sylvester Social Worker Earns Her Rewards with Compassion

A bright yellow sign proclaiming “I ♥ MY JOB” hangs above the desk of Rosy Weisberg, LCSW, and everybody who knows her can see that’s true.

It’s so obvious, in fact, that Weisberg, who works with cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, was named Social Worker of the Year for 2010 by her peers in the Florida Society of Oncology Social Workers.

“It was a really nice surprise,” she says. “I really love working here.”

The Cuba-born Weisberg has worked with South Florida’s English- and Spanish-speaking oncology patients for two decades, helping them and their families navigate the maze of emotions and the array of decisions, from lodging to advanced directives, they face during one of life’s most challenging times. A former flight attendant, she is known for always approaching her job with compassion, understanding, and a sense of humor that buoys everyone she encounters.

“Rosy is the backbone of our department,’’ said Aaron Wolfson, M.D., professor and vice chairman of radiation oncology. “Her radiant personality literally showers faculty, the residents, staff, and our patients with warmth and caring every day. She injects humor and a positive attitude into every encounter.’’

Weisberg always viewed social work as her calling but, after graduating from FIU in the early 1970s, she couldn’t find a job in her chosen field, and landed in Florida Power & Light’s collections department instead – “even though I can’t balance my own checkbook!’’ she says.

Then one day an FPL co-worker asked Weisberg a favor: She needed a ride to apply for a flight attendant’s job at Pan American World Airways. Weisberg happily obliged and, on a whim, filled out an application, too. As fate would have it, her colleague didn’t get an offer, but Weisberg did, reinforcing her life’s Golden Rule: “Good things happen to me because I do good things for others.’’

Working her way up to purser, Weisberg flew for a dozen years, but before Pan Am’s 1991 demise, she felt a longing “to do something more meaningful” and on her free days returned to FIU to earn her master’s in social work.

With the additional degree and the help of her mom, who had worked at Mercy Hospital for more than 30 years, she found a job in Mercy’s hospice and oncology units. The accompanying 50 percent pay cut was steep, but what Weisberg lost in earnings, she gained in personal growth and satisfaction.

“Some people say, ‘Oh my God, how depressing,’ but I loved it,” Weisberg says. “Sure, it’s sad when people die, especially when they die young, but death is part of life and it’s so inspiring the way people handle illness. They may be in pain, they may have lost everything, but they still muster a smile and tell you about their lives. It’s changed me for the best.’’

Eventually, Weisberg says with a laugh, she quit calling her patients passengers and, in 1996, moved to “the best job ever” as a social worker for Sylvester’s radiation unit. There she found a new home and family – colleagues who helped her endure the loss of her own mother from breast cancer, and patients who remind her every day just how lucky she is.

“Every time you meet someone inspiring, you get reborn again,’’ Weisberg says. “It’s like ‘Oh my gosh, this is why I am here.’”

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