Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+)
A Guiding Light for Cancer Patients
Sharon Gentry, MSN, RN, HON ONN-CG, AOCN, CBCN became interested in nursing after a beloved aunt shared nursing stories of patients. This became a catalyst to a purposeful career.
During nursing school in the ’80s, Sharon became fascinated with the oncology patient experience. She desired to help guide patients through the myriad of treatment options after seeing the decisions needed for oncological care. In the ’90s, it was fortuitous that a navigation opportunity arose when nurse navigation research was at a minimum.
In support of a patient-centered experience for women facing breast cancer, administrators at Forsyth Regional Cancer Center received a grant position for navigation. Sharon was challenged to create a program to advocate and guide breast cancer patients and caregivers from diagnosis through treatment. What began as a two-year grant program grew to become the first Nurse Navigator program in North Carolina. As a nurse, Sharon felt blessed to work alongside visionary leaders.
Sharon has been a voice on the Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators (AONN+) Leadership Council since its 2009 inception. From 2012-2019, she co-chaired the annual AONN+ conferences and actively served on the teams for certification, metrics, and acuity. She has written articles in peer-reviewed journals and patient advocacy magazines, authored book chapters, and travels nationally lecturing on navigation significance.
Today, Sharon serves as Program Director of AONN+, which includes over 9,000 navigators. Leading by example, her focus is—and has always been—on the patient experience. She has overseen the growth of more than 30 (and counting!) Navigator Networks throughout the country. These networks provide support and educational resources to navigators locally and regionally. Sharon also started a scholarship fund to help AONN+ members to attend the Midyear and Annual conferences. Emily Gentry, Senior Director of Education and Program Development, AONN+ says, “Sharon’s passion to advance the role of navigation is always based in seeking research, evidence, and best practice. Sharon is a role model, mentor, and an aspiration to oncology navigators.”
Her work as Program Manager continues to create opportunities for education, knowledge, and life-sustaining support—at exactly the time it’s needed the most.