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north carolina oncology navigator association (ncona)

Trailblazing a New Path to Decrease Barriers to Oncology Care

Our History

The North Carolina Oncology Navigator Association (NCONA) was created in 2012 to serve as an organization to promote cancer patient navigation in North Carolina. Today, patient navigation is a model of healthcare delivery built around the patient and created to reduce barriers to care.

Our Mission

The mission of NCONA is to advance the role of patient navigation by providing a network for collaboration amongst navigators and to promote the development of best practices for improved access and outcomes of cancer care.

Our Purpose

The purpose of the NCONA is to provide a network for collaboration amongst patient navigators across NC. A patient navigator may include a nurse, social worker, care coordinator, community health worker, community educator, community ambassador or lay patient navigator. Patient navigation saves lives and improves cancer outcomes. The North Carolina Oncology Navigator Association is committed to working collaboratively with all cancer programs and organizations across the state to ensure every patient living in NC has access to appropriate cancer care. The landscape is changing. It is imperative that hospitals and communities work together to reach and service our patients most in need.

Meet the NCONA Team

NCONA President

Dr. Steve Patierno’s current translational research interests are focused on the genomics molecular biology of cancer disparities, cancer biology, molecular pharmacology and targeted experimental therapeutics to control prostate, breast and lung tumor aggressiveness. He is an internationally recognized expert in cancer control, cancer causation and molecular carcinogenesis, which includes a broad spectrum of laboratory and population level research. Patierno is also actively engaged in cancer health disparities and healthcare delivery research focused on patient navigation, survivorship, community-based interventions, Health, implementation sciences, cancer care economics, and policy. Dr. Patierno is proud to serve NCONA and continue to grow the Oncology Nurse Navigators of North Carolina.






With more than 30 years of oncology nursing experience, Jean is recognized as a national leader in innovative oncology outreach and navigation, focusing on improving cancer outcomes. In her previous role as UNC Lineberger’s Administrative Clinical Director, she led the development of oncology patient navigation at the statewide level from 2007-2019. She has published and presented her work at a national level. 

She earned her undergraduate degree in nursing and her master’s degree in nursing administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Sellers was recognized as one of North Carolina’s Great 100 Nurses in 2000 and the North Carolina Nurses Association awarded her the Harriot Flint Oncology Nurse of the Year in 2002. In 2005, she was awarded the Distinguished Alumni of the Year from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Between 2004-2007, she galvanized a community in Eastern North Carolina to raise over 5 million  for the construction of the Crystal Coast Hospice House. In 2017, under her leadership, UNC LCCC received a $600,000 Duke Endowment grant to expand their model of lay navigation to 11 cancer hospitals and centers across North Carolina. 

Our Board of Directors

Steven Patierno, PhD

Deputy Director, Duke Cancer Institute (Durham, NC)

Debbie Nelson


Riguey King

Vice President, Community Impact Southeast Region, American Cancer Society (Henrico, VA)

Jean Sellers, RN, MSN

Executive Director, North Carolina Oncology
Navigator Association (Chapel Hill, NC)

Sarah Arthur

Comprehensive Cancer Control Program Manager, NCDHHS (Raleigh, NC)

Michael Hare

IT Consultant/Patient Navigator

Judy Koutlas

Senior Director, Navigation Operations, Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute HCA Healthcare (Nashville, TN)

Valarie Worthy

Patient Navigator Manager, Duke Cancer Institute (Durham, NC)

Have Questions?

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We look forward to hearing from you!