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Image: MGH blog - HealthPartners Institute oncology nurse devotes life to helping people with cancer - Ann Deshler pictured

HealthPartners Institute oncology nurse devotes life to helping people with cancer

A passionate advocate for patients, Ann Deshler has already helped make some significant change – and she continues to push for more

Fighting cancer is Ann Deshler’s job. She’s been an oncology nurse for 38 years. And her specific work today is in cancer research administration at HealthPartners Institute.

But Ann also goes above and beyond to fight cancer long after the workday is over.

“It all started back when I was in high school,” Ann said. “My grandmother was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She died within 6 months of her diagnosis. And that’s when I thought, ‘I want to do something with cancer.'”

Much of Ann’s free time is now spent volunteering for the American Cancer Society (ACS). (And Edina Magazine recently featured her for it.) She has taken on a lead role in the ACS’s Cancer Action Network where she helps organize other volunteers, too. In March, Ann and a group of them met at the State Capitol to educate legislators on key topics. One was how important it is for cancer patients to have access to palliative care. The other was explaining the barriers that exist to colorectal screening, ways that they can be removed and why that needs to happen.

Image: MGH blog - HealthPartners Institute oncology nurse devotes life to helping people with cancer - Ann Deshler picture Ann Deshler, a HealthPartners Institute colleague

Lately, Ann has also been busy advocating for a higher minimum age to buy tobacco.

“We know that 95% of smokers start before the age of 21,” she said. “Younger kids are getting their tobacco from the 18-year-olds. And it is happening right inside of schools. If we can raise the minimum purchase age to 21, we have a good shot at stopping that distribution. And that can help so many people.”

Ann attended numerous Edina City Council meetings to make these points to city lawmakers. And recently she was pleased to see that her efforts made a difference. In May, Edina became the first city in Minnesota to increase the age for someone to buy tobacco to 21.

“Research of other cities that have done this has shown it dramatically decreases the number of kids smoking before age 21,” Ann said.

In all of her volunteer work, Ann says she is thinking about cancer patients and the community at large.

“These things are important to me,” she said. “And really, being an advocate for patients is part of being a nurse.”

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