Student group honors breast cancer survivors at dinner

Release Date: November 20, 2009

PLAINVIEW – The first ribbon honored a family friend of a student. The next, a sister. Those that followed recalled teachers, mothers, mothers-in-law. Someone’s aunt. Someone’s best friend. And finally, someone’s grandmother.

All were touched by breast cancer, and the Miracle Tree gave them the venue to remember those special people, as well as honor survivors in the Wayland Baptist University family and support a good local cause. Etching names on looped pink ribbons with a Sharpie marker, guests approached the lighted white Christmas trees to add the names of loved ones to the memorial.

The tree dedication was the climax of Thursday’s dinner event in McClung Center, hosted by the Pioneer Health Service Corps, a group of approximately 30 Wayland students pursuing degrees and careers in the healthcare fields. Proceeds from the dinner were to fund the Dress a Live Doll project in Plainview, which the group supported last year as well, shopping for 10 children.

The group chose two Wayland employees to honor at the dinner. Marlene Reed, administrative assistant in the School of Fine Arts, and Josie Gomez, coordinator of health services and Wayland’s school nurse, were presented with pink gerber daisies and certificates. Last year’s Miracle Tree honorees, Debbie Lane of the School of Business and Beverly Steed of the athletics department, were also recognized.

Then the students invited guests to honor their own family and friends by adding ribbons to the tree before closing the evening in a benediction. The poignant ceremony was touching to the students.

“Just to know that there’s so much courage and perseverance that goes on with such a terrible disease is encouraging,” said Colby Schniederjan, a senior chemistry major who is president of the PHSC. “This is a reverent time, but also one of celebration because we are never alone in this battle.”

The dinner included a brief presentation by chemistry students Kassie Hughes, PHSC vice president and event organizer, and Asenath Arauza, who spent their summer doing research on the effects of a particular plant on 4T1 breast cancer cells.

The pair worked with ashwaganda root, or Indian ginseng, using scientific processes to create a solution for testing and breaking into separate compounds. Finding a particularly strong band of the compound, Hughes and Arauza then tested the various compounds on 4T1 breast cancer cells removed from mice and tested in Petri dishes. The results found that same strong band was virtually annihilating the cancer cells.

The girls are currently working on refining their solution and plan to continue the testing on actual mice with the cancer cells, which mimic Stage 4 breast cancer in humans. They hope to be able to obtain a better sample that can be further tested to determine what makes up the compound that is affecting the cancer cells so significantly.

Officers of the Pioneer Health Service Corps also include Luke Ingraham, volunteer coordinator, and Garrett Breazeale, secretary/treasurer. Dr. Adam Reinhart, pre-health coordinator and professor of biological sciences and chemistry, serves as faculty sponsor for the organization.

The group is involved in community service efforts as well as coordination of volunteer and shadowing opportunities related to health fields around the area. They work in coordination with the Area Health Education Center to give students hands-on and field experiences that will prepare them for careers in various healthcare fields.

Last year, the PHSC completed CPR training, witnessed a laparoscopic appendectomy on a fellow WBU student and helped AHEC run a booth at the Taste of Plainview event demonstrating healthy snacks for area children to make.