Meet Amy Degnim, Researcher, and the House Family, Volunteers

Interview with Amy Degnim, Mayo Clinic

How did you find out about the Komen Tissue Bank? Why did it interest you?

My research mentor, Dr. Lynn Hartmann, had visited the Komen Tissue Bank as part of an advisory site visit.  After her return, she informed the Mayo Benign Breast Disease research team about this valuable resource.  At that time, it struck me that it would be very interesting to see how normal breast tissues compared to breast tissues from women with benign breast disease, specifically how these two groups of tissues differ regarding epithelial proliferative changes and age-related lobular involution.

 What samples have you obtained from the Komen Tissue Bank?

We have reviewed H&E stained slides of breast tissue from about 300 normal Komen tissue donors to evaluate the histologic features described above in these breast tissues.

 What do you hope to discover in your research? 

 We hope to gain better understanding of the processes that are different in normal breast tissue and breast tissue with benign breast disease, which is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.  Our goal is to identify histologic features in breast tissue that help us to more accurately estimate an individual’s woman risk of breast cancer.

 How will the Komen Tissue Bank samples help with your research?

The Komen Tissue Bank samples are extremely valuable to our research because for a long time, breast tissue from women with benign breast disease was thought to serve as an adequate control tissue in comparison to breast cancer tissues.  However, now it is becoming apparent that breast tissues with benign breast disease and normal breast tissues are distinct groups with different histologic findings and cancer risk. 


Interview with the House Family, KTB Volunteers (questions answered by Linda House)

How did you find out about the Komen Tissue Bank?

I have had the good fortune of working with Connie Rufenbarger since 2000 when the tissue bank was an early plan so I really don’t remember when I became aware of the concrete reality of the program.  The first time our family participated in an event was the 2008 Race for the Cure when we were collecting blood samples under a huge white tent before, during, and after the race – it was freezing cold, there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm all around and it was an absolute blast!  That year, we had our family of four, plus two friends of my daughter and one of my best friends volunteering – along with hundreds of other volunteers – it was amazing.

What made you want to volunteer here?

My lifelong work has been in cancer.  As such, our girls have grown up with an understanding of and a commitment to helping eradicate this disease and helping those touched by it.  KTB is doing important work on the front end of that equation that someday will limit the number of patients diagnosed with breast cancer.  We are hoping to someday volunteer ourselves out of a job!

What do you do for the Komen Tissue Bank?

 I am a phlebotomist, Jim works either in the lab or as a greeter, Abbie and Anya often serve as runners.

What have you learned from your experiences volunteering here?

I don’t know where to begin!  I have been inspired by the sisterhood of women who are united to beat this disease as well as the reach of the sisterhood which crosses all boundaries of age, race, religious, and educational boundaries.  For our family, it has reinforced the importance of coming together for a very important purpose.

Why do you enjoy volunteering here?

We appreciate the ability to volunteer as a family for these events.  Most importantly, the entire volunteer team is one big family.  It really is a team effort and feels very personal.

What is a favorite or memorable KTB volunteering moment  for you?

 One (of many) memorable moments was when we targeted the latino/hispanic  women from Evansville.  First, I was touched by their commitment to serve despite obvious communication and geographic barriers.  Next I was able to see Abbie (then 15) step up as a leader when she volunteered to use the Spanish she was learning in school to serve as a translator for me to speak with the women as we collected their blood sample. 

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