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Advocates in Science

Advocates in Science
A breast cancer advocate is someone who works, through volunteerism or professionally, to reduce the burden of breast cancer in his or her community. Research advocacy ensures that unique and valuable perspectives of breast cancer patients, survivors and co-survivors are integrated into the scientific dialogue and decisions that impact our progress toward ending breast cancer forever. They play a variety of roles through the research continuum from educating others about advocacy to participating in research review and developing research priorities and oversight.

The Susan G. Komen Advocates in Science Program (AIS) brings together an inclusive community of dedicated volunteer advocates who are passionate about breast cancer research and facilitates their involvement in research advocacy. Advocates bring a real-world understanding of what most impacts those affected by breast cancer, and an urgency to find cures and more effective prevention, diagnosis and treatment. AIS members engage in ongoing education to enhance their advocacy skills and expand their scientific knowledge.
This AIS program is designed to:  

  • ResearchAdovate.pngFoster excellence in research advocacy
  • Engage advocates in a variety of research-related activities
  • Provide research advocate education and training to improve skills and expand scientific knowledge
  • Make connections between research advocates and the Affiliate Network and bring Komen-funded research and researchers to the local communities
  • Enhance communications with fellow AIS members, the Komen Affiliate Network and the Komen-funded researchers

The AIS program will help match advocates to adctivities that best fit their training, experience and preference. Opportunities include:

  • Participate as reviewers in Komen's research grant peer review process
  • Participate on translational research grants, such as Komen Promise Grants
  • Attend and participate in scientific meetings, task forces and think tanks
  • Network with fellow AIS members and other research advocates
  • Attend Komen Leadership Conference and individual Affiliate meetings
  • Serve on scientific advisory boards, such as the Komen Scholars
  • Become involved in Komen public policy efforts

Steering Committee
The Advocates in Science steering committee is comprised of 8 experienced advocates who have demonstrated their dedication and leadership in breast cancer advocacy. The steering committee works closely with Komen staff to develop the strategy and highest use of the AIS group. They are instrumental in designing training for other advocates and actively engaging Komen advisory boards in the benefits and outcomes of effective advocacy.

Steering Committee Members:
Karen Durham
Sandra Finestone, PsyD

Cheryl Jernigan
Peggy Johnson
Judy Johnson. 
Patty Spears, B.S.
Kimberly Wright 


Sandra Finestone PhotoKaren Durham, Karen was originally diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive breast cancer at the age of 38 in 1989. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic disease in 2009, and has been on the same clinical trial since then.

After completing treatment in 1991, Karen began volunteering with the Dallas Race for the Cure. In 1995, she was part of the steering committee to bring a Race and an Affiliate to Tucson, AZ. She was a founding Board member of the Southern Arizona Affiliate from 1999-2000, serving in the position of Board Secretary. Karen moved to Tyler, Texas in 2000 and became a volunteer for the Tyler Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She served on the Board from 2003-2010 and held the positions of Board and Race Treasurer, Board Secretary, Grants Chair, Volunteer Coordinator, and Education Chair. She is currently the Grants Chair. She is a member of the Affiliate Advisory Council. Karen has been active in Komen public policy since 2007. She is a long time Race committee member. Top 

Sandra Finestone PhotoSandra (Sandy) Finestone, Psy.D., Sandy is a 26 year breast cancer survivor President of the Inland Empire Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Past President and Race Chair of the Orange County Affiliate, International Volunteer of the year, member of the Steering committee for the Komen Advocates in Science Program, one of 4 advocates of the Komen Scholars, and consumer reviewer of research grants for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Avon Foundation, State of New York, State of California and the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program in breast cancer. Sandy is also the founder of the Orange County Breast Cancer Coalition and has recently opened her own Wellness Center to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors.

She has been a volunteer for Susan G. Komen for the Cure for over 20 years and believes passionately in their mission. Sandy commitment to science is expressed in her many research project involvement, but she is just as committed to serving women who are currently dealing with diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. She leads a weekly support group that empowers women and teaches them to understand the science, understand their treatment and always question. She hopes that one day, someone will say, " Sandy made a difference." Top

Cheryl Jernigan.jpgCheryl Jernigan, Cheryl a self proclaimed a 15-year breast cancer "thriver", is a founding board member, a pastboard president and currently Public Policy Co-chair of the Greater Kansas City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Chair of The Advancement Board for The University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital, chair of the Advocate Board for The University of Kansas Breast Cancer Prevention Center and a member of their Biospecimens Shared Resource Library Advisory Board; a member of the National Cancer Institute's Director's Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG) and their Consumers in Research and Related Activities program; the NCI's advocate representative to the National Community Cancer Centers Program; the Treasurer for the Susan G. Komen Advocacy Alliance's Board of Directors; a Steering Committee member and Chair of the Communications Working Group for Komen's Advocates in Science Program; a member of the Komen Scientific Advisory Board; and has served as an advocate reviewer for Komen's Research Program, the U.S. Congressionally-Directed Breast Cancer Research Program, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Recent past activities include serving on the national Komen board as the affiliate representative and Chair of the Audit Committee; a U.S. Delegate to the 2007 Ignite the Promise: Global Advocate Summit convened by Komen in Budapest, Hungary; a Board President and founding board member of Turning Point; and an advocate participant in the 2010 Research Advocacy Network's training program conducted during the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Breast Cancer Symposium and the 2007 American Association of Cancer Research's Survivor ó Scientist Program. Top  

PeggyJohnson.pngPeggy Johnson, Peggy played a large part in starting the Komen Wichita Race for the Cure in 1990. Following the first race Peggy set up the Komen Free Mammography Program to provide free mammograms for Kansas medically underserved women and has since provided 35,000 free mammograms. At the time it was the first no cost program for mammography services in the Komen organization.

Nationally, Peggy is a past Chair of the National Board of Directors of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In her role as Chairman, Peggy testified before Congressional committees on subjects such as breast cancer research and access to quality health care. She has served on a number of national committees and boards including the President's Action Plan on Breast Cancer, the Intercultural Cancer Council and co-chaired Poland's first national breast cancer conference in 1996. She is a frequent speaker on the politics of breast cancer and volunteerism, most recently at the 1st International Cancer Control Conference in Vancouver, B.C. In 1999 Peggy was awarded the first National Lifetime Volunteer of the Year for Komen and in 2001 was awarded the Jill Ireland Community Volunteer National Award. Peggy currently serves as an Advocate in Science for Komen and as a Regional Advocacy Leader for the Komen Advocacy Alliance.

Locally Peggy was recognized as the BMW Ultimate Drive 'Local Hero' in 2007. Peggy was selected in the first class of 'Woman of Distinction' in 2009 for Wichita, Kansas and in the first class of 'Health Care Heroes' in 2010 by the Wichita Business Journal.

Peggy has served as the Executive Director and COO for Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation (WMREF) since 1999 where she is responsible for day to day operations. While at WMREF Peggy has been responsible for a complete overhaul of the organization's Institutional Review Board (IRB) and their community research and education grant program. Top  

Patty Spears PhotoJudy Johnson, Judy is a ten-year breast cancer survivor and an active breast cancer research advocate. In 2007, she co-founded and currently serves as co-chair of the Komen St. Louis Research Advocacy Committee, the only local Komen affiliate in the country with a committee of this nature, striving to understand the patients' point of view, and convey it to the medical community through local and national efforts.

Since 2007, Judy has had ongoing involvement in the national peer review process for Susan G. Komen and the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. Five years of experience at an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center as a clinical trials study coordinator and four years as a community member on Washington University's IRB enhance her ability to represent the patient perspective. Judy's education includes a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, and a Master of Business Administration. She earned the Certified Clinical Research Professional credential while working at Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University as a clinical trial coordinator in Radiation Oncology. In 2005, she participated in Project LEAD to jump-start her entry into the world of breast cancer research advocacy. She has attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium a number of times over the past few years. Top 

Patty Spears PhotoPatty Spears, B.S., Patty is an 11-year breast cancer survivor after being diagnosed at the age of 40 with locally advanced breast cancer. Following treatment, she began volunteering with the Komen NC Triangle Affiliate as Chair of the Education Committee and joined the Board of Directors in December 2001. Representing Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the community and on the NC Advisory Committee for Cancer Coordination and Control led to other opportunities for cancer advocacy. Currently Patty serves as an advocate reviewer for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Award and Research Grant Program, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer Protocol Committee and the Department of Defense, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. She is an advocate for the Duke University Breast Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE), the Breast Committee of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC) and the Breast Cancer Steering Committee (BCSC). She is an advocate for the National Cancer Institute's, Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG™) program and is a member of the Integrative Cancer Research (ICR) Workspace.

Patty is the recipient of the 2002 Komen Foundation New Volunteer of the Year Award, the 2003 Maureen Jordan-Thomas Spirit of Survivorship Award, the 2007 caBIG™ Patient Advocate Award, and is a June 2003 Project LEAD Graduate. She serves on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Advocates in Science Steering Committee and was recently selected to the Scientific Advisory Council.
Patty is employed full time as a research specialist at North Carolina State University studying molecular pathogenesis of Listeria monocytogenes. Top 

Kimberly-Wright.jpgKimberly (Kim) Wright, Kim is 16-year breast cancer survivor. After being diagnosed at the age of 36 (while pregnant) with Triple negative breast cancer (although it was not called such at that time), Kim quickly made the decision to make breast cancer advocacy her life's work. She became involved with Susan G Komen on the local level, both as a volunteer and as a reviewer for the local grants. Eventually Kim's involvement evolved into reviewing research grants for many organizations including Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Kim has been a past race chair (2008/2009) for Komen Maryland. She is the current Survivor chair for the Maryland Affiliate and is a past winner of the Komen Maryland Affiliate Award (2004), the highest award bestowed upon a volunteer within the affiliate.

Kim is a 1996 graduate of project LEAD and attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium twice on an Alamo Breast cancer Foundation scholarship. Currently Kim is a member of the Komen Advocate in Science Steering Committee. Kim is also the Johns Hopkins Advocate Representative to the TBCRC and the Advocate Member of the Johns Hopkins SPORE. All of this, in addition to holding a full time job as a Clinical Embryologist in a busy Assisted Reproductive Laboratory in the Baltimore/Washington area. Top

Join AIS Today
Advocates may be men or women, laypersons or healthcare professionals, Komen Affiliate members, or individuals involved in advocacy with other breast cancer organizations. While many advocates are breast cancer survivors, or have a family member or close friend affected by the disease, one is not required to be a survivor to be eligible to participate in AIS. The most important requirement is that applicants must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to improving the lives of those with breast cancer or those at risk for breast cancer. Komen Affiliate staff may apply to become an AIS member and will be able to participate in many scientific activities, but because of the potential conflict of interest in selecting research grants, may not participate as an advocate reviewer in Komen research peer review.

All applicants should demonstrate a desire to learn about breast health, breast cancer research and breast cancer issues while representing a broader perspective of those people affected by breast cancer. Applicants are strongly encouraged to be active with their local Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

If you would like to be part of this community, simply click here to complete this electronic application. Once you have completed the application, please have a Letter of Recommendation sent Your application will then be reviewed as part of a biannual process. If you have questions or concerns, please email

Susan G. Komen Guidelines for Advocate Involvement
Statement of Commitment - Example
NIH Biosketch Templates 
Advocate Biosketch - Examples
AIS Focus: Prevention