Celia Austin gazes out the arched window of the Women’s Building as a breeze catches red and yellow leaves swirling against a vivid blue fall sky. “I see things differently now, Even simple fall colors mean more,” says the courageous survivor of breast cancer. Following a “normal” mammogram two years ago, her instincts told her there was something wrong with “this strange bump on my rib”. She persevered and the cancer was found. Two days before her lumpectomy, a second type of cancer was found so she had a mastectomy. Then one botched reconstruction surgery required another. “I don’t want anyone to go through this. It makes much more sense to prevent cancer than to have to treat it,” says Celia.
Her experience prompted Celia Strickland Austin ‘76 and her husband Ken ’76 to make a $400,000 gift to the College of Health and Human Sciences that will support the collaborative work of faculty researching the prevention and management of cancer. Emily Ho studies the correlations between diet and breast cancer and is exploring why consumption of cruciferous vegetables may lower rates of breast cancer. Urszula Iwaniec’s research considers breast cancer metastasizes to bone and how diet, physical activity, and environment might control the spread. Kerri Winters-Stone focuses on fractures and frailty in cancer survivors and develops exercise programs to help them thrive. Sheryl Thorburn is studying the influence of social and cultural factors that affect the attitude and behavior on health screenings for Hmong women. And Sue Carozza considers environmental factors such as pesticide exposure that increase cancer risk. “Our ultimate goal is to find practical applications of our research for women everywhere,” says Emily. “Granting agencies like to see bench-to-bed translational research, so our collaborative work will give us an advantage for new funding.”
“It’s exciting to have these brilliant women here doing this kind of work and I’m thankful to be able to support them,” says Celia. “Their research is impressive and it will be interesting to see what common threads they find.” Dean Tammy Bray says the strength of this team is their “cell to community” approach that brings scientific and social researchers together.
Celia and Ken operate Rain Dance Ranch in Newberg, Oregon selling llamas. Their fiber goes to a fiber co-op to be made into blankets by Pendleton Woolen Mills. Celia loves the marketing aspect of the business but can be found in the field when a problem delivery calls for her obstetric skills. “That’s thanks a workshop at the OSU vet school,” she chuckles. She and Ken are part of A-dec, the family’s dental equipment business. The family recently opened Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon, a project that Celia was deeply involved in during her recovery.