Academia / Education
Trendsetters - May 2006
Her dad: "I consider my dad a survivor."
Traveler: "Just about everywhere" -- Australia, Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, Japan, China, Spain and elsewhere
So now: Spring break in Mexico and, for the summer, "back to Paris"
Cooking: "My big goal in life is really to have a cookbook or be on 'Iron Chef America.' " She cooks all cuisines and readily experiments. "In one sense, it's just like chemistry."
Recent dish: Tea-smoked duck
Degrees: Bachelor's, Georgetown University, 1975; master's, Boston College, 1980; Ph.D., Boston College, 1992
As a young oncology nurse, Karen Dow cared for breast cancer patients. The experience sparked an interest in cancer survivors that has led to her holding the first endowed oncology nursing chair at the University of Central Florida and completing two major federal- and foundation-funded studies of breast cancer survivors' quality of life.
Born in the Philippines (her father survived the Bataan Death March), Dow grew up in St. Louis. Her father, a physician, wanted her to be a doctor too, but she followed her mother into nursing. She worked for a time at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, which was pioneering breast-conserving cancer treatment that attracted young patients from around the world. Dow took an interest in their care and in preserving their fertility. She's written three textbooks. Her third, "Women and Cancer," came out just this year.
At UCF for 11 years, Dow says, "There are so many needs, and it's such a huge state. I just see I can make a difference here."
This year, she's finishing a quality-of-life study of 256 central Florida breast cancer survivors. Participants received face-to-face visits, follow-up calls and audio and written materials, including tip sheets (internet info sometimes overwhelms more than helps).
Patients discussed pain, fatigue, fear, lymphedema -- swelling in the arms -- and issues like returning to work. Those who got the intervention scored much higher, much sooner on a battery of quality-of-life tests than a control group that got the intervention after six months. Survivors in the control group actually declined in quality-of-life measures before rebounding but never reached the level of those that had the intervention earlier.
Says Dow: "It supports what we believe about survivors -- that with education and support they can do very well after treatment."