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Kristen Olewine Milke: Supporting Breast Cancer Research

When Kristen Olewine Milke, a Harrisburg native, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, she sought the best place to have her surgery. Her nephew, a surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, told her she would receive excellent care at Jefferson, and she soon became the patient of breast surgeon Ronald Weigel, MD, PhD (now head of surgery at the University of Iowa) and clinical associate professor Steven Copit, MD, who performed her reconstructive surgery.

“I became very close to the doctors who treated me,” said Olewine Milke. “This was before the Breast Care Center had been formalized, but I received that same thoughtful, coordinated care – where the oncologists, surgeons, chemotherapy treatments and nursing care were all seamless. I realized I wanted to do more, to have an impact on others’ lives.”

Olewine Milke learned about the breast cancer research that Weigel was then conducting, a role assumed today at Jefferson by Susan Lanza-Jacoby, PhD. Her work includes investigating the possible role of diet as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen on reducing the risk of breast cancer. “I am deeply honored that Kristen continues to support surgical research, many years after she became my patient,” said Dr. Copit. “Her generosity will affect how we treat breast cancer patients in years to come.”

“It’s great to be able to support the ongoing research in the department,” she said, “especially given how hard it is for researchers to find funding today. I don’t have the skills to be a researcher myself,” she continues, “but it seems only right to try to help, out of gratitude for the good care I received.”

Olewine Milke and her father, Benjamin Olewine III, work together to support philanthropic causes that have special meaning for the family, including children’s medicine, wildlife conservation, education and the arts. Over many decades, Benjamin Olewine transformed the Harrisburg grocery store his father had established into a food distribution company that was ultimately bought by the Sysco Corporation. Olewine Milke served as senior vice president of Sysco Food Services of Central Pennsylvania until 2005, when she retired to devote herself full-time to philanthropic work.

Jefferson is still involved in Olewine Milke’s care. “Were I to need surgery again, I would seek out Dr. Copit first and foremost,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m glad to support Jefferson in seeking the best possible ways to meet the needs of breast cancer patients.”

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