Whether it involves helping international guests navigate the local area or scheduling events that take place overseas, Kris Swank ensures that the Oncological Sciences Center's operations run smoothly.
Swank has worked for the center, which is part of Discovery Park, since its inception in 2005. She diligently toils behind the scenes to bring the visions of the center's staff — and affiliated Purdue faculty members — to fruition.
What are some events you help coordinate for the Oncological Sciences Center?
I coordinate the annual Cancer Culture and Community events, for example. Each fall, the center partners with the College of Liberal Arts, the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts, and others on campus to hold events that chronicle local folks' cancer experiences through literature, art and film. We invite a nationally known artist to campus, and the artist gives a presentation in Fowler Hall. We schedule ancillary events around that, and we also hold events such as bone marrow registries and community health fairs to help raise awareness.
For example, in 2011 we partnered with Athletics and the School of Nursing for our bone marrow registry effort. We held it at Stewart Center, and Purdue's cheerleaders helped make the environment very fun. We ended up getting more than 1,000 people registered during that event.
This November, our guest artist will be Dan Fagin, who is director of the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. He's written a book called Toms River. It's a true story about a town in New Jersey that experienced a cluster of childhood cancers due to local water and air pollution.
The Cancer Culture and Community committee — which includes faculty and staff from Liberal Arts as well as from the center and across campus — is in the process of planning this year's events. It's my job to make them happen.
What's an example of an international event you help coordinate?
The center annually holds the International Breast Cancer Prevention Symposium, which is part of its breast cancer prevention and nutrition project. Every other year, the symposium is at Purdue. On off years, it's held somewhere internationally in one of our partner countries.
The symposium brings together international public health actors, advocates and breast cancer researchers to discuss a specific aspect of breast cancer prevention. In addition to coordinating all the details — including making travel and logistical arrangements for our folks when they must travel overseas — I make sure everyone who visits Purdue for this event is comfortable and happy.
That could mean, for example, that my job is as simple as driving a visitor back to their hotel. Or it can be as complicated as helping the minister of public health from Uruguay find a gift for her 7-year-old granddaughter. I happily do whatever I can to make our visitors comfortable.
What are some other projects you're working on for the center?
Along with a group that includes representatives from the YWCA, the American Cancer Society, Horizon BioAdvance and both local hospitals, we are working on compiling a cancer resource guide for local patients. Our vision is to provide a booklet about local cancer resources that will be available in local doctors' offices. We're still looking for funding for producing a printed version, but we'll soon put a digital version on the center's website at www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/oncological.
What's your favorite thing about working for the center?
Hands down, it's working with the visionaries we have here at Purdue. It's easy to work with folks who are so passionate about their work because I know the end result will have a positive effect on the community.
When I interviewed for this job, I simply interviewed for an open administrative assistant position for a new center in Discovery Park. When I realized that the center dealt with cancer research and advocacy, I knew it was meant to be because my mother was battling cancer.
Cancer is a very important issue to me. I'm honored to do this work with such world-class colleagues and visionaries.