Improving cancer care through philanthropy & service
Through her work with the Markey Cancer Foundation, Lois Reynolds has made a lasting contribution to advancing care in the Commonwealth and beyond.
Lois Reynolds’ husband, Billy, calls her a professional volunteer. She has volunteered for and held positions on various charitable non-profit organizations at the local, state and national level, including the UK Markey Cancer Foundation.
“Lois is the perfect example of using philanthropy and volunteerism to live your values out loud,” said foundation president and CEO Michael Delzotti. “She is a woman of action, in service to others.” During her time with the Markey Cancer Foundation, Reynolds took on leadership roles, including board secretary and membership on every event committee. “I’m never going to be in a position to be the largest financial donor, but I am a doer,” she said. “I said I’d be on every committee, be at every meeting and help plan any event.”
Reynolds saw the need to harness the giving power of women and make an even more meaningful difference in cancer research. After talking with Delzotti, Reynolds spearheaded the creation of Markey Women Strong in 2017. Every year, 100 members contribute $1,000 each to support female cancer researchers and vote to award two $50,000 grants. “We know women are the ones who guide the philanthropy dollars in the household,” she said. “They are the ones making decisions about where these funds should go.”
Markey Women Strong members host informal receptions in their homes and the researchers give them an exclusive look into how donations impact groundbreaking cancer discoveries at Markey. “These female researchers present their information to hundreds of people at conferences, but it’s very technical,” Reynolds said. “We want to hear about their kids, why they chose Kentucky and what they plan to do next. I’m proud of Markey Women Strong and happy that it’s still going on. People invite their friends to join, and it’s become a network.”
After starting out as a dental assistant at 17 in her small Eastern Kentucky hometown of Virgie, Reynolds and her family moved to Lexington in 1983. She continued her dental career as an oral surgery assistant and also worked in health education and public relations for the UK College of Dentistry and Department of Emergency Medicine. Throughout her career, she has been an oral health advocate and spent five years with Oral Health America as a national spokesperson and director of program development. In 1998, she started Lois Reynolds & Associates, LLC, a consulting and speaking firm, providing project management and health care management.
Reynolds recently took a step back after serving 15 years as a trustee on the Markey Cancer Foundation board. She felt it was time the board had an injection of fresh ideas. Scaling back her involvement also gives her time to focus on her family, especially her adult daughter Aly, who has special needs.
Cancer has touched Reynolds’ life many times. Her Uncle Bill died of melanoma at the age of 42, and her mother passed away from lung cancer. Other family members and friends over the years have battled cancer and she herself has had many non-melanoma skin cancers removed. In the past, many of Reynolds’ friends and family traveled outside Kentucky to seek cancer treatment. Now Markey is equipped to provide better care for people across the state, ensuring no one needs to leave the Commonwealth to get world-class cancer treatment, she said. Patients at Markey benefit from new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials only offered at an NCI-designated center like Markey.
The cancer treatment and research Markey provides are essential for people of Kentucky, Reynolds said. The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network, a collaboration with community hospitals across the Commonwealth, offers care for rural residents who might not otherwise have many options. “Markey has made such an impact on access through all of their outreach and all of their facilities and affiliates across the state,” she said. “And the foundation is an incredibly vital part of those efforts.”