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Exercise science major uses research projects to help her mom recover from cancer

By Luanne Williams

Connecting what you’re taught in the classroom to the world around you should be the goal for every student. For Wingate exercise science major Gracie Moree, the opportunity to do research that could address an immediate need within her family was both rewarding and inspiring.

Her mother, an ER nurse who had fostered her interest in a healthcare career, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, when Moree was a sophomore.

“I was taking Principles of Resistance Training, and we had to do a project,” Moree says. “My mom was really weak after her cancer treatments, so I talked to my professor, Dr. [Bill] Steffen, about creating an exercise program for my mom.”

The program she created not only helped her mother gain strength and return to work, but it sparked more curiosity in Moree, who decided to take it to the next level with a senior Honors project in Dr. Jenny Bond’s Exercise Prescription for Special Populations class.

The result was a 20-page paper about whether physical activity can potentially decrease the risk of developing cancer and what benefits there are to exercising after a cancer diagnosis.

Moree examined the causes of the four most common types of cancer (prostate, breast, lung and colorectal) and found that many of them, including being overweight, hormonal imbalances, Type 2 diabetes and physical inactivity, could be addressed with exercise. She also studied DNA methylation and its relationship to cancer as well as the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise for cancer survivors.

As part of her poster presentation on the research, she expanded the exercise program she’d first created for her mother, adding aerobics and stretching/flexibility work to the resistance training. She presented her findings in March at the Carolinas’ Exercise Science and Kinesiology Research Symposium and again last month at Wingate’s Wellspring Symposium, where her parents came to show their support.

“Mom is doing great, fully back at work and still exercising,” Moree says. 

The homeschooled commuter student from Burnsville in Anson County is also doing great. She’ll cross the commencement stage next week as one of about two dozen students graduating summa cum laude (with highest honors). And she’s already been accepted into grad school at Winston Salem State University to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.

Undergraduate commencement begins at 9 a.m. May 17 on Wingate’s Academic Quad. Here are the details.

Learn more about studying exercise science at Wingate. Read about another Wingate difference-maker earning his degree next week.

May 10, 2022