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Omaha Magazine

Breaking Down Barriers to Care

Sep 26, 2019 12:48PM ● By Tamsen Butler

Ask Karen Daneu about her role as executive director of Susan G. Komen Great Plains and she diverts the conversation back to the work done by others in this driven organization.

Komen Great Plains is on a mission to end breast cancer. “We’re breaking down barriers to care,” said Daneu, explaining the work Komen Great Plains does across Nebraska and South Dakota to spread awareness and provide preventative screenings to people who might not otherwise get screened.

After nearly eight years as executive director, Daneu will step down from her role in December. She doesn’t know if she’ll be involved after stepping down but predicts she will “definitely be in the background.”

Luckily, other people are willing to talk about Daneu’s accomplishments. “During her tenure at Komen Great Plains, Karen worked to ensure the organization was recognized in Nebraska and the Dakotas as the leader in breast health education, affordable breast cancer screening options, treatment support, and breast cancer research,” said Dawn Gonzales, board president. “Daneu worked to establish relationships with community partners to help women overcome obstacles to breast health care and improve timely access to affordable breast health screening and treatment services for underserved women and men.”

Daneu is passionate about breast cancer awareness largely because of her experience of her own mother dying 31 years ago from this devastating disease. “My kids never saw their grandma,” Daneu said. “I have two daughters and many friends; being a woman and getting older makes me want to help change things.”

Before serving as executive director, Daneu was an Air Force pilot, then a staff officer, and then spent time as a civilian contractor. She volunteered for Komen Great Plains and served as a board member before accepting the role of executive director.

Though Daneu seems apprehensive to speak about her accomplishments, her eyes light up when she talks about the mobile 3-D mammography coach in Nebraska, created in partnership with Methodist Health and First National Bank. Daneu keeps a miniature version of the coach in her meeting room and smiles as she holds the small model. “It’s the only one in the state,” she said. “It breaks down barriers to care. We’ve provided over 500 mammograms.” Beyond providing mammograms, the mammography coach staff also provides education. “We make sure, if they’re diagnosed, they know their options for treatment.”

From lunch-and-learns for local corporations to the annual “More Than Pink” walk (formerly known as “Race for the Cure”), Komen Great Plains stays busy in pursuit of their mission to breaking down barriers to care—and the eventual goal of ending breast cancer. “We continue to expand educational opportunities,” Daneu said.

What’s next for Daneu? “I’m just going to do a lot of things,” she said, likely the most accurate prediction for a woman who doesn’t seem to like sitting still for long. “We all bear the burden of this disease. It’s a devastating disease; people should still be mad about this.” It’s unlikely retirement will extinguish Daneu’s passion for this important cause, or even slow her down at all.

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This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Karen Daneu full image