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MacDonald Lives

Her Passion for



Alumna Amber MacDonald works with a team of graduate students at the University of Tennessee on cancer research.

A fter Bluefield College, alumna Amber MacDonald began pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Tennessee. There, she became a lab manager and a graduate teaching assistant and soon began living her passion doing cancer research. MacDonald came to Bluefield College from Beckley, West Virginia, in 2008. She was extremely involved as a student, serving as a senator and secretary for the Student Government Association and a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society. She also competed in softball and cross-country and was named a National Christian College Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete. Off campus, she was a board member for the Windhorse Healing Arts Center. “There were plenty of opportunities at Bluefield,” said MacDonald. “The key was just to work hard. It was stressful, but in the end it was worth it, and I would never trade my time at Bluefield.” MacDonald studied exercise and sport science (ESS) at BC, serving as a student athletic trainer for four years and earning the ESS Most Outstanding Student Award. But, it was her participation in the Honors Program that she credits for her success during and after Bluefield. The Honors Program, she said, challenged her to start research that

interested her. She chose nutrition and cancer and fell in love with the idea of using a proper diet to prevent and treat the disease. “Bluefield College was the place where I found my passion,” said MacDonald. “Because of the passion I developed at Bluefield, God then led me to the University of Tennessee where I am actually getting to put my passion into action.” After earning her bachelor’s degree from BC in 2012, MacDonald took her passion to UT to pursue a master’s degree in cellular molecular nutrition. While serving as a lab manager and a graduate teaching assistant, she conducted cancer research. Her specific lab worked with Zyflamend, a poly-herbal supplement made from 10 herbs. Their goal: to determine how Zyflamend activates AMPK (adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase). “The activation of AMPK is a very interesting and clever way of preventing the growth of cancer,” said MacDonald. “By activating AMPK, you can essentially starve the tumor of making the nutrients it needs to grow.” In fact, MacDonald and the graduate students in her lab determined that Zyflamend activates AMPK in a model of advanced or late stage prostate cancer. She traveled to San Diego, California, in

April to present her research at Experimental Biology, a national research conference. Soon after, she graduated from UT, and now she said she plans to pursue a Ph.D. and continue her cancer research. “There is no doubt I would not be in this position today if it were not for the outstanding faculty at Bluefield College who encouraged me to follow my passion and, most importantly, what God has planned for my life,” said MacDonald. “Not only are the teachers experts in their fields, but they are also Christian leaders. I was always encouraged to pursue the plan God had for my life, and the ESS Department was the beginning of developing my passion for cancer research.”

Alumna Amber MacDonald presents her research on the effects of Zyflamend on the growth of cancer.

Story by BC student marketing associate Whitney Browning

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