Chemistry Student Testifies Before Senate Committee - Y Magazine
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Chemistry Student Testifies Before Senate Committee

By Charlene Winters

Zenia Bringhurst

Zenia Kim Bringhurst

A 21-year-old BYU chemistry major joined Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, baseball hall of famer Rod Carew, and others before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in September to promote increased funding for scientific research.

Zenia Kim Bringhurst of Aloha, Ore., appeared before the committee at the invitation of Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), the committee chair. He worked with the BYU senior after she participated in the Miss Oregon Pageant and had called for increased funding for cancer research as her pageant platform.

“I became interested in cancer research when my cousin became ill with cancer when I was a little girl,” Bringhurst explains. “My grandfather also died last year from prostate cancer, which adds to my interest in finding answers to the disease.

“In high school, I studied tumors in the pathology lab in St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. Later, at BYU, I discovered I loved chemistry and I linked up with a professor, James Thorne, who performs cancer research.”

Bringhurst said each panel participant had had personal experience with diseases, and that her role in speaking was to represent future scientists.

Her address was a call for funding that would encourage her and other future scientists through support of their research endeavors. She began her speech by explaining that because of research, former BYU President Rex E. Lee had an additional nine years of life before cancer finally took his life earlier this year.

“As I explained his struggle with cancer, some senators got teary-eyed, including Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who said, ‘When Rex Lee died, this country lost a great man.’ Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), also talked about President Lee. What really impressed me was how interested and open the senators were. I saw them as real people who shared their feelings. They said they agreed research needs to be increased.”

She said all the presenters addressed a common theme.

Gen. Schwarzkopf, a cancer survivor, compared cancer to a war, and said “Regrettably, this is a war we are not winning.”

Rod Carew showed a video of his daughter Michelle, who died of cancer in April.

“His presentation was really touching,” Bringhurst said.

Bringhurst is scheduled to graduate from BYU in April 1997. She plans to continue graduate work in biochemistry.