Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the March 15 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Lauren Marquette recently joined the national office of breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen. She started as senior regional manager for state policy and advocacy in January.
“First day as a working mom and also started a brand new job. I like to keep things interesting,” she joked. Her daughter, Gwyndolyn Ruth, was born in October. She arrived early and was in the neonatal intensive care unit for a couple of weeks but is healthy.
“It’s been such a surreal experience because some of my friends never even saw me pregnant because it was during COVID,” Marquette said. “Now, I have a 4 ½-month-old, and they haven’t even met her yet.”
Marquette, 39, was director of mission services for the Ozark Affiliate of Susan G. Komen in Springdale when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her to the Forty Under 40 class in 2011.
She became interim executive director for the area organization in May 2015 after the previous director died. She was named the executive director two months later.
In that role, she worked with Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, to enact legislation to expand health insurance coverage for breast health. The first allowed oral chemotherapy to be covered by insurance the same as IV chemotherapy.
“He did a fantastic job of getting bipartisan support,” she said. “We did grassroots efforts to talk to senators and representatives about the importance so that passed.”
Afterward, they worked to enact legislation so patients with metastatic breast cancer wouldn’t have to fail first with medication to get the needed treatment. She explained its importance with multiple chronic illnesses and that those with metastatic breast cancer are “fighting the clock with quality of life and don’t need the time to fail first.”
“With those two pieces of legislation under my belt, I’ve worked closely with the advocacy group at Komen headquarters,” she said. “They reached out to me and said they would love for me to join their team. I cover eight states and their policy work.
“Everybody’s in session right now. It’s like walking into a brand new job with a brand new baby, and it’s like 90 to nothing,” she joked.
Her current role includes work in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. She has been engaging with each state government to learn how they work. “It’s been quite the learning curve,” she said.
In Arkansas, she’s on a coalition that recently worked to enact legislation to allow general illness patients who need medication to not have to fail first to get the treatment required. She’s also working with Leding on legislation for insurance to cover diagnostic imaging, including mammograms and breast ultrasounds and MRIs. Many Arkansans cannot afford to pay $1,500 out of pocket for such imaging, and typically, insurance only covers the screening mammogram, she noted.
While she worked on policy as an executive director, her new role allows her to do so on a larger scale.
“I’m a social worker by trade, and I’ve always loved the macro level of care and helping,” she said. “And policy has always been something that I really believe strongly in because that can make the biggest difference with the biggest bang for the buck.”
She said she misses talking with area survivors, sponsors and donors. But she’s replaced those relationships with lawmakers, advocates and ambassadors working toward a broader goal.
She works remotely and is not traveling because of COVID. Lawmaker meetings and testimony are completed virtually. She’s one of five employees who handle regional management of policy and advocacy for Susan G. Komen.
The pandemic led the organization to consolidate its local offices and change its fundraising events, such as the More Than Pink Walk. The organization’s signature event, which was rebranded from Race for the Cure, was hosted virtually in 2020 and might occur similarly this year.
She and her husband, Daniel Balls, reside in Fayetteville with their daughter. Marquette plans to remain involved as a volunteer for Susan G. Komen in the area. In the long term, she might run for public office here. She enjoys cooking, reading and the outdoors.