For Her, Duke Is A Family Affair

Tumor Registrar Retires After More Than 44 years of Dedicated Service

Deborah “Debbie” Belvin joined Duke University Hospital in 1970 when she was just 18 years old. Her grandmother worked at Duke as did her mother, father and also her sister. After graduating from high school in Durham, it only made sense that Belvin, too, would sign on with Duke. Now more than 44 years later, Belvin has retired; she is the last of her family to bid Duke farewell.

“I started out working in Cardiology,” said the Hillsborough resident. “My job was typing EKG reports. Everything was so very different back then. I have watched Duke expand and grow into what is now virtually a city.”

Belvin eventually teamed-up in 1985 with Duke Oncology working for the Tumor Registry.

“In the 29 years I’ve been with the Tumor Registry, I’ve seen technology rapidly evolve,” Belvin said. “I’ve loved my job as a tumor registrar. My work was like a big puzzle that over time comes together, piece by piece.”

Through the collection and transmission of data, the Duke Tumor Registry contributes to the knowledge of cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The registry provides cancer incidence, treatment and outcome information and trend data for administrative planning and marketing. It is also important for the development of support programs, quality improvement and research activities. This information is collected and submitted to the North Carolina Cancer Registry in compliance with state reporting requirements.

“Debbie has been a team player,” said Wendy Gregory, BS, RHIA, CTR, director of the Tumor Registry. “She was always willing to help her peers and at meetings she always asked the important questions. Debbie also has a great sense of humor and always kept us laughing.”

Belvin, whose mother worked in the Pink Smock and whose sister retired eight years ago as director of the Duke Auxiliary, has appreciated the support and benefits Duke has provided. She is the mother of two grown children. Both received tuition assistance through the Duke Children’s Tuition Grant.

“I very much appreciate the opportunities I’ve received through my affiliation with Duke,” Belvin said. “Duke is family. I loved the camaraderie, and I really will miss my work. ”

Belvin knows what it is to battle cancer. She herself was treated at Duke for breast cancer in 2009. Although she underwent a partial mastectomy and then radiation, she was able to avoid chemotherapy due to breakthrough science involving the Oncotype DX® breast cancer test, a unique genomic test that reviews at the activity of certain genes in breast tumor tissue to provide personalized information not available through any other test.

According to Belvin, her recurrence score indicated that her relapse risk was in a lower range, suggesting that chemotherapy would provide only minimal benefit. She will until 2020, however, continue to take letrozole, a form of hormone therapy, to reduce the amount of estrogen produced in the body.

Belvin, 63, doesn’t plan to slow down much during her retirement years. Belvin and her husband, Conner, have been married for 36 years. They have four grandchildren living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The couple tries to visit often. Belvin’s youngest daughter is a teacher, and Belvin hopes to volunteer as much as possible to help in the classroom.

“Obviously, after more than 44 years at Duke, Debbie has certainly been a loyal employee,” said Gregory. “She has taken great pride in her work and has encouraged others to do the same by her example. We will all miss her for a lot of reasons, but I will especially miss her sense of humor. She always makes me smile.”

For more information on the Duke Cancer Institute Tumor Registry, visit DCI Research Programs. Visit Duke Human Resources to learn more about the Duke Children’s Tuition Grant.