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Graduate School of Professional Psychology
COPE oncology psychology DU

Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence


Meet the COPE Founder

Source: DU VideoManager
  • Diane M. Simard

    Diane M. Simard

    Diane's Story

    On January 27, 2015, at 7:10 a.m., I had a routine annual mammogram that likely spared my life. 

    At the time I was feeling so “normal” that it wasn’t until a week later I even realized I hadn’t yet received the test results. Soon after, I was notified the results were concerning, so I was called back for multiple tests and a biopsy. My world came crashing down when I received the dreaded phone call on February 11, informing me I had been diagnosed with Stage III infiltrating ductile carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer.

    I panicked, grieved, got angry and quickly accepted this new uninvited challenge. There was much to do and learn, so I became a sponge for information. A few cancer survivors I met with encouraged me to take a sabbatical from work, live on the couch and wallow in self-pity. But I couldn’t do that. I was determined to face my battle with strength, courage and determination.

    As I began the chemotherapy regimen, I was asked numerous times by medical professionals how I was faring emotionally. They encouraged me to attend breast cancer support group meetings, but I cringed at the thought of sharing my thoughts and feelings with a crowd. When I asked my oncologist whether she could refer me to a counselor who has experience working with a female executive cancer patient like me, she said mental health professionals, including licensed psychologists, typically don’t specialize in an area like cancer. I couldn’t believe it, but I was too sick to care. Instead, I decided to express my feelings in a journal.

    Five long months later I finally finished 16 brutal chemo treatments. In addition to losing my hair, losing weight, gaining weight (steroids!) and experiencing extreme nausea, halfway through the miserable experience I ended up in the emergency room with a debilitating bout of vertigo. But I survived it and emerged with a profound sense of gratitude. I felt an overwhelming need to positively channel my experience and was determined to find out why so little emphasis is placed on the psychological aspect of cancer.

    Thankfully, my dear friend, Ashley Haliko, introduced me to Dr. Shelly Smith-Acuna and Dr. Nicole Taylor with GSPP before the first of my two lumpectomy surgeries. After a series of exploratory meetings, we realized that no psychology training programs exist in the U.S. that focus on psychosocial oncology at the graduate level. We sketched out the concept for what has become the Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence (COPE), which is going to help fill a critical training need.

    I have since completed the surgery and radiation parts of my cancer treatment and have moved on to what I call the “close monitoring” phase of my journey. The journal I kept will be published as a book called Champagne with You, and a portion of the proceeds will provide scholarship funds to future COPE students. 

    In closing, it is important to note that I was tested for all the cancer genes - including the breast cancer genes – and have none of them. My largest breast tumor was only about 2 cm so it was only detectable through imaging, yet the cancer had already spread to two lymph nodes. Cancer doesn’t care about logic.

    The National Cancer Institute has made the staggering projection that one in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lifetimes. In addition to continuing our quest to find cures for the more than 100 known types of cancer, it is imperative to provide individualized, professional psychological support for cancer survivors and their families. We are a mighty many, and there is much more life ahead!


    Thank you for your interest.

    Diane M. Simard

    Click to learn more about Diane Simard's background

    Diane Simard is President of 2G Associates, a business strategy accelerator and angel investor in six emerging technologies companies ranging from solar-electric manned and unmanned aircraft to medical devices to cybersecurity. In addition, she serves as Sr. Vice President and is a board member of Bye Aerospace, an engineering R&D company applying clean energy solutions to innovative aircraft designs for the business aviation and defense markets. She is also a board member of Aero Electric Aircraft Corp., which is developing the solar-electric flight trainer airplane called Sun Flyer.                                 

    Diane’s experience includes service on several corporate and advisory boards, including an electronics recycling company, an unmanned aerial systems company in Albuquerque (founding shareholder), a community bank and an IT consulting company.                      

    Prior to starting 2G, she was Director of Community Relations and co-owner of IITC, an IT services company. Before joining IITC, Diane was Vice President of Marketing for a financial services company in Dallas, Texas, where she directed a proposal staff that secured almost $100 million in contracts to collect defaulted student loans.                       

    A passionate advocate for accessibility to higher education, Diane served on the Dean’s Board of Advisors for Colorado Women’s College at the University of Denver, where she was a guest lecturer and panelist on entrepreneurship.  She is a Director Emeritus on the Community College of Aurora Foundation Board (Past Chair) and previously served on the Board and Executive Committee of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, where she was the first female to chair the Chamber’s Defense Council. In addition, she was one of 12 advisors to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a Presidential appointment where she represented Region 8 on the Executive Committee for the National Advisory Council.                    

    In addition to supporting small businesses, Diane has been an avid supporter of the military. She attended the May 2008 Air Force National Security Forum (Air War College) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. In 2004, she was selected by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to attend the Dept. of Defense’s Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC) in Europe. Highlights of the conference included visits with U.S. military personnel in Azerbaijan and Bosnia, and a visit to the USS Enterprise off the coast of Rota, Spain, where she experienced a tailhook landing and catapult launch off the Enterprise. During this time, she represented the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base in the commanding General’s Civilian Advisory Group for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs.                           

    Philanthropy is a key part of Diane’s community support, and in February 2012 she underwrote the Donna Moravec Art Gallery at the Community College of Aurora, a student-run art gallery named after her late mother. She was also the first $50,000 contributor to the Colorado Freedom Memorial, honoring Colorado Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. She also endowed a scholarship at the University of Denver and is a member of the Mile High United Way Tocqueville Society.

    Past recognition of Diane’s business leadership includes the Bob Cardenas Award for her support of veterans and the military, Aurora Chamber Woman of the Year and Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and was an honor graduate in business from Central Community College in Columbus, Nebr. 

    Diane is married to (GSPP Board of Friends member) Rene Simard, retired Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant and current Executive VP and Chief of Military Affairs for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. Rene received his Master’s degree in Organization and Leadership from University of Denver in June 2013.