Empowering Patients

“Physicians speak medical-ese. But it’s not their fault—that’s what they learned in medical school. Sometimes, however, they’re not skilled at translating that into everyday English,” says Susan Leclair ’68, chancellor professor emerita of medical laboratory science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “I’m a translator. I translate science to medicine and medicine to English.”

Leclair, who also served as a senior associate at the UMass Center for Molecular Diagnostics, has used these skills for the past 40 years to educate students as well as to help patients interpret all different kinds of laboratory tests. The latter she does through three online portals: the Association for Cancer Online Resources, where she answers questions from disease-specific listservs; the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) Consumer Information Response team, which she created in 1999 and has replied to over a half a million inquiries via the site Labtestsonline.org; and PatientPower. “For ASCLS, I answer questions on blood chemistry on Mondays and hematology on Thursdays,” she says. “For PatientPower, I’ve made more than two dozen videos.” These range from the technical, “Can Calcium Values Help Diagnose Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?,” to the practical, “Breaking Down Patient-Doctor Language Barriers.”

Her patient advocacy work is in addition to her sizeable academic achievements. Leclair has written numerous books and articles and given more than 200 presentations on topics ranging from advanced hematology to human genetics and bioethics. In 2015, the ASCLS honored her with a lifetime achievement award—making her only the second person to receive such an honor. She is also a three-time recipient of the Robin H. Mendelson Memorial Award for Outstanding Service to the Profession; two-time recipient of the ASCLS/Kendall Sherwood Award for Outstanding Service to the Hematology/Hemostasis Section of the Scientific Assembly; and received the Yvonne Sandstroem Memorial Award for Service to the University of Massachusetts.

Forward Progress

Leclair graduated from Stonehill with a degree in medical technology, where she was a student of the beloved Fr. Francis Hurley, C.S.C. “Fr. Hurley was a great teacher and superbly sensitive,” she remembers. “He encouraged generations of women to go into the sciences. He was also one of the kindest men I ever knew.”

And though she went on to earn a master’s in medical laboratory science from UMass Dartmouth and a doctorate in clinical hematology from Walden University, she credits Stonehill for setting her on the path to success. “Looking back, I can see the world of opportunities that opened to me because of my liberal arts education,” she says. Leclair learned how to think critically, which helped her to ask good scientific questions. “And because I knew how to write, I ended up serving three terms as editor-in-chief of Clinical Lab Science, the ASCLS professional journal.”

Though Leclair retired from teaching in 2015, she continues to help patients navigate the sometimes-complicated world of clinical laboratory tests. “Hematology provides so much information to the physician and the patient. But nothing is black and white. You have to put every test in the context of the patient—their age, their gender, or other conditions they might have,” she says.

Leclair is particularly encouraged by all of the progress in diagnosing and treating blood cancers. “To me, it’s wonderful that blood cancers are no longer death sentences. So many of them are now manageable, chronic conditions. It’s amazing and exciting to be part of that evolution.” 

Speaking Up

Kenneth Lizotte ’70 has spent his career helping transform business professionals into “thought leaders,” thus separating them from the competitive pack.

His one-two punch for making the leap? “Publish a book and get out and speak about it,” says Lizotte, who is chief imaginative officer at Emerson Consulting Group in Concord. The five-person firm works with consultants, entrepreneurs, business experts and attorneys, turning them into sought-after authorities on specialized topics.

Lizotte follows his own advice with his most recent book, The Speaker’s Edge: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Locating and Landing Lots of Speaking Gigs. The book follows The Expert’s Edge: Become the Go-To Authority that People Turn to Every Time, joining the five other titles to Lizotte’s credit.

A thought leader in his own right, Lizotte has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio, to name a few. He’s published hundreds of articles and co-founded the National Writers Union.

Speaking even ties into Lizotte’s place of work. Emerson Consulting Group takes its name from one of Concord’s most well-known former residents, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lizotte explains why: Though Concord was a who’s who of the mid-19th century—home to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau, among others, “Emerson was perhaps the best-known author of all of them worldwide in his lifetime. But then, as now, writers didn’t necessarily make a lot of money, so he realized he needed to go on a speaking tour each year so he could pay his bills. Speaking engagements added to his income.” And no doubt helped Emerson become a thought leader. 

Ounce of Prevention

Spring is here, which means so is allergy season. Allergist/immunologist Emily (Unger) Weis, M.D. ’99 sees many allergy sufferers in her upstate New York practice, Allergy, Asthma, Immunology of Rochester. Weis, who earned her M.D. at Albany Medical College, also holds a master’s degree in natural science from Roswell Park Cancer Institute at the University of Buffalo. She offers the following tips for taming the nasal allergy beast.

Watch the news: “Local weather typically includes a report on the pollen count,” she says. “When the count is high, don’t sleep with your windows open. Pollen counts rise just before dawn.”

Keep it dry: “Dust mites, one of the most common indoor allergens, love humidity,” she notes. If you’re allergic to dust mites, keep the relative humidity in your house below 45 percent. “Washing your sheets weekly in hot water can also help.”

Take medication: “There are many good over-the-counter medications today,” says Weis. “In addition, there’s also a great new alternative to allergy shots for those suffering from ragweed and grass allergies: tablets that you put under your tongue.” She further explains, “We finally have FDA-approved sublingual immunotherapy here in the U.S. It’s revolutionized the way we treat allergies to ragweed and grass. However, you still need to see an allergist to get tested and treated.”

While at Stonehill, Weis was a two-year captain of the equestrian team. She owns two horses and still rides competitively. “Intercollegiate horse shows have alumni divisions,” she explains. “I still ride under the Stonehill name.” And that’s nothing to sneeze at. 

League of Their Own

There’s a new coach on campus, Angel Nieves ’08, and he’s coaching one of Stonehill’s newest sports: women’s club soccer. “This team opens up opportunities for students who enjoy playing soccer but who may not be able to play at the most competitive level,” he says.

According to Nieves, who by day is an IT sales executive at the data-integration company Talend, the team started practicing this fall with 30 walk-on players. “By next fall, I’d like players to be ready for when the team is accepted into the Northeast Region I Club Soccer League,” he says.

This is not Nieves’ first coaching gig. He’s coached youth soccer and served as assistant freshman coach at Brockton High School. Coaching at Stonehill is special, however: It’s his first time as a college coach, and it’s for his alma mater, where he played varsity soccer for the Skyhawks.

“It’s nice not to have to go back to the basics. I could be more creative because these players already have a good foundation. My goal for our first year in the league is to make the College proud. I want to earn the other teams’ respect,” he says, noting that the roster includes powerhouses like Harvard, Dartmouth and Bentley. “I want them to know that when they play Stonehill, it’s going to be a battle.”

Hands down, Nieves, who studied marketing and communication as an undergraduate, says his favorite part of the job is the students.

“Stonehill has such wonderful, hard-working students. It brings me back to my own college experience, “ he recalls. “I want to teach them all that I can about soccer and life—and about how much Stonehill can do for them.” 

Heart and Seoul

AKA Seoul, a film by Los Angeles filmmaker Jon Maxwell ’01, follows five Korean adoptees as they return to the land of their birth in search of their birth families.

The film is a sequel to Maxwell’s 2014 film AKA Dan, which chronicles the trip alternative rapper and Korean adoptee AKA Dan made to meet his birth family.

As someone adopted from Korea himself, “making AKA Dan was a cathartic process for me,” Maxwell explains. After Stonehill, Maxwell went to Korea, looking for his birth family but was ultimately unsuccessful in locating them. “This was a way for me to see that process through.”

“AKA Seoul is more meta,” Maxwell says. “Rather than one person’s story, it’s about the different perspectives these adoptees have as they see Korea for the first time.

“One of the women in the film grew up in a tiny fishing village in Sweden, where she was the only Asian,” he recounts. “At the wrap party in Korea, she talked about how she used to fantasize about walking into a snowbank, laying down and staying there because she felt so isolated. ‘But then I found the AKA Dan movie, and it saved my life,’ she said. To hear that—across the world—my work affected her life in a positive way…it’s very humbling.”

A marketing major at Stonehill, Maxwell credits a creative process class with Professor Warren Dahlin for getting him interested in film. In an interview with the Center for Asian American Media, Maxwell noted that Dahlin encouraged him to do something creative as a final project, so he made a short film. “That was really the beginning,” he recalled.

AKA Seoul, which made appearances at film festivals in San Diego and San Francisco, is available on the NBC Asian American channel as well as on YouTube and Facebook. 

SIGN OF A LEGACY Three generations of the Giambanco family—all proudly dressed in their Stonehill gear—came together for a family photo this past fall. S. Peter Giambanco ’61 [center], who began the family’s Stonehill legacy and is now a member of the Pillar Society, is surrounded by two of his sons, his daughter-in-law and four of his grandchildren: [l to r] Victoria ’18, Peter ’19, Deborah (Ballirano) ’93, Gregg ’93, Mark ’89, Devon ’17 and Kayla ’19.