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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Connell Senior Honored with Jeff Keith Award

connell school news

Kristen LeClaireEach year, the Office of the Dean for Student Development (ODSD) presents awards to outstanding undergraduate student leaders at Boston College. The awards recognize the contributions of students to the co-curricular life of the University, students' growth in leadership roles, and students' creative involvement in campus life. At the year's ceremony, held on Wednesday, April 11, 2007, Kristen LeClaire (pictured at left) was recognized with the Jeff Keith Award - an award to the individual who has overcome a physical challenge to excel in academic and co-curricular activities.

Kristen's story is a compelling one. In 1991, when she was only 7 years old and in 1st grade, Kristen started having what her pediatrician called "fainting spells." These continued at a frequency of about 3 times/year until January of 2002, when she experienced her first diagnosed siezure. She subsequently was placed on mediation, lost her license. She was also scheduled for and MRI. Over a month later, back in her neurologist's office, one day before her 18th birthday, Kristen was told that she had an abnormal mass in her right temporal lobe. Her doctor agreed to continue medication and watch it. But it was soon clear that she would have to have surgery sooner rather than later. This was just two months into her Freshman year at BC.

As Kristen reflects, "I promised myself I would make the most out of my freshman year.  I became involved with the American Red Cross club mainly because I believed blood donation was important, but I was ineligible because of my medical condition. I also became involved with the Appalachia program my freshman year and went on a community trip to Rural Retreat, VA. despite the fact that I continued to have seizures while there, I had an amazing time.

"I had brain surgery on May 28, 2003, 3 weeks after the school year had ended.  I attempted to come back to BC in the fall but, for a number of reasons, left school after Columbus Day weekend and decided to take a leave of absence for the remainder of the year.   During the year I was home (2003-2004), I began to think about what I could do to raise awareness about epilepsy on campus. I returned to school in Sept 2004 as a sophomore and began my journey."

In the fall of 2004, Kristen returned to Boston College as a sophomore to fulfill her dream of further education and increasing awareness of epilepsy and brain tumors.  Without hesitation, she organized an event in which Dr. Stephen Schachter, of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at BI, came to speak on campus.  She began her advocation.  This was one that she did not plan, but was gleaned from her experiences since she was 7 years old.  In addition, in her sophomore year, Kristen also became one of 2 blood drive coordinators, and held that position through the end of her junior year. Today Kristen is President of the American Red Cross Club.

In 2005, she started volunteering at Camp Sunshine and in 2006, volunteered at both of their Brain Tumor specific sessions.  In 2006, She participated in the Brain Tumor Society's Ride for Research and was asked to contribute her story to their Heads Up newsletter

This year Kristen continues to excell. She has completed her Pediatric clinical and is currently engaged in a Synthesis clinical at Children's on 9 North - a  neuro/neurosurgery/neuro-oncology floor. "This is," she emphasizes, "without a doubt, the population that I want to work with."

"I am not sorry that any of this happened to me.  I probably would not have become involved with Camp Wee Kan Tu, Camp Sunshine, the Epilepsy Foundation or the Brain Tumor Society if it hadn't been for my own experiences.  I have been seizure- and tumor-free for over 3 1/2 years but I continue to advocate for both the epilepsy and brain tumor communities."