It was tempting to lead this week’s Connect, Converse, Catch-Up with a cliché: that Léa-Kristine Demers ‘16 is already on her way to curing cancer. Like most clichés, it is partially true; however, Léa humbly provides nuance.
“Cancer research is a long hard process, a small roll uphill,” she says from her lab in Montreal. “It is going to take thousands of scientists making small advances.” Léa’s contribution is studying how high fat diets can expedite prostate cancer’s progression. It is the focus of her thesis at McGill University in the Faculty of Experimental Medicine as part of her Master of Science. Presently, there is no cure for prostate cancer as we can only extend the quality and expectation of life for those afflicted.
According to Léa, it is understood that diets in high saturated fats contribute to prostate and breast cancer. The riddle she is helping solve is the ever elusive, why. Understanding this can lead to personalized medication, treatment, and precision nutrition.
For Léa, the road to the lab started at King’s-Edgehill School and then caught fire at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. “Merrimack was the best place for me to go to college. I loved it. It gave me a new mindset revolving around science,” she says.
Léa came to King’s-Edgehill to play prep hockey and parlayed that opportunity into a NCAA scholarship. It is often said that the most important position in girl’s hockey is the goaltender, and Léa anchors every team she plays on from between the pipes. She also was a leader in the classroom. “King’s-Edgehill was a key for me. I grew more independent, and I learned English,” says the Quebec native who came to Nova Scotia with her brother and friend, Karl ’15.
“Mr. Hadley and Mrs. Dufour really helped me a lot,” says Léa. “I had good relations with teachers in high school and college. I was away every Friday for hockey at Merrimack and had to go to tutorials, it leads to very positive experiences with faculty.”
Léa also found time to play professional hockey for the Buffalo Beauts, a founding franchise in the National Women’s Hockey League. Léa had some poignant observations about the experience as a pro: “It was eye-opening that the best players in the world had such little funding to play pro,” she says. “Other than the Olympics, women have nowhere to play after college.” Léa’s solution was to switch to cross-fit and pursue science. Her next goal is to attend medical school and pursue a lifelong career in health care or research.
Léa is an example of a young woman who transfers and shares her drive, discipline, and devotion between athletics and academics with ease. Essentially, Léa is the physical manifestation of what being a scholar-athlete is all about.
Mr. Kevin Lakes
Junior School Teacher
Junior School Athletics