What Joanne Lagmay, M.D., defines as her dream job is often surprising to others.
As a pediatric oncologist at Shands Hospital for Children at UF, she treats children with solid tumors and more specifically sarcomas, or bone and muscle tumors.
“When I meet people in a social setting, I dread the part where they ask me what I do and when I tell them I’m a pediatric oncologist, their initial reaction is to feel bad for me,” said Lagmay. “But I love what I do. I am incredibly privileged to be in the position that I’m in.”
Lagmay came to Shands Hospital for Children at UF in 2009 from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Sam Blakemore was one of her very first patients at UF.
“He had just gotten his biopsy,” said Lagmay. “What struck me when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma [cancer of the bone], is that he was younger than most of my patients. It is more common to see osteosarcoma in teens.”
Sam may have been young, but he was an old soul.
“He was so mature. He did everything he needed to do with very little encouragement. He rarely gave excuses. His family was always there to support him every step of the way,” said Lagmay. “Sam loved shooting NERF guns, so I had to be on the lookout anytime I walked into his room. He got me more than once.”
Lagmay leads the UF Center for Excellence in Pediatric Sarcoma. She participates in a collaborative research project at UF geared toward finding a cure for osteosarcoma and hopes to translate these research findings to conducting clinical trials to help children like Sam. She is involved in two early phase trials currently open for enrollment. The Saracatinib trial is sponsored by the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration and enrolls children with osteosarcoma who have experienced a relapse in their lungs. Another trial adds the diabetes drug, Metformin, to a chemotherapy regimen to help children with recurrent solid tumors get back in remission.
“It’s a long, hard journey, but it’s not all dark. Being around these children is very humbling. I am very lucky to do what I do.”