Emory Report
February 12, 2007
Volume 59, Number 19

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February 12, 2007
Rule of Lawe

BY kim urquhart

Chuck Lawe has impacted many lives through his work at the Student Counseling Center. Now he is applying the qualities he has become known for — a playful sense of humor, expertise in stress management and the ability to approach a problem from various angles — to his battle with multiple myeloma.

As the counseling center’s associate director of clinical services, Lawe often helps his clients confront issues of life and death. Now he’s using that experience to confront his own. “Cancer is a very powerful and very scary word,” Lawe admits. Yet he remains optimistic that there will one day be a cure for multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that develops in plasma cells.

When Lawe retires from Emory in June after 25 years of service, he does not want gifts or goodbye parties. Instead, he invites his friends to join the fight against multiple myeloma by making a tax-deductible donation to the Winship Cancer Institute. Lawe is undergoing clinical trials and receiving cutting edge treatment at Emory’s nationally known research facility for multiple myeloma. Headed by Dr. Sagar Lonial, the lab is working with the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium and others to accelerate drug development and improve patient outcomes. Financial support is critical for this work to continue.

“I chose Dr. Lonial because he’s a good researcher,” Lawe says. “I wanted somebody who was interested in what was going on in the research arena so that I could understand that I was getting the best treatment I could get.” His doctor visits often become more of “case conferences,” he says. “I believe that under this heading of fighting cancer is a personal responsibility to make sure you are getting the best treatment you can by being informed.”

Lawe was first diagnosed with the disease in 2002. What started out as carpal tunnel syndrome, then back pain, was eventually determined to be multiple myeloma. “It was devastating to me,” Lawe confides. “I was blown away by it initially.”

Yet, he continues, “Has cancer taught me something? Yes it has. One thing I did for myself is to decide early on that I was not going to be angry about it,” he recalls. “I decided that I didn’t want to be a victim; I wanted to take responsibility for what I could do, to help myself fight this disease.” Lawe also has the support of a caring network of family and friends, and he continues to help others stay healthy as well.

“Being a psychologist in a university provides a rare opportunity to work with a population of bright individuals at a key time in their lives where you can have a major impact,” says Lawe, who was honored with the Helen W. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award last May.

“Chuck has had a powerful and long-lasting influence on my life,” wrote a former client in a letter nominating Lawe as an outstanding Campus Life staff member. Another nomination letter cited Lawe’s “compassion for others, sense of and belief in social justice, passion for honesty and ethical inquiry.”

Lawe has made many contributions to his profession and his community since he joined Emory in 1983 as adjunct professor for clinical psychology. As just one example, Lawe uses his expertise in stress management, biofeedback and cognitive behavior therapy to help patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation in the Emory Health Enhancement Program.

He plans to continue to stay involved in such programs even after his retirement. He says retirement will allow him to spend more time “being a good grandfather” to his four grandchildren, who live in Nevada. He is also looking forward to relaxing weekends with his wife and three dogs in their cabin in the North Georgia Mountains, simply “enjoying the solace.”

Lawe also hopes to pass the torch as biofeedback expert, a specialty he developed to help clients manage and change physiological habits, to his successor in the counseling center. Lawe clearly has had many “success stories” at Emory, though he prefers not to call them that. One of Lawe’s fondest moments was when a student, upon leaving a counseling session, told him: “I want to thank you for teaching me to like me.” Yet he maintains a sense of humility. “I come to my work with a willingness to try as best as I can to serve.” He adds: “It really is a two-way street, and I’ve learned a lot.”

It is the intensity of these client relationships that Lawe says he will miss most about his work at Emory. He also will miss the close relationships he has developed with his colleagues. He hopes they will continue to support him, this time by considering a donation to the Winship Cancer Institute.

“Cancer is not just my disease,” Lawe says, noting that cancer impacts so many lives. “This is an exciting time in cancer research. The potential for advancements is very encouraging, and Emory is a place that is working to make significant breakthroughs that can impact all of oncology,” he says. “I’d like to encourage the University community to lend a hand to help Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute move ahead.”

Tax-deductible donations to the Winship Cancer Institute may be sent to the Student Counseling Center, Drawer TT, Suite 207, Cox Hall, Emory University. Checks should be made payable to the Winship Cancer Institute with an indication that the funds are to go to “Dr. Sagar Lonial’s lab in honor of Chuck Lawe.”