• April 20, 2014

Doctor Offers Students a Dose of Prevention

Doctor Offers Students a Dose of Prevention 1

James Byard

Cheri LeBlanc

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close Doctor Offers Students a Dose of Prevention 1

James Byard

Cheri LeBlanc

If Cheri LeBlanc's husband hadn't gotten a job at Washington University in St. Louis, she might never have given up her post as a senior physician at Boston University, to take what she now calls her ideal job.

A "lovely happenstance of things" led Dr. LeBlanc, who is 51, to her new role as director of student health and wellness at Washington University's Habif Health and Wellness Center, she says.

Her husband, Azad Bonni, left his job as a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School to become chair of the department of anatomy and neurobiology at Washington's School of Medicine last February. He had begun there, part time, four months earlier, and traveled between St. Louis and Boston for nine months.

Meanwhile, the couple prepared their two younger children to move away from their hometown, their schools, and their older brother, a student at Boston University. Dr. LeBlanc and the children joined Dr. Bonni in St. Louis in June.

"Once you realize you can make a home somewhere else, it's really freeing," she says.

Alan Glass, director of Student Health Services at Washington University, had met Dr. LeBlanc earlier and stayed in contact because of their common interest in college students' health. The idea of having a department to promote student health had been floating around for some years. Dr. Le­Blanc seemed like the right person to direct the new department, in part because she wanted to remain a clinical physician and was happy to combine that with working with students and faculty on wellness.

In the new position, which she started in August, the top priority is preventive care for students, like sexual-health education and an emphasis on getting exercise, she says. Students are in such a critical place when they enter college, she says, and they aren't yet jaded about health care.

Though this is the first time Dr. LeBlanc and Dr. Bonni have worked full time at the same university, she has followed him from one city to another before.

When the two first met, they were both medical interns at Kingston General Hospital, in Canada. One night, she says, she pricked herself as she was putting the cap on a needle and went to the emergency room. The man who would become her husband came in to see how she was doing and then offered to finish her shift for her. Soon after, they began dating.

They lived apart for a year when he went off to Harvard and she worked in Montreal. After they married, she joined him in Boston, then served as a doctor at Northeastern University for 13 years, Simmons College for three, and Boston University for five.

Though Dr. LeBlanc worried that leaving Boston, with its East Coast mind-set, might require some adjustment, St. Louis reminds her of Montreal, she says, and makes her feel closer to her roots.

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