Dr. Mary Lokuta is a 1988 Honors Program graduate with a B.A. in Biology from Saint Francis University. This year marks her 30th anniversary as an SFU alumna. She traveled from her home in Oregon, WI to present the keynote address at the 2018 first-year convocation.
In her keynote address last Friday, Dr. Lokuta shared her connection to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which was read by all first-year students over the summer. She discussed with the students the rights individuals have, and the rights they should have when it comes to informed consent in the medical field.
For the past 10 years, Dr. Lokuta has worked at Stratatech, a bio-med research facility in Madison, WI. The company’s focus is to grow new skin tissue for use by burn patients. This regenerative skin tissue mimics human skin and eliminates the painful procedure of taking a patient’s healthy skin to treat burned areas. Dr. Lokuta’s role at Stratatech is to help getting this new skin tissue to the market by developing and overseeing clinical studies, and to interact with regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, as the company expands into other countries.
Dr. Lokuta was interested in a career in the field of science from a very young age. Her grandmother passed away before she was born, but as she grew up and learned about her grandmother, she found herself intrigued, and had a desire to gain a better understanding of how diseases came about and what could be done to stop them.
Dr. Lokuta appreciates her liberal arts education. “I found the entirety of my education empowering because it opened up so many other perspectives in science. Understanding how to communicate with others is really critical, and the only way you can do that is by understanding diversity, understand what others believe, and how they approach life. Having that breadth of experience and knowledge was very important to where I have been able to get to today,” says Dr. Lokuta. An SFU English professor, Dr. Weixel, made a profound impact on her. She remembers him as a key player in opening her eyes to the importance of words and how to best use them. “Interacting with the FDA is all about how to justify a completely novel product such as the skin tissue. Communication has to be cogent and compelling,” explains Dr. Lokuta. “Dr. Weixel opened my eyes to how powerful words can be.”
In her speech during the freshmen convocation, Dr. Lokuta gave the advice to Freshmen to make the most of their time here. She follows up by saying “You have to own your future. It’s your responsibility to think about where you are going, how you’ll get there, and who will look after you. You need to make your own path, and Saint Francis is the perfect place to help you do that.”