Paul Wagle, M.A., is the Director of Life Science Development for the lead economic agency in the state of Kansas. Mr. Wagle was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 10, and after a four-year battle including an adult stem cell transplant, he has been cured for over 10 years. He holds a Master of Arts in Philosophical Studies, and serves as an advisor on two healthcare boards including the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center Advisory Board. Mr. Wagle is one of our nearly 40 associate scholars. In this interview, he discusses his experience with a life-saving adult stem cell treatment, and the importance of promoting ethical approaches to medical research. Watch a video of Paul Wagle’s story here.
You were diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 10 and faced various complications over the next four years. How did that entire experience impact the path you have chosen to take professionally, and what role did adult stem cells play in that journey?
Wagle: I had many phenomenal caregivers armed with the tools of modern medicine during my treatment. They inspired me to support ethical research that saves lives.
I initially thought that I would do this in drug discovery, but I soon recognized that I have other gifts to share in public relations and communications. Today, I combine my passion for ethical life-saving treatments with my professional skills and personal experiences to move the needle.
To be frank, adult stem cells saved my life. The potential for life-saving cures is only limited by our imagination. This is a story that must be told for the sake of the many adults and children like me who face life-threatening diseases that can be cured ethically.
As a beneficiary of an adult stem cell transplant, what advice would you give to people who find themselves in the same position you did as a 10-year old boy? How do you balance the real hope that adult stem cells bring with the reality that it can be a very painful and trying process?
Wagle: It is devastating for young children to be taken from the community they grew up in and placed into an environment that requires them to battle for their life. I encourage the children going through this painful process to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Once you have overcome this trial you will be stronger from this experience. You will view life in a different light because you have seen just how dark things can be.
My advice is to focus on your blessings. Write down three of those things that you are grateful for each day. I promise that you will be amazed how small glimpses of light add up to hope.
Similarly, what would you say to those with health issues who argue for government funding of research with embryonic stem cell research because they believe that their lives may be saved if such research is funded?
Wagle: To date, there are no successful patient treatments from embryonic stem cell research. In contrast, over 1 million patients worldwide have been treated with adult stem cells.
The reality is that research funds are limited. We need to be good stewards and get the biggest bang for our buck by supporting science with proven track records. Those are the treatments that will make the biggest difference in the lives of patience who face life-threatening illnesses.
Not only is adult stem cell research more effective, it is also moral. Human embryos are not harmed in adult stem cell research. If you want to support effective and ethical research, then you should support adult stem cell research.
At the end of the day, adult stem cell research saves lives, it does not sacrifice them.
You have studied subjects ranging from theology and philosophy to chemistry and biochemistry, and spent time discerning a call to the priesthood. How do these experiences merge and how does your faith integrate into the science-related work that you do?
Wagle: I cannot check my personal experiences, education, or faith formation at the door when I walk into work.
I may have studied many subjects and had a variety of experiences, but there will always be someone better than me at any discipline. Nevertheless, there is no one better at being the unique blend of me. The blend of a cancer survivor and former seminarian who understands science, and philosophy.
Today I use this diverse background to create, cultivate, and communicate ideas as a public relations professional with an emphasis in life science development. But who knows what doors will be opened tomorrow?
Why are you pro-life? If you had 60 seconds to explain to someone why you have pursued the work that you have throughout your career, what do you tell them?
Wagle: I believe life begins at conception. After conception there is a physiological difference from the preceding cells. Biology recognizes this difference by calling it by a new name, i.e. zygote. Given normal conditions, the zygote will grow into a walking, talking, thinking, and feeling person.
Who am I to stop that process? Who am I to deny the experience of life and all of its beauty to anyone?
Mr. Wagle’s full biography can be found here.