Lepay uses voice to promote Alzheimer’s research
The "Voice of the Badgers" is using his voice to promote UW Health’s research toward a solution for the disease.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Since 1988 there’s been a familiar voice heard over the airwaves in Madison. The voice that belongs to Matt Lepay.
From Rose Bowls to Final Fours, the Ohio native has called it all for Wisconsin Athletics, but a call of a different type back in 2017 had the biggest impact on Matt.
While preparing to for a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Yankees, he received the call that his mother had passed away after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
“When I got the call she had passed, I was with the Brewers on a trip to New York,” Lepay says. “I’m sitting in the booth at Yankee Stadium. I wasn’t shocked by the news but it still hit like a ton of bricks.”
A disease that has affected so many Americans took its toll on Matt’s family as well, most notably his father. “Devastating. Absolutely devastating. There’s that old line you know, ‘Can you die of a broken heart? I believe you can, and I believe he did,” he said.
Matt’s father died three months before his mom passed away.
“That was his life partner and his life partner was dying. That was just something he could never overcome.”
Almost three years later Matt is now using his voice to help prevent other families from going through the same suffering by promoting UW Health’s research toward a solution for the disease as the voice of memoriesmatteruw.org
“When we knew what was happening with my mom, we didn’t have to go very far to find other people who were going through the same thing or had gone through the same thing,” said Lepay.
“It opened up some wounds again but at the same time, it’s important. So if there is anything that we can do, in our little corner of the world that can raise awareness and maybe have people contribute whatever is comfortable. Anything that can accelerate the doctors and researchers finding a cure or at least finding a way to slow the progress,” Lepay said.
Proving that not just follower of Badgers sports are fans of Lepay’s voice, but the doctors leading the research at UW as well.
“When we think about raising public awareness, you want to have the right message. You want to have the right voice. You have the voice right there, you have the recognition, you have someone who is passionate,” said UW Health memory care physician, Dr. Nathaniel Chin.
“Of course it’s sad that he experienced it, but to turn that and say ‘ok now I’m going to fight this.’ We need people like that to fight it,” Chin added.
While Matt appreciates all that the doctors at UW do, their appreciation is sent right back. His voice leads to more awareness for UW’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. One of 30 such centers in the nation.
“I was very impressed with how honest and upfront he was about that experience about the things that he witnessed,” Chin said.
“Then grateful that he was willing to say those things and then ends with this important message of ‘This is our initiative, this is why we need people to get involved, and this is what we’re doing,” according to Chin.
A graduate of UW’s med school, Dr. Nathaniel Chin has been practicing medicine for 14 years. However, his drive to find a cure isn’t just professional but also personal.
“You know as someone who’s experienced the disease himself, watching my dad go through it. It is a very personal and emotional journey,” Chin says.
A native of Watertown, Wisconsin, Dr. Chin returned home in 2015 after completing his residency at San Diego State to help take care of his father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his early 60′s. His dad, Moe Chin would die from the disease in 2018.
“I feel that my experience should be shared in the clinics, my patients often know that I’m a son of someone who had Alzheimer’s disease, dementia. That I’ve walked part of the walk that they will go through and that they can ask me those questions,” Chin said.
As someone who walked the same walk as Dr. Chin and many others dealing with Alzheimer’s in their lives, Matt Lepay now uses one last lesson he received from his mother.
“The last conversation we had, it was May of 2017 and we’re sitting in her room at the nursing home, watching whatever was on television and at one point she just reached her hand out and grabbed my hand and said, ‘You know honey, all we can do is the best we can,” Chin said.
“It is that passion, and it is the importance of what we’re doing that really motivates us to keep going,” said Chin.
“We can’t stop, and our future generations rely on us not stopping so that they don’t experience what our grandparents experienced.”
Whether being the voice of UW’s Alzheimer’s Disease research center, or as significant as being apart of the frontlines of research, Matt perfectly put the end goal for all those involved in this mission.
“Buzzer beaters are great. Last second touchdowns, walk off homeruns. This would top all of that. I’ll say when, not if. When they can come up with an answer that will be the greatest victory of all.”
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