Making a Difference

Inspired by My Father’s Parkinson’s Journey

Jack Quinn, who leads U.S. Public Affairs & Patient Advocacy for Oncology, shares his family’s story of his father’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease. After a lifetime career in public service, including a 12-year term as a New York congressman, Jack Quinn Sr. hid his diagnosis for years until he realized how he could help make a difference for others with the disease. Jack Sr. recently shared his inspirational story with Sanofi employees in Framingham, MA, which is home to the research team investigating conditions caused by lysosomal dysfunction such as Fabry, Gaucher, and Parkinson’s diseases

My father is a natural communicator – he always has something to say. As a teacher, a six-term congressman and then as a local college president, he has spent his career dedicated to his community and public service. He speaks his mind and stands up for his constituents and causes that he believes in. It wasn’t until 2014 when my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease that he was at a loss for words for the first time in his life. With the exception of telling our immediate family, he decided to keep his disease a secret.

Jack Quinn and his granddaughter
Jack Quinn Sr. and his granddaughter Whitnie

I tried to put myself in my father’s shoes. After such a long, successful career, a life as a husband, father and grandfather, the diagnosis must have been both terrifying and frustrating. How would Parkinson’s affect his family? What would those in our community think? How would he continue to do the things he loved with Parkinson’s? It took the support of our entire family to convince him that Parkinson’s was just another challenge for him to face head-on as he did for so many other challenges throughout his life and career.

When he publicly shared his news in 2018 he was, of course, relieved and thankful. My father’s own struggle with the disease has allowed us to help make a difference for other people dealing with Parkinson’s—doctors, teachers, bus drivers—people from all walks of life that have the same diagnosis. Today, my father often gets stopped at the grocery store or church and people say, “If it hadn't been for your story, I'd still be hiding in my house,” or “My husband was able to get help because he saw you went and got help.”

Jack Quinn with his father and Sanofi researchers
Jack Quinn Sr. with Sanofi researcher Jennifer Matthews, his son Jack Quinn and researcher Pablo Sardi

The work Sanofi is doing to try to find a cure for Parkinson’s was a driving reason behind my hope to work here when I interviewed in 2017. After joining the company, I met Sanofi researchers Pablo Sardi and Jennifer Matthews at the 2018 PhRMA New York Researchers’ Day. As we traversed the capitol, they provided me with some additional background on Sanofi’s Parkinson’s research and clinical trials. In 2019, I was again joined by Jennifer and research team members as we educated New York legislators on the importance of pharmaceutical studies and clinical trials. During this second trip, I revealed to Jennifer my father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. Once Jennifer and Pablo were aware, they opened the door for my father to share his story with our research teams. I think that speaks volumes to the commitment that Sanofi has to patients and discovering therapies to treat these diseases.

When I interviewed for a role at Sanofi, I knew my father had Parkinson's, but no one else did. While a cure is still a long way off, I am grateful to work for a company that is committed to R&D and the Parkinson's community. I believe that our company, our commitment to R&D, and our ability to change people's lives, are what allow Sanofi to attract some of the best and brightest employees in the world and why I am very proud to work here.

To read more about the Quinn’s Parkinson’s journey, visit an article that appeared earlier this year in The Buffalo News.