Sharon Januchowski and the team at National Stroke Association spearheaded a variety of programs and initiatives over the past decade and a half. But one of her proudest achievements includes shifting the focus of stroke from prevention to improving the quality of life for survivors.
“There’s room for improvement on all sides of stroke,” says the current executive vice president at National Stroke Association. “But where everyone is falling down is forgetting the survivor. Now [the survivor] has to live the rest of their life with whatever was dealt to them, and we are the ones that care and make a difference in their life that gives them the support, guidance, and education they need so their lives can be better.”
A Compassionate Leader
The survivors, Januchowski says, are the very reason she was so passionate about her work every day. “I never forget the opportunities I’ve had to talk with survivors and caregivers,” she says. “Hearing their stories and challenges and accomplishments—I remember every one of those.”
Januchowski’s passion for stroke survivors was evident throughout her time at the organization, says former CEO Jim Baranski, who worked with Sharon for 11 years. “I can’t think of anyone I worked with at National Stroke Association that was more passionate about making a difference in the lives of stroke survivors, and I think that passion carries through not only to stroke survivors that we served but also to the staff at National Stroke Association.”
Selfless is a word that follows Januchowski. She credits her team with the many achievements of the organization during her tenure, instead of accepting the thanks herself.
Current CEO Matt Lopez echoes that sentiment. “She is completely selfless and incredibly giving with her team, her ideas, and her enthusiasm,” he says. “She won’t blow her own horn but anyone else who knows her will.”
“It amazes me how much we have all accomplished with so little,” Januchowski says. “I’ve worked with so many smart, committed, and passionate people.”
But after nearly 15 years with National Stroke Association, Januchowski is retiring. “This is the longest I’ve been at any job so I saved the best for last,” she says.
She previously worked as a nurse and on the business side of the healthcare industry before arriving at National Stroke Association, where she also held a number of different positions before her current post.
Advancements in the Stroke Community
Outside of the work she’s done with National Stroke Association, Januchowski says she’s seen the most positive change from hospitals organizing more stroke centers. In turn, it’s helped improve acute stroke care, which, she says, “has resulted in an immense improvement in survival and post-stroke deficits.”
Another positive progression in the world of stroke is more people becoming familiar with recognizing the signs of stroke, or FAST (face, arms, speech, time). “I’ve watched the stroke community come around a message and that message is FAST,” she says. “It has taken a long time for [the stroke community] to organize and promote, but as a result people are recognizing symptoms faster and getting people to the hospital faster.”
But there is still work to be done, Januchowski admits. “I think we can dramatically improve the lives of stroke survivors by providing early and direct guidance as they journey into their new lives immediately post-stroke,” she says. “I think National Stroke Association will reach a very large number of those survivors and their caregivers and will make a great impact on their lives.”
Bidding Adieu (somewhat)
At the end of the year, Januchowski’s retired life begins. But she won’t be completely removed from the organization, as Januchowski says she plans to volunteer for National Stroke Association and stay involved in her community.
Her time will also be spent with her grandchildren, playing golf, and enjoying her golden years with her husband, Donald. “The one thing that every retiree says is that I don’t want to be idle,” Januchowski says. “I’ve got a lifetime of experience, but I want to control my time and the idea of me being in control of my time is probably the most exciting for me.”
Author: Emily Shearing
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