When Dr. Leigh Mack was a boy, he had a long list of things he wanted to be when he grew up. One of his earliest ambitions was to be a fireman. He also wanted to be a homebuilder.
What he did become was a doctor, business owner, educator, medical researcher, Boy Scout leader, cyclist, Army veteran, Ford salesman, Caterpillar marketing manager and much more.
He earned his first doctorate — Doctor of Medicine cum laude — in 2014 and his second doctorate — Doctor of Philosophy in Nanomedicine — in 2015 from the University of Science, Arts and Technology in Montserrat, a Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles chain.
He also completed graduate studies in nanotechnology for medicine in 2014 and trauma and reconstructive surgery in 2015 at the University of Oxford in England.
It’s quite an accomplished resume for a teen who graduated from high school with a 1.9 GPA and a score of 17 on his ACT college entrance exam.
“I just wasn’t into it back then. I never really took ownership in the place,” Mack said of his years at Rock Island High School in Illinois.
Then he heard about Indiana State, and his family’s first college student found a home where he excelled. In Terre Haute, Mack majored in business and lived in “The Penthouse,” Hines Hall 1010, where he and his roommate Bill Vandenberg installed stereo speakers in the window to bounce music off the science building. “I have tons of happy memories at ISU,” Mack said.
A member of Alpha Kappa Psi, Mack also started a student organization called Ciclismo Sycamoro. “We were a cycling group,” he said. “A group of students who rode together around Vigo and Vermillion counties … I cycled about 200 miles a week.”
At State, Mack developed an interest in learning and remembers professors who left a lasting impression on his future.
“Dr. Tom Steiger was engaging, and he made it fun to learn. Dr. Bob Smiley, I still remember his lectures — thought provoking. Dr. Bob Thompson taught me Dale Carnegie techniques and not to say ‘ah and um’ in presentations. Many journalists should have taken his salesmanship class. Dr. Pat Culvert, if you were late, he would lock you out just like Mr. Hand did with Jeff Spicoli (in the movie ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’).”
Mack’s resume after graduating from State with a degree in marketing reads like the lifetime accomplishments of more than one person — not just one man. When he went to Oxford in England to gain experience in trauma and reconstructive surgery, Mack met the woman who would become his wife.
“I went to train in surgery and came back with a family,” he said. Mack and his wife, Joanne, now live in Cary, N.C. Son Derek V. Mack is a high school senior and private first class in the U.S. Army National Guard. Stepson Lewis, 18, lives in the United Kingdom, 17-year-old stepdaughter Jessica lives in Florida and 10-year old stepdaughter Sophie lives with the Macks in Cary.
Mack is now chief medical technology officer for Zircon Technologies in Arlington, Va., and chief medical officer for Crucial Data Solutions Inc. in Reno, Nevada. Until November 2017, Mack was the owner and founder of Mack Biotech Corporation in Tampa, where his company designed and developed a clinical trial for Botox and completed trial plans for the Multifunction Cardiogram for Premier Heart with Albert Einstein Hospital.
He is also a board member of Cure AHC, a team to help guide research efforts to find a solution for patients with alternating hemiplegia of childhood. AHC is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent episodes of temporary paralysis, often affecting one side of the body. During some episodes, the paralysis alternates from one side of the body to the other or affects both sides at the same time.
“Currently, I am writing the foundation’s five-year research plan,” Mack said. “With the discovery of the ATP1A3 genetic defect, we are looking at taking the next steps and employing targeted gene knock-in to create a real-world solution for treating this disease.”
To share what he has learned over the decades and to encourage students to reach their goals, Mack was an Indiana State adjunct instructor in 2017. He taught MST 401: General Principles in Clinical Research for students interested in the scientific, policy and management aspects of clinical trials.
“The six students in the class came to my location for a week to learn a bit of hands-on, in-clinical research,” Mack said.
Looking back, Mack said the opportunity to attend Indiana State when he was a teen helped prepare him for a successful future. “ISU has great staff and faculty to work with and to learn,” he said. “I still use business skills for writing business plans, planning speeches and organizing my thoughts to write. I also appreciate Bruce and Connie McLaren teaching ‘sadistics’ (statistics). I use that base weekly in clinical research.”
What he would like to see to help future students is the creation of a mentorship program linking Indiana State alumni to students. “Most ISU alumni would take a student or two to mentor and help in career planning or getting into the career they desire,” Mack said. “I would take a business student or a medical student. In today’s technology, it is easy to accomplish remotely.”
It’s also a way to thank Indiana State for what it did for a young Illinois teenager, Mack said. “Teaching the ISU class last year was a really cool experience. I thought it was a way to give back to the place that gave so much to me.”