Two employees share their passion for helping people with Parkinson’s disease

Apr 9, 2024
Boston Scientific therapy awareness managers Dee Fleming (left) and Blake Knauf
Boston Scientific therapy awareness managers Dee Fleming (left) and Blake Knauf

More than 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and parts of the body controlled by nerves. For World Parkinson's Day, hear from two Boston Scientific employees whose focus is on raising awareness of deep brain stimulation (DBS), a treatment that can help improve quality of life for people with Parkinson's.

Fulfilling a desire to help others

As a therapy awareness manager based in Houston, Texas, Demarcus (Dee) Fleming spends much of his time on the road educating patients and physicians about DBS, a procedure that uses a small, surgically implanted device to send signals to a targeted part of the brain. It can help people with Parkinson's by reducing the tremors, slowness and stiffness caused by the disease.  

“Many of us take for granted that we’re able to hold a phone steady or lift a glass of water without worrying about it spilling,” says Fleming. “These are the challenges patients face every day. My job is to let them know what’s out there, because many times they don’t know DBS therapy even exists.”  

After earning his degree in health sciences, Fleming served his community as a police officer. Eager to combine his formal education with his desire to help others, he transitioned to medical device sales and therapy awareness, which led him to his current role at Boston Scientific. 

Fleming is focused on building relationships, both with the doctors who treat Parkinson's and the patients who are navigating its symptoms.

“I spoke with someone the other day who a few years ago had given up underwater photography because of her symptoms. Since receiving DBS she is back in the water taking pictures with her husband. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job — being able to follow our patients on their treatment journeys.”  

In a few instances, Fleming has had the opportunity to be in the room with patients when they are undergoing DBS programming. “That moment when you see the patient’s hands are no longer shaking or the stiffness subsides — you think you’ll get used to it, but you never do.”       

A meaningful career pivot 

Like Fleming, Blake Knauf became a therapy awareness manager for the opportunity to help people and develop long-lasting relationships with physicians and patients. 

Knauf has seen firsthand the impact Parkinson's can have on patients and their families. “My uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and for years he and his wife struggled because they didn’t know about the options. What motivates me is that I can advocate for people like them and educate them on the risks and benefits so they can make informed decisions about their care.” 

Knauf began his career in staffing and recruitment, but decided to pivot into the health care field after a close family member suffered a major stroke. “That event made me take a step back and think about what I wanted to do with my life,” says Knauf, recalling his transition to the pharmaceutical industry and later to the medical device space at Boston Scientific. 

When Knauf started at the company, he supported business development for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) products, which help patients with chronic pain, before moving into the DBS part of the Neuromodulation business unit. “I saw a DBS procedure performed and the immediate impact for the patient, and that was it,” he recalls. 

With the change in role came an opportunity to relocate from Minnesota to Florida and experience a different part of the company: “I think that’s the beauty of working for a diverse organization like Boston Scientific — you can explore many different divisions and therapy areas to see where your passion lies.” 

Since Knauf started his role supporting DBS two years ago, the technology has undergone several updates, most recently its innovations in image-guided programming that helps physicians see, shape and steer DBS therapy. It provides a three-dimensional picture of the brain, allowing physicians to tailor a patient’s treatment to fit their specific anatomy. “Not every organization invests in innovation, but we do across all of our divisions because it’s how we operate at Boston Scientific,” says Knauf. “It’s just who we are.”  


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