By Dirk Hoffman
Published November 21, 2023
A family’s untimely loss has resulted in a meaningful commitment to an annual donation to UB’s Child and Family Asthma Study Center.
Michael “Mikey” Reinard of Angola died Nov. 20, 2022, after being diagnosed with lung cancer on his 47th birthday a month earlier. Reinard had also suffered from severe asthma throughout his life, according to his sister, Kathy Loughran of Florida.
“Mikey, the youngest of six children, was diagnosed with childhood asthma soon after birth. The diagnosis came with substantial allergies that included milk. He drank baby formula throughout his adolescence,” she says. “His asthma kept him from playing many sports or participating in a lot of outdoor activities. Nebulizer treatments, doctor’s appointments and hospital stays took up much of his free time.”
Nevertheless, Reinard led a full and happy life, his sister says.
“Mikey never met a stranger. His personality was bigger than everyone’s in every room he entered. He was funny and charming and was loved by all,” Loughran says. “He was extremely popular in the small town we lived in. He danced and sang, and everybody loved it. Mikey was always up for shenanigans. At his wake, there was a line of people out the door and down the street; it was raining, and people waited.”
After laying their loved one to rest, Reinard’s family and friends began thinking of ways to memorialize him.
“Mikey’s best friend, Christian, reached out to the family with the idea of hosting a golf tournament in Mikey’s honor,” Loughran says. “We were extremely honored by his generosity and it was a huge success.”
A total of 120 golfer slots sold out quickly and Reinard’s sister, Norma Peterson, worked tirelessly to gather 89 baskets for a raffle. The entire fundraising event brought in $12,000.
When the golf tournament was first announced, Loughran set out to find the proper beneficiary — an organization that served people with asthma.
Her online searches led her to UB’s Child and Family Asthma Study Center, co-directed by Bruce D. Miller, MD, and Beatrice L. Wood, PhD, professors of psychiatry and pediatrics, and Heather K. Lehman, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology, all faculty in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The center, which is located at 179 Bryant St. in Buffalo, studies the mechanisms by which stress and emotions affect the physiologic and immune processes in patients with asthma. This is accomplished by measuring breathing, airway function, heart rate and heart rate variability under controlled lab conditions to determine the connections linking mind-body function.
The research center is set up in a carefully designed, homelike environment with a comfortably furnished child and family interview/data collection living room, but outfitted to gather audio, video and physiological data. Researchers can observe children individually — while they watch a movie, for example — or as they interact with their families. The data collected during studies is then imported into an adjacent, highly specialized psychophysiological laboratory for further processing and analysis.
Loughran contacted Miller and noted it was important to her family that its donation go to an entity that was helping the Western New York community because that is where her brother was born and raised.
“Bruce and I talked, and he sent me literature about the program and published studies so that I could make an informed decision,” Loughran says. “My mother, Mary Ann Dubois, said this is where she wanted the money to go on behalf of Mikey. I then flew to Buffalo for a tour of the research lab and to obtain more information.”
Miller and Wood gave Loughran a tour of the center, including its psychophysiology lab, child and family interview room, and offices. Afterwards, they discussed the team’s work and hopes for the future.
“We explained that we study how chronic stress and sad emotions affect airway function in child asthma, and how severe asthma causes stress on the families and caregivers, and furthermore how stress on the family can, in turn, affect a patient’s asthma,” Miller says.
He notes Loughran was very enthusiastic and hopeful about the team’s research accomplishments and goals. “The family wanted to honor Michael’s memory by supporting research aimed at improving asthma outcomes and reducing the impact of asthma on the lives of patients and their families. They believed that such an arrangement would be very meaningful to Michael.”
Loughran asked if there could be a naming opportunity in association with the donation, and Miller suggested naming the center’s library after Reinard.
“We were more than honored and so we now have the Michael D. Reinard Library,” Loughran says. “My son, Michael, made the wooden library sign and included Mikey’s signature from his driver’s license.”
Kathy M. Swenson, senior director of advancement for the Jacobs School in UB’s Division of University Advancement, was put in touch with Loughran to set up the proper gifting arrangement. The family then scheduled a date to make its initial donation during a small ceremony held in the study center’s library on Oct. 23.
“We introduced our research team to the family and the family introduced themselves,” Wood says. “We told the family a bit about our research, and they told us stories about themselves and Michael, growing up. Our team pledged our ongoing efforts to seek answers leading to a better understanding of asthma and its successful treatment.”
Loughran says her family has pledged to continue its donation annually, with the funds raised through the annual memorial golf tournament in her brother’s name.
“Any time spent with Mikey was guaranteed laughter. He truly loved his family and his friends; they are the family that he chose,” she says. “He is missed and loved beyond belief, but he is so fondly remembered.”