Repost: Meet the HABIT Team: Dr. Dona Locke

Feb 2 8:48am | Dr. Melanie Chandler, HABIT FL Director | @drmelaniechandler

Dr. Locke has been working so hard lately on a number of projects for HABIT, including the upcoming launch of the HABIT Program at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center.  I thought it was a good time to repost a little more about Dr. Locke, our Mayo Arizona HABIT Director. I asked her to provide some updates from her original post from 2018!

A little tip, her name is Dona (with a long "o"; it's Latin for "gift").  Don't call her Donna! She was named after her grandmother, Dona Eva Herndon, who was named after a popular German Empress at the time, Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, known by her family and nickname as "Dona".  



Dr. Chandler: How did you get into studying memory?

Dr. Locke: I worked as a psychometrist for a neuropsychologist. A psychometrist is trained to administer and score cognitive tests, but not to interpret them. I found the interpretation part fascinating and decided to go to graduate school to become a neuropsychologist after that. I went to graduate school at University of Kentucky, which is also where our co-director from La Crosse, Dr. Shandera-Ochsner went (thought not at the same time)!  Go CATS!


MC: What is your favorite thing about the HABIT Program?

DL: When my patients and partners come around to loving the memory support system (our calendar planning system) as much as I do! I said this back in 2018 and it still remains my favorite today!


MC: Tell me a little bit about your family!

DL: I’m married with two kids. They are now 9 and 6. They came along as surprises a little later in life after years of trying. I also have two adult stepdaughters, ages 24 and 23. I have two younger sisters—one here in town and another in New Mexico. My mom passed away, but my dad is still here in town. I’m originally from Louisiana and have some family still there. There is nothing like Cajun food anywhere. I’m a Cajun food snob for sure. Here's a picture of the last King Cake I made with my sister!  We're gearing up for King Cakes again this year--Mardi Gras is coming up February 16th!



MC: What’s your favorite tip for de-stressing?

DL: For me, it is nice to be able to have a moment where I can do NOTHING. No work, no housework, just rest and relax. Read a book, enjoy some sunshine. I’m working to add exercise into my de-stressing routine on a more regular basis. This fall, I've been working on hiking more specifically. We have great hiking here in Arizona and my kids also really enjoy it!


MC: Some of the healthy habits that we talk about in the program include eating well, emotional self-care and getting quality sleep. With such a busy work life and a family, how do you make sure to practice the habits of wellness?

DL: I have to be honest that it always feels like a work in progress to me. True in 2018 and in 2020!  I’m rarely doing all the wellness habits as well as I should, but I am always working on it. The one habit I do well regularly is quality sleep. I’ve long had a routine that helps me wind down at bed time, and I’m quite reliable in that routine. I sleep well most of the time. This one has been easy for me since I had my children and realized how much less resilient I was during those normal baby sleep deprivation times. I also fairly routinely look for moments to express gratitude. Sometimes that is something I actually write in the Notes section of my MSS, sometimes it is just a mental reflection when I notice I’m feeling stressed or anxious. Reminding myself of something I’m grateful for helps in those moments. This one has been especially helpful for me during COVID, which has just added so much stress!


MM: How long have you been a part of HABIT?

DL: We ran our first full clinical HABIT session here at Mayo AZ in July of 2013. However, I was involved in some earlier research projects that led up to HABIT for a few years before that. It is amazing to me to think we are nearly 8 years into our clinical work, more like 15 when we look at all the research time! We just finished a virtual session here in Arizona and with that we've seen 363 partnerships here in Arizona since 2013!


MM: How many times a day do you refer to your calendar?

DL: A million!


Locke Swim


MM: Do you have a hidden talent?

DL: I won a barrel racing rodeo when I was 6. My horse’s name was Cornflakes. I’m also a pretty good long distance swimmer. My secret dream would be to do one of those long swim challenges like swimming the English Channel or from Cuba to Florida. I'm also a tap-dancer!







MC: What was a lesson that you learned in 2020?

DL: In 2018, I answered about my gratitude working with you and Dr. Shandera-Ochsner. That remains a huge positive and a huge highlight of my life to this day. I sometimes refer to you guys as my "squad," and I really mean it! 2020 and COVID was stressful, but it gave us the opportunity to innovate the program to a virtual visit format, and I'm really proud of us for that! That said, 2020 was a really difficult year. My squad is really important to me, but in 2020, I think I really learned the power of separating what I can control from what I can't.

Dr. Chandler:  Any other updates you want to share since this was first posted in 2018?

Dr. Locke: I'm so proud of all of our work together over the years in HABIT. I'm delighted to see our reach expanding to patients outside of Mayo Clinic's geography both through partnerships with other institutions and our telehealth format. I'm really looking forward to sustaining the momentum we have in those efforts going forward.  That, AND our family bought a boat near the end of 2020!  I'm enjoying getting to try out some new water activities at the marina! Here we are trying kayaking and paddleboarding!





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