Lisa Jo Stearns M.D.
With great sadness, the family of Lisa Jo Stearns, M.D. confirms her death on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Lisa died in one of her favorite places, Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.
Lisa was born in 1958 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and was the youngest daughter of George Sterling Stearns and Frances Marie Wood Stearns. Her childhood was spent with her two sisters in tranquil, rural Wisconsin.
Although many of us know Lisa as the globally recognized cancer pain specialist she had become, she was a woman of many talents and interests, and her educational journey did not start in medicine. She began with a full-ride scholarship to Florida State University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in the Classics. Throughout her time in university, she supported herself by working as a waitress. This allowed her path to cross with her future husband, Sebastiano Gulizia, with whom she shared nearly 35 years of marriage. Lisa continued her education at University of Nebraska Omaha, receiving a Bachelor of Science and Masters in Biology. She then attended the University of Nebraska Medical Center, graduating with highest honors, all while pregnant with their son, Joseph.
Dr. Stearns completed her pain management fellowship at the University of Utah Medical Center where her belief in treating pain holistically was solidified. She was tenacious in pursuit of this creed, especially for cancer pain patients. Tirelessly, she worked to improve quality of life for all patients, especially those nearing the end of their lives. Her fearlessness and innovation are world-renowned. She became one of the world's leading experts in cancer pain management, educating future clinicians and colleagues from across the globe. She was known to go above and beyond, not only seeing patients in the hospital and in office, but also making house calls, training fellows, med-students, and peers. Lisa managed patients throughout the workweek, evenings and weekends, and was known to add emergency surgeries well into the night for any cancer patient in need. In 2007, Dr. Stearns founded her private practice, Center for Pain and Supportive Care (CPSC). For Lisa, CPSC was more than a place she went for an eight-hour workday. CPSC is where she met some of her closest friends, who became family. It was where she offered work to those barely knowledgeable in the medical field, her dogs came to play and impart unconditional love to patients, and her ideal visions of patient care came to fruition. It was where she supported both cancer pain and chronic pain patients; offered invaluable education to patients, families, and staff; and pioneered an approach to practicing medicine that changed the face of doctoring.
Dr. Stearns frequently lectured at conferences in her areas of expertise such as targeted drug delivery systems, neuromodulation, cancer pain survivorship, and end of life care. Her passion to educate and inspire other physicians extended to events locally, nationally and internationally. Dr. Stearns was a frequent speaker for the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS) and was part of their leadership development program. She was also a founding member of NANS Women in Neuromodulation (WIN) and was at the forefront of their mentorship program. Internationally, she lectured in Rome, Berlin, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and was a large presence for the International Neuromodulation Society (INS). Dr. Stearns was a founding member of the Cancer Pain Research Consortium (CPRC) and a founding member of Women in Pain Management (WIPM). Last month Dr. Stearns was selected as a recipient of the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience Cancer Pain Physician of the Decade Award. All those who had the honor to hear her lectures agree that she was inspiring, extraordinary and well deserving of this award and many more accolades.
Lisa had a passion for travel, which she instilled into her sons and daughter, Joseph, George, and Julie. The sky was the limit when it came to Lisa's plans for adventure, and she strongly encouraged everyone around her to join the fun. Some of her accomplishments include: scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking Machu Picchu, skydiving, visiting the ruins of Pompeii, and traveling by scooter around Myanmar. Lisa's next big idea was to visit Antarctica with her family.
When not at work, Lisa was often found dreaming up new do-it-yourself projects. No project was too big or too wild for Lisa, and she frequently enlisted the help of friends and family to create her visions. Lisa had an open-door policy with friends and family, which allowed for large gatherings of people centered around food, laughter, and dogs.
Lisa was preceded in death by her parents, George and Frances Stearns, and in-laws, Sarina and Giuseppe Gulizia. She will be missed dearly by her husband Nuccio Gulizia, children; Julie, Joseph, and George, son-in-law James and granddaughters Sofia and Josephine. She is also survived by her sisters Mary Beth Stearns and Lucinda Butler, brother-in-law Anthony Gulizia, sister-in-law Lucia Shirey, and many nieces and nephews. Her family will remember her as a generous, accepting, inspired, and loving woman, walking down the beach trailed by four dogs with a shell in her hand.
The Center for Pain and Supportive Care will continue to remain open for new and existing patients. For more information please visit www.centerforpainandsupportivecare.com
Due to current travel and social distancing restrictions, there are no plans for a service at this time. Friends and family will be invited to a Celebration of Life at a later date.
Donations can be made to the Dr. Lisa Stearns Cancer Pain Foundation. Please visit www.centerforpainandsupportivecare.com