'I feel lucky,' says UH Law School grad and cancer survivor who is 'Laker for a Day'

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Mar 30, 2017

Jamie Newirth, at left, with friend Marlin Henton at halftime on the Staples Center court.
Jamie Newirth, at left, with friend Marlin Henton at halftime on the Staples Center court.
Newirth: Famous on the Jumbotron.
Newirth: Famous on the Jumbotron.

For UH Law School graduate and Maui attorney Jamil Newirth, 37, the thrill of being a “Laker for a Day” was a peak experience, thanks to the L.A. professional basketball team’s partnership with UCLA Health that focuses on patients with severe medical issues.

But it was also part of an extraordinary journey that has led the Maui attorney to cancer remission and a sense of hope for the future, five years after he was given just 17 months to live.

“I look at the future very positively,” said the 2012 William S. Richardson School of Law graduate who was diagnosed with a brain tumor just as he was studying for the Bar Exam.

“You can turn any experience -- good or bad -- to good,” said Newirth, who with two friends launched a non-profit called UVSC, “U Versus Cancer/Us Versus Cancer” (www.uvsc.org) to provide financial and emotional help to other cancer patients. Co-founders are Chris Thibaut, a friend from high school on Maui, whose father Rob Thibaut founded Duke’s restaurant but succumbed to cancer in 1997, and cancer survivor Ben Moon, whose video “Denali,” about seeing cancer through his dog’s eyes, has gone viral.

“I feel lucky and I should use that luck to do good,” says Newirth, who has just returned to his real estate, business and estate planning law practice on Maui with the R. Clay Sutherland Law firm in Kahului, after getting the star treatment Sunday during the Los Angeles Lakers’ home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

He was nominated by his neurosurgeon, Dr. Linda Liau, for the honor of dining on steak and shrimp in the Staples Center’s private Lexus Club, going out onto the court at halftime to a standing ovation, and seeing his face splashed on the Jumbotron above cheering fans. The partnership program helps focus attention on the important work that UCLA Health is doing.

“I was too nervous to look around,” Newirth admitted, adding that he thinks he heard applause, but was too shell-shocked to be right next to his favorite team to remember.

Newirth was diagnosed with a fast-growing brain cancer called glioblastoma in 2012. He underwent delicate brain surgery performed by Dr. Liau at UCLA, and then radiation and chemotherapy, before joining a three-year clinical trial with DCVax-L, a vaccine that utilizes a patient’s individual tumor cells to stimulate the patient’s own immune system. Even though the tumor is now almost gone, Newirth checks in every two or three months with Dr. Liau, who is interim chair of the Neurosurgery Department at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Liau’s vaccine discovery is now being offered at 50 sites across the country, says Newirth.

But Newirth says he never would have found out about the life-saving clinical trial with Dr. Liau if not for the research skills he learned at UH Law School.

“There are thousands and thousands of clinical trials, and it helped me narrow down to the best trials for me, and then focus on the key factors that would benefit my condition the most,” he says.

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/