FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The lifestyle of a professional soccer player doesn't necessary suit New England midfielder Zak Boggs.
Boggs has an active mind – he graduated from the University of South Florida early with a degree in biomedical sciences and found himself nominated as a Rhodes Scholar candidate – and he likes to use it for more than just the two-hour period when the Revs train every day.
“I've found myself trying to do things to stay busy,” Boggs told MLSsoccer.com last week.
As part of his quest to keep his mind engaged, Boggs spends one afternoon per week working as an intern/guest researcher in Dr. Marsha A. Moses' cancer research laboratory at Children's Hospital in Boston.
Boggs knows hospitals fairly well – his father is a surgeon, his mother is a nurse practitioner and he volunteered in a hospital during his time in Tampa – but he started volunteering at Children's last year to gain a new perspective and lend some of his time to the fight against cancer.
“I have a biology and medical undergrad degree, so I have a big background in that,” Boggs said. “I could see myself doing that some time in the future, so I wanted to see what the lab experience would be like. I've done a lot of patient interaction before, so I wanted to see what happens under the hood.”
Those efforts have contributed to the gathering of research in the laboratory and earned Boggs a dose of recognition as MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Month for June.
The work Boggs undertakes isn't necessarily glamorous, but it does contribute an increased understanding of how cancer works and what can possibly be done to halt it. Boggs said the tasks put in front of him change from week to week, but he does whatever is required to facilitate further research.
“I pretty much help out the technicians with anything they need to do,” Boggs said. “It could be anything from running a certain test on protein to see whether it's prevalent in cancer to taking urine samples and putting them in tubes.”
While those tasks may seem disparate, they contribute to a series of common goals at the Moses Laboratory.
The lab maintains a longstanding interest in identifying the biological and molecular mechanisms behind the regulation of angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing blood vessels) during the tumor process and developing a number of angiogenesis inhibitors to halt the 'angiogenetic switch' through clinical testing. It has also placed a number of non-invasive, sensitive and specific urine tests in clinical trials after focusing on the detection of biomarker proteins.
In layman’s terms: They’re trying to figure out how to prevent tumors from growing.
Volunteering under these circumstances isn't standard practice for a professional athlete. But, then again, it's clear that Boggs' intellectual curiosity will not allow him to sit idly on the sidelines while others provide a helping hand.