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Stroke and Young Adults (SAYA) Program

Stroke at a young age: You are not alone

Most people do not realize that stroke can strike at any age: when we are at the top of our careers, when we are beginning to raise a family, when we are still in school, when we are children, or even at the moment we are born or still in the womb. Most strokes do not result in our deaths. Most of us will recover. However, many of us will be left with some disability or persistent symptoms: difficulty speaking, difficulty walking, difficulty seeing in part of our vision, stiffness or pain in our limbs, lightheadedness and dizziness, headache, fatigue, depression and anxiety. This can slow us down, stop us in our tracks and keep us from fulfilling our dreams.

With the help of experts in specialties across Tufts Medical Center, Vascular Neurologist Lester Y. Leung, MD has built a comprehensive, longitudinal care program to help young adult and pediatric stroke survivors navigate their lives after stroke. 

The Stroke and Young Adults (SAYA) Program is built to help identify causes of your stroke, optimize prevention of future strokes, estimate your risk for recurrent stroke and late complications of stroke, and provide counseling on stroke survivorship. 

Typical current models for treating and guiding individuals after their strokes often do not account for long-term survival: many stroke survivors live with the specter of stroke for the rest of their lives. However, you do not have to live in fear. You do not have to downscale your ambitions and dreams. Together, we will aim to help you live a full life: happy, strong, and more than just a victim of stroke. You are a stroke survivor, and you are not alone.

The SAYA Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA is constantly growing and seeking to help more stroke survivors. Please contact us if you are a stroke survivor or know one who might benefit from our program.

Long-term, comprehensive care after stroke

Many young adults with stroke are diagnosed with cryptogenic stroke, a stroke resulting from an unknown cause that deprives part of the brain of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in permanent damage. The Stroke and Young Adults Program aims to identify this cause with advanced testing tailored to individual patients: your symptoms, your story, your health. If the cause of your stroke can be identified, we are committed to finding it. 

While many people who have had a stroke are left with persistent symptoms or neurologic deficits, young adults with stroke have to manage these issues over decades of life. At the SAYA Program, we are committed to helping you navigate your life after stroke for as long as we can help. We will work with you to: 

  • Minimize your risk of future strokes (resulting from the same cause as the first stroke or other causes that might develop over time)
  • Manage persistent symptoms (language problems, weakness, spasticity, neuropathic pain, headache, lethargy, etc.)
  • Provide surveillance and treatment for late complications (epilepsy, depression, cognitive impairment, adverse effects to treatments, etc.)

We will work closely with your primary care physician and other specialists to coordinate your care in a holistic manner.

Understanding your risk 

Young adult stroke survivors are often susceptible to medical complications including: 

  • More strokes (ischemic strokes or hemorrhages)
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Neurologic complications including seizures (epilepsy), cognitive impairment, and more. 

However, these risks are not the same for each individual, and these risks can change with time, treatment, and lifestyle changes. We want to help you understand and estimate your health risks, develop and implement strategies for minimizing those risks, and not be afraid to live your life well.


There is more to life than surviving: survivorship is about finding a way to return to a good quality of life after your stroke. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to recovery. As best as we can, we will help you try to return to your prior life as much as possible, or we will help you adapt and find enjoyment in your new life. 

In addition to our clinical services, we periodically host social events for stroke survivors and their supporters to help remind all of us that we are in this together. 

The events are generally social and/or educational events that help you:

  • Break the tendency to isolate oneself after stroke
  • Learn from the experiences of other stroke survivors
  • Form friendships with other stroke survivors
  • Learn about lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health from our stroke specialists and therapists
  • And have some fun!

On prior occasions we have organized events including:

  • Painting classes
  • Candlepin bowling
  • Mini-golf
  • Gathering for coffee and pastries at a bakery

David E. Thaler, MD, PhD, FAHA

David E. Thaler, MD, PhD, FAHA

Title(s): Neurologist-in-Chief; Chairman and Professor, Department of Neurology, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-4948
Fax #: 617-636-8199


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Zachary W. Bohart, MD

Zachary W. Bohart, MD

Title(s): Adult Physiatrist; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5631
Fax #: 617-636-2551

Spasticity and tone management including stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury

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Cara Clifford, MA, CCC-SLP

Cara Clifford, MA, CCC-SLP

Title(s): Speech Language Pathologist
Department(s): Speech Language Pathology and Audiology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5220
Fax #: 617-636-0583

Cognitive, speech and language intervention including diagnostic, rehabilitation and therapeutic services for individuals with developmental and acquired neurological impairments

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Bryan K. Ho, MD

Bryan K. Ho, MD

Title(s): Director, Movement Disorders Program; Director, Medical Student Education; Neurologist; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-4948
Fax #: 617-636-8199

Movement disorders

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Thomas Laudate, PhD

Thomas Laudate, PhD

Title(s): Clinical Neuropsychologist; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurology, Neuropsychology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5423
Fax #: 617-636-8199

Assessment of memory problems, dementia (major neurocognitive disorder), mild cognitive impairment (minor neurocognitive disorder), epilepsy, brain tumor, neurobehavioral disorders, traumatic brain injury, developmental syndromes (e.g., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and other acute, acquired, and degenerative conditions

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Lester  Y. Leung, MD, MSc

Lester Y. Leung, MD, MSc

Title(s): Director, Comprehensive Stroke Center; Director, Stroke and Young Adults (SAYA) Program; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-4948
Fax #: 617-636-8199

Vascular neurology including stroke in young adults, ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, dissection, reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, vascular malformations, silent strokes and survivorship

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