October Student of the Month: From NTD Advocate…to Patient

Katy on her trip to Sierra Leone -- where she became infected with Hookworm.

Katy on her trip to Sierra Leone where she became infected with Hookworm.

As END7 expands its outreach to students, we’d like to highlight a different young person every month who has joined our campaign. We are proud to share a reflection from our October Student of the Month, Katy Gorentz, who has been a student advocate for END7 since her freshman year at the University of Notre Dame. After three years of organizing advocacy and fundraising events to fight diseases she had never encountered, Katy experienced the impact of NTDs for herself last summer in Sierra Leone. Here’s her reflection on why she is part of END7:

“As a premed student at the University of Notre Dame, I have had many options for getting involved in health-related clubs. When I stumbled across the ND Fighting NTDs booth at the Activities Fair freshman year, I was impressed at the focus and passion of the students involved. I signed up that night and have been involved ever since!

Looking back I can now see the impact that getting involved in NTD advocacy has had on the course of my own education. Learning about this complex global issue has made me assess my own goals as a future doctor and gain new perspectives that challenge the simple ways in which I used to view health and medicine. END7 gives students the opportunity to learn about the challenges of global health, support one major solution we have at hand, and inspire others to action. It’s a cause that anyone can be passionate about, from a doctor, to an economist, to a young student looking for inspiration.

The impact of NTDs on my college career became much more personal when I experienced this issue from a different perspective this past summer: the patient’s point of view!

katy hookworm

Katys foot after she contracted hookworm.

While conducting research on disability in Sierra Leone, I contracted hookworm. I soon recognized the itchy red lines creeping across my feet and up my ankles from pictures of hookworm I had seen in ND Fighting NTDs factsheets and posters, but the series of nurses I encountered did not. It took me weeks to find a doctor who recognized my hookworm and gave me albendazole to treat it. Later, when chatting with a nurse from one of the clinics I visited, she confided that the clinic simply did not have the medication available and wanted to find some before diagnosing the tell-tale lines that were spreading rapidly before my eyes.

The experience drove home the facts about NTDs I had repeated for years: the diseases are so easy to contract, yet finding treatment can be far too difficult – but once you take it, the medication is fast-acting and effective. My experienced echoed the facts I had learned from END7, and made it all the more clear that mobilizing the political will and financing to get NTD medications where they need to be is incredibly important.

katy ndfntdsNow, having experienced an NTD firsthand, I am even more committed to the fight against NTDs! This past week, I have been participating in NTD Awareness Week at Notre Dame, ND Fighting NTDs’ annual campaign to raise NTD awareness on campus and get our peers involved in fundraising and educational events – here’s a picture from our popular Bagel & Brochure giveaway Tuesday morning. Now, with END7’s new personal fundraising pages, I can share my reason for supporting END7 with my friends and family online, too. I just created my own fundraising page, and I am excited for the opportunity to spread the word and involve even more people in the fight against NTDs!”

We are so thankful for the commitment that Katy and the other leaders of ND Fighting NTDs have made to this cause. If you are ready to get your school involved in END7’s work, contact student coordinator Emily on Facebook or at Emily.Conron@sabin.org to learn how you can get started!

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