Sponsors power Uplifting Athletes’ 2019 Young Investigator Draft


Uplifting Athletes is excited to host the 2nd Annual Young Investigator Draft on Saturday, March 9th at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

The Young Investigator Draft is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.

It takes a strong team to make the Young Investigator Draft a success. We are grateful to all of the major sponsors on our team this year.

“The support that we have received for this event has worked to amplify and instill more purpose in what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long said. “We have great passion to do all we can to have a positive and lasting effect on the Rare Disease Community. Without this event and its sponsors our impact wouldn’t be the same.”

For the second year in a row, global biotechnology leader CSL Behring is the title sponsor of the Young Investigator Draft. CSL Behring is the fifth largest biotechnology company in the world and their commitment as the signature sponsor has been a game changer.

This is the second year to have Sanofi-Genzyme as a teammate. In 2019, Sanofi-Genzyme is sponsoring the Rare Genetics Disorder grant. At Sanofi-Genzyme, they continue to focus on being transformative in rare diseases: developing therapies, supporting research and offering innovative solutions that have the potential to offer meaningful change to those impacted by rare diseases.

Horizon Pharma was one of the first sponsors of the Young Investigator Draft and we are honored to have them back in year No. 2. Horizon is the Rare Blood Disorders grant sponsor for 2019. Horizon Pharma defines its success by a different set of numbers: the number of lives touched, the number of lives changed, the number of lives saved.

For the second year in a row Retrophin is part of the Young Investigator Draft team. This year, Retrophin is the the Rare Blood Disorders grant sponsor. At Retrophin, their mission is to identify, develop and deliver life-changing therapies to people living with rare diseases.

PRA Health Sciences has been a strong two-year supporter of Uplifting Athletes and the Young Investigator Draft. For 2019, PRA Health Sciences is on board as an All-American sponsor. PRA Health Sciences is dedicated to the future of clinical development and every life it saves.

Uplifting Athletes is pleased to have first-time sponsor Bristol-Myers Squibb as an All-Conference sponsor of the Young Investigator Draft. Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.

Spark Therapeutics was the very first sponsor of the Young Investigator Draft and we will always be grateful for their commitment to rare disease research through our event. In 2019, Spark returns as a Varsity sponsor. At Spark Therapeutics their mission is to challenge the inevitability of genetic disease by discovering, developing and delivering treatments in ways unimaginable – until now.

This is the second year for Strongbridge Biopharma as a Young Investigator Draft teammate. In 2019, Strongbridge Biopharma is a Varsity sponsor. They are called Strongbridge for a reason. They are building a strong clinical and financial foundation to connect patients with new treatments for rare diseases.

We Work For Health (WWFH) is in its second year as a sponsor and in 2019 will be a Varsity sponsor. We Work For Health is supported by PhRMA and seeks to educate elected leaders, the news media and the communities they serve about the important contributions companies and their employees make to the health and economic security of individuals, local communities, states and the nation.

Ultragenyx is a new member of the Young Investigator Draft sponsor team this year and will be a Varsity sponsor in 2019. Ultragenyx is a biopharmaceutical company committed to bringing to patients novel products for the treatment of rare and ultra-rare diseases, with a focus on serious, debilitating genetic diseases.

And finally, Uplifting Athletes is honored to have 3 CBS Philly on board for 2019 as our Young Investigator Draft Media sponsor.

Similar to the NFL Draft where teams select the top young prospects they feel can make the most impact on their future, at the Young Investigator Draft, Uplifting Athletes will reveal our 2019 draft class in five different rare disease categories.

The five Young Investigator categories are: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.

“After the great success of last year’s inaugural Young Investigator Draft, we are proud to once again use our platform to promote and support the brilliant minds that are conducting rare disease research.” Long said. “We are uniquely positioned to host an event where we can foster collaboration and awareness by bringing together patients, caregivers, researchers, clinicians, industry and athletes in one room.”

Young Investigator Draft grants are intended to inspire collaborative and translational research that will benefit the entire Rare Disease Community. The Young Investigator Draft stage will provide a platform for these scientists to educate and inspire the audience by sharing their research along with its impact on the Rare Disease Community.

Tickets to the 2019 Young Investigator Draft are available through the registration page. The event will include stadium tours of Lincoln Financial Field, heavy hors d’oeuvres and beer and wine prior to the program for the evening.

The challenges faced by the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. At Uplifting Athletes we take pride in providing opportunity for college football student-athletes and NFL players to use the platform they are afforded to shine a spotlight on rare diseases and support the cause.

Uplifting Athletes transitions to new leadership team led by Executive Director Rob Long


Brett Brackett moves into General Manager role to complete leadership team

New Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long

Uplifting Athletes is excited to officially announce the promotions of Rob Long to Executive Director and Brett Brackett to General Manager.

The duo will comprise a new executive team formed in the final quarter of 2018. Uplifting Athletes former Executive Director Scott Shirley, who founded the organization in 2007, will continue to serve the Rare Disease Community through his position as a board member.

“Uplifting Athletes has been a wonderful journey for me and my family, and we’re excited about this new chapter,” Shirley said. “I was fortunate enough to have my team, the Penn State community, and ultimately, the nation, rally around a cause that I will always be deeply passionate about.”

The transition of leadership began when Long joined Uplifting Athletes in September 2016. Since that time, he has held multiple positions including Chapter Manager and Director of Rare Disease Engagement. Since he moved into his Director role, Long has significantly expanded the footprint of the organization within the Rare Disease Community by developing strong partnerships that have spawned growth on several fronts.

The former Syracuse All-American punter, who served as the inspiration for the Orange football program teaming up with Uplifting Athletes during his battle with a rare form of brain cancer, will continue to build what he started as the Director of Rare Disease Engagement while assuming the Executive Director title.

“Having the opportunity to step into this role and use my voice and experiences to help support the Rare Disease Community is a dream come true,” Long said. “Scott has created a strong foundation we will continue to develop upon. We have assembled a dynamic team at Uplifting Athletes and I believe great things are in store as we move forward as an organization.”

In addition to Long taking on an expanded role, Brackett has been elevated into the General Manager role for of the organization while also seeing to his duties as Director of Sports Impact. Brackett came to Uplifting Athletes in April 2017 after retiring from the NFL and has always been a strong advocate for the Rare Disease Community. He served as the Penn State Chapter President while playing wide receiver for the Nittany Lions and always had a passion for supporting the cause professionally.

“I’ve had the pleasure of walking alongside these two great men for many years,” Shirley added. “As an organization, we wanted to secure the future by recognizing their efforts and putting them in a position to amplify their impact on the communities we serve.”

A nonprofit organization founded in 2007, Uplifting Athletes inspires the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport. A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans and typically lacks financial incentive to make and market new treatments. With a network of university chapters run by current college football student-athletes, Uplifting Athletes has established 28 chapters with Division I football programs across the country.

Since it was founded, Uplifting Athletes has raised more than $4.5 million in support of the Rare Disease Community, and a third of that, $1.5 million, has been given to fund rare disease research. The Young Investigator Draft has become our priority to funding rare disease research in the future.

The mission of Uplifting Athletes is accomplished through four charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders. For more information about Uplifting Athletes, visit www.upliftingathletes.org

Uplifting Athletes team (left to right): Rob Long, Andy Shay, Scott Shirley, John Trzeciak and Brett Brackett.

Global biotechnology leader CSL Behring returns as title sponsor for 2019 Young Investigator Draft


yid19 mailchimp graphicUplifting Athletes is pleased to announce global biotechnology leader CSL Behring will return as the title sponsor in 2019 for the second annual Young Investigator Draft on March 9th at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The Young Investigator Draft, tying the theme of the NFL Draft and Rare Disease Research together, is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.

CSL Behring is the fifth largest biotechnology company in the world. Their scientists use the latest technologies to develop and deliver innovative therapies that are used to treat rare and serious conditions, including immunodeficiency and autoimmune diseases, hereditary and acquired bleeding disorders, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, hereditary angioedema and Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.’

“After the phenomenal success of last year’s inaugural Young Investigator Draft, we are proud to once again have CSL Behring’s strong support,“ Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long said. “CSL Behring’s focus on rare diseases is a perfect fit for this special opportunity to bring the Rare Disease Community together to celebrate the research being conducted by these brilliant young minds.”

Watch 2018 Young Investigator Draft Video!

At the event, individual grants will be given to five Young Investigators who pursue rare disease research in these different areas: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.

“Uplifting Athletes has added to college football’s rich history of unique traditions by applying the passion of sport to the rare disease community and creating the Young Investigator Draft,” said Jens Oltrogge, Head of Global Commercial Development, Hematology for CSL Behring. “By returning as the presenting sponsor for this unique and innovative event, we are continuing to deliver on our promise to patients and science by supporting the vitally-important work of these emerging researchers.”

The Young Investigator Draft grants are intended to inspire collaborative and translational research that will benefit the entire Rare Disease Community. The Young Investigator Draft stage will provide a platform for these young scientists to educate and inspire the audience by sharing their research along with its impact on the Rare Disease Community.

Check out 2018 Young Investigator Draft Photo Gallery!

Tickets are available through the Young Investigator Draft registration page.  The event will include heavy hors d’oeuvres and beer and wine prior to the program for the evening.

The challenges faced by the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. At Uplifting Athletes we take pride in providing opportunity for college football student-athletes and NFL players to use the platform they are afforded to shine a spotlight on rare diseases and support the cause.

Founded in 2007, Uplifting Athletes has college football student-athlete led chapters nationwide in FBS and FCS programs from seven conferences across the country.

Since its inception, Uplifting Athletes has raised more than $4.5 million in support of the Rare Disease Community with a third of that, $1.5 million, given to fund rare disease research.

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A successful 2018 Year In Review


HappyHolidays-UAMay your days be filled with Peace, Hope and Joy this Holiday Season!

On behalf of the 30 million Americans that comprise the Rare Disease Community, our staff and team of college football student-athletes thank you for your loyalty and support in 2018!  It has been a memorable year and we thank you for helping us achieve our mission.

Most recently, our team was able to be a part of an Uplifting Experience in Seattle. Former University of Illinois and current Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, Malik Turner, hosted a rare disease patient family for the day at the Seahawks facility. Turner continued to build on that relationship during the NFL My Cause My Cleats campaign by securing tickets for ADNP patient Tony Sermone and his family for the game. One of his cleats had the initials “T” and “S” on the back in Tony’s honor. After the game Malik was able to present the signed cleat he wore in the game to Tony.

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Without your support this type of Uplifting Experience would not be possible. Would you consider making a year-end donation to Uplifting Athletes?

2018 also featured plenty of new and exciting milestones for Uplifting Athletes including:

-New Uplifting Athletes chapters established at Western Michigan, Davidson and Lehigh.

-38 NFL prospects participated in our Reps For Rare Diseases campaign during their NFL Combine and individual pro day workouts.

-Held our inaugural Young Investigator Draft in August at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and scheduled our 2019 event for March 9th back at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Young Investigator Draft is the result of our ongoing commitment to rare disease research. In 2018 we distributed six $10,000 grants to six individual researchers.

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-During the 2018 season, the first ever Rare Disease Awareness Games were held involving Uplifting Athletes Chapter match-ups between Syracuse vs. Western Michigan and Penn vs. Princeton. The chapters wore Uplifting Athletes helmets stickers, #WeTackleRare wristbands and recognized local rare disease patient families during a game break.

-We crowned Coach Joshua Eargle from Austin Peay State University as the 11th winner of the Rare Disease Champion Award – given to a leader in college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. We also enjoyed seeing our 10th winner of the award, Shaquem Griffin from UCF, selected in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

These are just a few of the 2018 highlights. We have bigger and bolder plans for 2019. As always, though, we need your help.

Please consider giving a gift to support the Rare Disease Community we serve. We can’t do any of this without you!

#WeTackleRare

Scott, Rob, Brett, John, Karen and Andy

 

 

Detroit Lions’ Zach Zenner working to cure rare disease, save kids’ lives


NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

This story was written by ESPN Staff Writer Michael Rothstein and published on August 29, 2018. We are sharing this story as it was printed. To see the original link on ESPN.com click here.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — He finished his workout, got in his car and drove 1.8 miles from the Detroit Lions‘ practice facility to a Starbucks inside a Barnes & Noble. Zach Zenner sat down, opened up his laptop and began his second job: trying to save the lives of children.

For at least two hours each day this spring, inside the bookstore he has gone to since his rookie year, Zenner logged on to a microscope almost 1,000 miles away at Sanford Research. There, he read images of the stained brains of mice studied in a lab. He recorded the results and analyzed the data.

This was Zenner’s latest offseason, medical-research project, joining Dr. Jill Weimer’s team at Sanford searching for effective drug treatments and, hopefully, eventually, a cure for Batten Disease. This was different than Zenner’s past two years studying hypertension and diabetes in Detroit-based labs, earning him a medical-journal publication. This time, he was working remotely instead of having his hands in everything. His responsibilities changed, forcing him to use different brain muscles.

And he was working to find a way to keep children alive from a rare, debilitating disease.

All 13 types of Batten Disease — a group of lysosomal storage genetic disorders — affect children. The National Institutes of Health estimates that between two and four of every 100,000 children in the United States will be diagnosed with a form of Batten. Almost all are fatal, most by the time the child reaches age 12. There is no cure. Only one form — CLN2 — has a potentially effective treatment.

When Zenner started working on Batten, he didn’t know much about it. Assigned to write an introduction for a couple of papers, he began to dive deep into the disease. Children with Batten, according to the NIH, appear healthy at birth and can start showing symptoms anywhere from infancy to age 4 or 5, depending on the form.

Eventually, the children can become blind, unable to communicate and are sometimes confined to a wheelchair.

“It just puts it in perspective what you’re doing,” Zenner said. “It might seem like all you’re doing is crunching numbers and looking at image slides, but then you always have to have in the back of your mind what the overall picture is, which is trying to help those kids out that have it.”

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Zenner ended up on the project because it fit his schedule demands. He knew he would have to work remotely due to a combination of his hectic life, lab location, football training and the birth of his first child.

Sanford invited him to work there, in part, because he already is accepted to the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine. A good opportunity to do quality research along with making connections for his future, he accepted.

He met Weimer, who was skeptical of the arrangement at first. She figured she might hear from him once or twice and that he’d work when he could. She didn’t expect him to become a fully immersed part of the group, including participating in the group WhatsApp chat and twice-weekly lab meetings via Skype.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Weimer said. “Even the week after they had the baby, he logged into lab meetings. He’s holding the baby in his arms while his wife was getting some rest. It was so impressive.”

Zenner became one of two “Weimer Lab Ghosts” along with Katherine White, whom he worked with almost daily — communicating what they were seeing and the data they were tracking.

Zenner’s past two years placed him in labs studying mice under microscopes, participating in different tests, feeding them, recording data and sometimes doing postmortem surgery to help with results. This project, over the span of six months, featured his critical thinking and a more intensive scientific-writing regimen.

“To go back and write again is such a good exercise and so important in science,” Zenner said. “To do that was really good. A good exercise. It was just different skills. The image analysis is something that is a part of any lab work and ended up just being more of my focus this time around, and it’s good.

“It’s a good skill to have, and although it is different, it is still very important for a lot of labs that you work in.”

Weimer had Zenner record the results he read on the microscope blindly — meaning he didn’t know which slides were the disease with drug treatment and which were without — so he could make unbiased decisions about whether or not the treatment was working.

Much of Zenner’s work focused specifically on CLN6, with which symptoms begin within a child’s first few years. It leads to children losing the ability to walk, speak and, eventually, see. Kids with CLN6 usually die by their early teenage years. There is also an adult-onset version of CLN6 that has a slower rate of decline.

CLN6 is trickier, Weimer said; from her observations, if a family’s first child has it, somehow the second child often does, as well — even though it should be only a 1-in-4 possibility.

For any type of Batten to occur, the child has to receive a bad gene from both parents, both of whom have to be carriers for the disease. A lot of recent Batten disease research funding came from the Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray Foundation, a nonprofit started by Gordon Gray — a producer on the films “Miracle,” “The Rookie” and “Million Dollar Arm” — and his wife, Kristen. Their two daughters have Batten. Money raised by their research helped create a gene therapy clinical trial in less than a year.

“Part of what Zach was involved in was helping us with the analysis of screening gene therapy in other forms of Batten disease and just knowing that sometimes it could take a long time for kids to get the cue to receive the gene therapy,” Weimer said. “Or some of them aren’t eligible for the gene therapy trial, so what other drugs or treatments are there out on the market that we can actually be treating these kids with?

“Also, gene therapy is so new, we have no clue how long it is going to last, so we’ll always want to have an arsenal of treatments ready to go. So the drugs Zach was involved in screening were really those next-generation treatments that we kind of have cued up after the gene therapy.”

Zenner, standing in the Lions’ locker room earlier this month, shook his head when he was asked what he learned about Batten. He could have been there for hours and not covered all of it. Working on a rare disease parents and children have no control over left him with a greater appreciation of the wonder of the human body.

“I’m always struck by how easy it is for things to go wrong, like you have one genetic mutation and you’re missing this protein and now you have an autosomal storage disorder and you have progressive nerve degeneration and you die when you’re 8 years old,” Zenner said. “You know, it’s horrible. But it’s such a small thing that turns into such a large consequence.

“I’m always struck by how the human body is put together and how so many things can go wrong. But when you look at the general population, how often it doesn’t go wrong and the miracle of human life, I guess.”

Studying humans — and helping them — has always been Zenner’s goal. He applied to medical school before he knew professional football would be a reality.

He has deferred Sanford’s acceptance yearly as he stayed with the Lions. While Sanford still has an agreement to accept him, because his NFL career has been an actual career — something unknown when he was an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State in 2015 — he likely has to retake the MCAT.

It would seem like it could have been a decision point for Zenner between football and medicine, but he insisted it isn’t. Football, with which he’s on the roster bubble with the Lions, is still the priority. Zenner is committed to football for as long as it will have him. But he also knows what’s waiting for him after.

“What we’ve discussed a little bit of is a conditional acceptance — like if I retake my MCAT and I get a certain score, then I will maintain my acceptance to the school,” Zenner said. “It’s more a ‘take it to stay at USD.’ It’s not like they revoked it.

“It’s not a decision point for me. Having to retake it — at this point in my career, I’m going to have to retake it either way.”

As long as the Sanford acceptance remains, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, he’ll eventually start classes there. When he does, he already has been offered a job in Weimer’s lab. She told Zenner he can return to do research in offseasons. When he does eventually start med school, she has a medical-student training grant ready for him so he can work for her while receiving a stipend as part of an internship program.

Zenner and Weimer hope that is still far off. After this spring, there’s little question about Zenner’s long-term future. It’ll be in medicine. In the short-term, he has an offseason working home.

“The way that it’s set up it is really easy for them to cut out little chunks for people to work on,” Zenner said. “With the way, how kind they are and how it is set up that way, it’s really easy for me to keep going back.”

When he does, there will be more lives to try to save while working from South Dakota, his home or a coffee shop somewhere.

 

 

2018 Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft at Lincoln Financial Field is on the clock


CSL BEHRING YID 18 GRAPHICUplifting Athletes is set to host its inaugural Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring this Saturday, August 18, from 6-9 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The Young Investigator Draft, tying the theme of the NFL Draft and Rare Disease Research together, is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.

Uplifting Athletes is proud to have the support of global biotechnology leader CSL Behring as our title sponsor.

Saturday night inside the home of the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, Uplifting Athletes will award six individual $10,000 grants to five Young Investigators and a mentor who pursue rare disease research in these five different areas: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.

The Young Investigator Draft grants are intended to inspire collaborative and translational research that will benefit the entire Rare Disease Community. The Young Investigator Draft stage will provide a platform for these young scientists to educate and inspire the audience by sharing their research along with its impact on the Rare Disease Community.

Jordan Culbreath is a former Princeton running diagnosed with the rare blood disorder aplastic anemia in 2009. The 2011 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion will serve at the Keynote Speaker for the evening.

Meet and learn a little about the people that comprise the 2018 Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft class.

Dr. David Fajgenbaum, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders

Dr. Emily Lowry, rare muscular and neurological disorders

Dr. Alessia Stornetta, rare blood disorders

Dr. Angela Waanders, rare cancers

Dr. Aimee Layton, rare genetic disorders

 

 

Dr. Aimee Layton to receive rare genetic disorders research grant at Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring


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The Young Investigator Draft is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.

These Young Investigators will pursue rare disease research in one of five different areas: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.

To learn more about the Young Investigator Draft and to purchase tickets click here

Researcher: Dr. Aimee Layton

Category: Rare Genetic Disorders

Education: Dr. Layton received her bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst before heading to New York City and Columbia University where she received a masters degree in applied physiology and her PhD in Kinesiology.

Research: Layton summarizes, “My research focuses on lung disease and how we can use exercise to improve patient outcomes and predict how a person with lung disease will respond to certain interventions, such as a lung transplant. I also research how the mechanics of breathing can be impacted by disease and how the environment (such as pollution) impacts how our lungs work.”

In Their Words: “When I was an undergraduate in college I interned at a pediatric exercise lab at Columbia University Medical Center. I had always wanted to work with athletes but this experience opened my eyes to how my work could impact people with chronic diseases. The exercise physiologist who ran the laboratory, Dr. Bob Garofano, was so passionate about his work, it inspired me to come to New York City for graduate school to work with him.” – Dr. Aimee Layton

Dr. Layton, a native of New Jersey who recently had her second child, recalls with stark clarity the phone call to her friend and mentor Dr. Garofano after taking her first job in a lab.

She was standing on the porch outside her apartment in Amherst, Massachusetts on the phone telling Dr. Garofano how much she missed people and hated working in a biomechanics lab of an athletic footwear company.

The bottom line for Dr. Layton, if she was going to be in a lab she needed to be working to try and help people directly.

“I really missed working with patients. I called Bob (Dr. Garofano) and told him I was in the wrong sector of life, that I didn’t want to be in industry and that I missed people so much,” said. Dr. Layton, who grew up playing sports and is part of a competitive cycling team that competes in road racing and cycle cross. “Bob asked me if I wanted a relationship with a product or a person? I knew I wanted to be in a lab, but I learned it also had to be with people.”

Dr. Layton was applying to graduate schools at the same time she had her moment of clarity, and she had already received a full graduate scholarship offer from UMass. Dr. Garofano told her if she loved people come to New York and go to graduate school at Columbia University and work in his lab helping people. He would help make sure to do everything he could to help.

The easy and safe decision was to take the full scholarship at UMass. Dr. Layton went to New York City and Columbia, instead.

I started as an intern with (Dr. Garofano) when I was a sophomore in college. I loved it so much I went back every year without getting paid or any credit cause I loved it so much. He was so inspiring and I loved the people,” Dr. Layton said. “So I went to Columbia and  I did temp jobs and managed. What stayed with me was Bob kept his word to me. He told me to come and would make it work out and he did.”

“We all love working with people and also love the lab. To change even one person’s life, even just a little, making it a little easier to go up the stairs, for example, is such a great impact. That’s what inspires us.”

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