Today was a pleasant ride into Texarkana – the Arkansas side, but within sight of Texas. After a major storm last night, with a lot of rain, lightning and thunder, the weather was just beautiful. As usual, we started early to avoid the heat.
The winds were favorable, the sun was shining, and the only issue, a minor one, was some rough pavement for the last 20 miles – the constant pounding and vibrating can wear out your arms! When we stopped to fix a flat tire, a pickup truck pulled up behind us and a gentleman approached the van to find out what we were doing. He said, “I don’t have any money to donate to the cause, but I can pray for you guys.” He was excited to hear about the fight against NPC and grateful to be able to sign the van. Next came what might have been the biggest surprise of the trip. We were traveling along at a pretty good speed, making good time, when I glanced into the farm field on my right and saw a zebra – yes, a zebra in Arkansas! There was no explanation or way to figure out what a zebra was doing there, but when you see something that far from a place you would expect it, you’ll remember it!
Overall, it was a wonderful day.
As you might have noticed in the blog, each day, Renate and I have been sporting our Irish athletics t-shirts – we are very proud of this collection that gives us a new way to show our Irish spirit every day. Each team’s shirt becomes not only a fashion statement but also a conversation-starter. So many strangers across all these states – in restaurants, hotels and shops, and sometimes just along the road – notice the Notre Dame logo and mention it. That gives us a chance to talk about both the University and the NPC cause. Go Irish!
Yesterday I spoke about how wonderful our Notre Dame students are and how accomplished they are. Today I would like to tell you about a unique course, created and taught by Professor Kasturi Haldar, titled “A Course in Developing Health Networks in Rare and Neglected Diseases.”
NPC is actually a pilot disease studied in this interdisciplinary course, designed to help students become better advocates for research and treatment of rare diseases like NPC and neglected diseases like malaria and lymphatic filariasis. Students, including both upper-level undergraduates and graduate students, not only learn about clinical research in those areas but also conduct research themselves. For example, they score medical records of patients with NPC, which help develop a clinical score to be used to test the promising tools of diagnosis and treatment for this disease. The students also make a medical summary in the form of a notebook, which the families could use when they have to explain their situation to a new specialist. The course involves participation in the Center’s Clinical Translational Seminar Series, so they have a platform for interacting with top investigators and experts in the field. The students get really interested and involved in this work, and we help them find more opportunities for service and learning in the area beyond the course.
Wherever you look, the fight against NPC is going on with a great team of committed people, and more and more people are joining us. We are so proud to be a part of this effort on the Road to Discovery.