LOUISVILLE, Ky. –More than four dozen University of Louisville medical, dental and nursing students will run in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and give their medals to critically ill patients being treated by UofL Pediatrics faculty. The students are participating in Medals4Mettle, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization that links athletes and critically ill individuals.
The students will meet their buddies Tuesday, April 12, 3 p.m., at a party in the Norton Hospital auditorium. The patients will give their partners friendship bracelets to wear during the race. Many of the teams will exchange emails and phone calls during the weeks leading up to the race. Some students will join their buddies for doctor visits, treatments and chemotherapy. Some of the patients and their families will cheer the runners across the finish line if the weather is appropriate.
“Our patients really enjoy being “running buddies” with the students,” explained Salvatore Bertolone, M.D., chief of the UofL Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplant. &38220;Conversely, this helps our students become better doctors and nurses because they get to experience the impact that disease has on patients and their families. This makes it real.”
“During the first two years of med school, you spend all day sitting in the classroom learning the science of medicine. Most of us don’t go to medical school to be scientists so it’s nice to feel like I am a part of the patient’s experience,” said Riley Jones, who created the program during his first year of medical school.
Five students have participated in Medals4Mettle since its UofL launch three years ago, including medical student Marc Ettensohn, who also is a cancer survivor.
“I feel the need to be a personal advocate for patients. Medical students and doctors really do care about patients but often we’re too busy to say, ‘I’m rooting for you and I’m running this race with you,’” Ettensohn said. “This is an opportunity to practice a different type of medicine. I can be a healer instead of letting the drugs do all the work.”
The UofL hematology/oncology patients range in age from 2 to 20 years old. They are being treated for a variety of conditions, including brain cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia and sickle cell disease. The children were chosen to receive the medals in consultation with the child psychologist and nursing staff of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Specialists, a practice operated by UofL Pediatrics faculty members.
The students will present their medals to their patient partners at an awards ceremony on Sunday, May 1, 1:30 p.m., Norton Hospital auditorium.