Alumni Spotlight: Morgan Kath, University of Rochester '16No Diabetes XXL
CDN AlumniCDN alum Morgan, University of Rochester, Biochemistry May 2016, shares her experiences.
Tell us a little about your diabetes story:
My sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age 5 on February 14, 2001. I was in first grade and she was in kindergarten. It started as the flu, which kept getting worse. I woke up, ready for my class’ Valentine’s Day party, only to realize my sister and mom were gone. Confused, my dad sat me down and said that during the night my mom brought my sister to the emergency room. On the verge of a coma, she was then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee and had been diagnosed with diabetes. After three days in intensive care, meetings with diabetes educators and dietitians, the “real world” of T1D hit.
While our family was learning how to count carbs, my dad wrote the carb count per serving in black Sharpie on the front of nearly every food box or container in the house. It took years for the Sharpie to wash off the plastic container which held the pancake mix. However, quickly enough, we become fluent in the language of counting carbs and calculating boluses.
Tell us about your undergraduate career:
Along with the College Diabetes Network Chapter at the University of Rochester, I was involved with our newspaper, The Campus Times, and served as layout editor of the Journal of Undergraduate Research. I spent one summer conducting research in an immunology lab studying influenza. My senior year, I completed two semesters of independent study researching DNA damage repair. I even was a co-author on two papers!
Growing up and spending my entire life in Wisconsin, moving to upstate New York for college was a huge transition but one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was so fun being able to meet people from such diverse backgrounds, along with exploring the unique experiences the region has to offer, like Wegmans and Niagara Falls!
How did you get involved with CDN? And what was your Chapter involvement?
I had been involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) for years, participating in every JDRF OneWalk since my sister was diagnosed and helping to write our donation request letter every year. One year my sister and I were even co-Youth Ambassadors for the OneWalk. Coming to college, I missed my involvement with the diabetes community and was especially excited when I saw a post on our class Facebook page asking if anyone would be interested in starting a CDN Chapter. Little did I know, that meeting at Starbucks would mark the birth of the University of Rochester Chapter of the College Diabetes Network and some amazing friendships.
Even though founding the club and my role of vice president was a lot of work, the rewards are unparalleled. I loved my involvement in planning College Diabetes Week, helping with our creation of a Teen Diabetes Network, and all the skills I gained in being a leader. The highlights of my involvement with CDN were attending the 2nd Annual Leadership Retreat in Maine as well as attending the American Diabetes Association Conference in New Orleans with CDN.
What have you been doing since graduating from undergrad?
Just like diabetes doesn’t always go as planned, I’ve also experienced that life doesn’t either. I love research and participated in research as an undergraduate and was very excited to start a dream PhD program in immunology after graduation. However, after one semester I realized this wasn’t what I wanted and made a very hard decision to leave the program. After a short stint of moving back home, I found a job I love at a contract research organization. My day-to-day work involves conducting experiments that help pharmaceutical companies move forward in their product development and eventually toward FDA approval. I love that I’m making a difference in helping new drugs get approved to improve people’s lives.
I also have adopted two cats, Gunner and Ammo, who are my fur babies. I love that they’re at the door to great me after a long day of work!
What are your aspirations for the future?
In the future I hope to have a career in science communication, but I’ve learned that even the best laid plans don’t go as you hope and you need to be open to whatever opportunities life hands to you. I’ve always said that my biggest goal in life is to be happy, so as long as I’m happy, I’m doing life right!
Leave us with some advice:
Mulan is my favorite Disney movie, and the wise Emperor says it best with, “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all.” Diabetes is hard. School is hard. Life is hard. But you are amazing and can handle anything that life hands you.
Contributor: Morgan Kath