LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For the past seven years, University of Louisville medical students have run in the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon or Marathon in honor of patients with cancer and blood disorders in the university’s pediatric hematology/oncology division. This year’s runners presented their race medals to their young buddies in a special ceremony following the races on April 25 in the lobby of the Kosair Charities Clinical & Translational Research Building.
“It’s an opportunity to share yourself and your time. In doing so, you create a bond with a patient and gain a better understanding of what they go through,” said McKenzie Vater, a third-year medical student who has participated in the event for the past three years. “I train with them in mind to get through 13.1 miles of road knowing they are running a much more difficult race of their own.”
Medals4Mettle (M4M) distributes race medals earned by distance athletes to critically ill patients across the nation who are running a race of a different kind – a race for their lives. The UofL School of Medicine program is unique in that the students have the opportunity to meet with their buddies prior to the race and personally present their medals to them after running. The students often run for the same patient year after year, developing a special relationship between the students and the patients and their families.
Evan Hendricks was one of 71 UofL medical students matched with young patients for this year’s race. He ran for a little girl named Katie.
“We met three or four times and it was something I would look forward to and I hoped she would, too,” Hendricks said at the presentation ceremony. “I hope to give her some comfort and let her know that even people who don’t know you want you to do well.”
“I think this is important because it supports many of the children that are diagnosed with cancer,” said Chase Weaver, a young buddy who spoke at the presentation. “Instead of sitting in a hospital bed, they should be out playing. They should have the opportunity to get out and have fun instead of sitting in a hospital bed with IVs stuck in their arms and fingers.”
Gerard Rabalais, M.D., M.H.A., chair of the department of pediatrics at UofL, thanked the parents of the children for allowing them to participate with the medical students.
“There is far more to becoming a physician than learning from a book, studying and looking in a microscope. This is a chance for the students to see illness through a patient’s and family’s eyes. The availability of your children to partner with them, for them to get to know you and your family and to know that child, is such a special thing.”