They might have been exhausted, but dozens of medical students who ran the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon or MiniMarathon on Saturday were all smiles as they presented their medals to children fighting critical diseases in a ceremony at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
One of the 73 young patients who received a medal was 5-year-old Drew Krause, who has acute lymphocytic leukemia. Drew’s medal came from UofL medical student Luke Meredith, who ran the MiniMarathon.
Drew’s mother is herself a doctor – Andrea Krause, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at UofL. She said when Drew was diagnosed on Nov. 30, 2016, “the Krause family’s lives changed forever.”
Krause said she ran a half marathon when she was a fourth-year medical student. “At the time, that was probably one of the hardest things I had done, to run such a long distance. I didn’t think it was possible. I know a lot of the runners here today might have had their doubts about, ‘Am I going to finish? Can I do this?’”
So told the students at the ceremony that long-distance running might help them understand what patients and their families go through, and thanked them, saying “true acts of kindness” like the medal donations are “really what gets you through. It is very true the statement that no one fights alone.”
The event was part of the “Medals4Mettle” program, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization that links athletes and critically ill individuals. Before the race, each medical student was matched with a child to whom they would be giving their medal, who they had a chance to meet with earlier this week.
Taylor Hodge, a fourth-year medical student at UofL and co-president of the Medals4Mettle chapter at the School of Medicine, said medical students “learn about disease, but it’s not every day that we learn what disease means to patients and their families.
“Meeting them gives you a little bit of insight into what they deal with every day. I’ve learned bravery is putting one foot in front of the other, even when all the cards are stacked against you and you don’t really feel like doing it.”
Medals4Mettle was founded in 2005 by Steve Isenberg, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Indianapolis. Dr. Isenberg said he had just finished running the Chicago Marathon when he learned a patient of his, who also happened to be a close friend and fellow doctor, had been readmitted to the hospital severely ill. He went up to his room, with the medal in his pocket from the day before. He put it around his friend’s neck.
“It was an amazing moment for us, and after he died, his wife told me how much that meant to him,” said Isenberg, who came from Indianapolis for Saturday’s ceremony in Louisville. He said he started the organization because he thought maybe the experience could benefit others.
UofL’s program began in 2008 as the first medical-school based Medals4Mettle program in the country. It has continued to grow, and Dr. Isenberg said it has provided template for other medical schools across the U.S. “It helps the students realize what they are really training to do,” he said.