Students Walk in Patients’ Footsteps

Student Scholars Program participants received a crash course in nonprofits in the lung disease community at Saturday’s PAR Path.

The ATS Public Advisory Roundtable (PAR) consists of different organizations advocating for patients in the lung and airways disorders space. The PAR Path is a section of the Exhibit Hall that featured 14 different PAR group booths for student scholars to visit in six-minute increments on Saturday afternoon.

Donna Appel, executive director and founder of the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network Inc., came up with the idea last year to give students some facetime with nonprofit organizations—like a speed-dating event, she said.

“Certainly, in this day and age, patient centricity, patient engagement, and putting the patients in the drug development pipeline early is all part of their career and the skillset that they need to learn,” said Ms. Appel.

PAR Path is only for participants in the Student Scholars Program now, but she said she hopes it can expand to all groups within the early career professional programs.

“I think it should be to the PhD groups, too, because they don’t get a lot of patient contact and know who we are,” Ms. Appel said. “We’re researchers’ cheerleaders. It’d be really great to have them down the row so we could say how important they are to us.”

In the meantime, though, it’s working smoothly for the Student Scholars.

The students learn which disease community each booth represents, the symptoms and characteristics of the disease as well as how to diagnose, the focus of the nonprofit organization, and their top initiatives. Essentially, it’s a crash course in nonprofits in the lung disease community.

“Each booth gets a monologue,” Ms. Appel said. “They go through a monologue, because we don’t want to make it threatening for students. We don’t want them to have to come up with questions to ask us or make this awkward. I have every disease group describing the focus of their organization, and each organization is going through [the same] list with them.”

“I think it’s really awesome,” said Michala Patterson, BS, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “As an undergraduate student, I haven’t heard of most of this stuff. So now, going into the future of medical school and becoming a doctor, these experiences of talking with real patients are going to stick with me and really become something that is the foundation for my medical career. And I feel like that’s what medicine should be in the first place—founded on patients.”

Companies who participated in the PAR Path include:

  • Alpha-1 Foundation
  • Allergy & Asthma Network
  • ARDS Foundation
  • Children’s Interstitial Lung Disease Foundation, Inc.
  • Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research
  • Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome
  • The LAM Foundation
  • Lung Transplant Foundation
  • LUNGevity Foundation
  • NTM Info and Research
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation
  • Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Foundation (PCD)
  • Scleroderma Foundation
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance