Tag Archives: NORD

Rare Disease Day is a day of unity for us patients with rare diseases. I can’t speak for you, but I felt very alone and isolated when I found out I had pemphigus vulgaris. Then I found community in the IPPF. It was very comforting to know there were others out there who had gone through what I was living through. Now imagine being with hundreds of others who have a variety of rare diseases.

More people have climbed Mount Everest than have crossed the United States of America on foot. Noah Coughlan has just finished with his amazing third run across america. Noah started a coast-to-coast run February 28, 2015 in New York City, NY. He finished after 127 days, crossing 13 states, and running 3,000 miles. He was greeted by his family, friends, and hundreds of patients with rare diseases, as he ran into the water at Ocean Beach, California on the 4th of July 2015.

Finale Finish Line Flag Done

Noah had been running to rally support for the 30 million Americans affected by rare diseases. There are over 7,000 known rare diseases – affecting 1 out of every 10 Americans. Noah’s inspiration to run comes from his personal connection to two childhood friends battling a rare brain disease called Batten Disease. Noah’s efforts demonstrated that just one person can truly make a difference. During his “Run4Rare” he was interviewed by many media outlets, met with lawmakers, engaged patients and families, and rallied support for the scientists and researchers attempting to find cures for rare diseases.

Throughout his journey Noah dedicated his daily miles to a different child or adult battling a different rare disease. On May 29, 2016 he dedicated his run to Marc Yale and the entire pemphigus and pemphigoid community. He ran an average of 25 miles per day battling adverse weather conditions and physical exhaustion. Noah ran solo while pushing an 80 pound jogging stroller of supplies. Above his stroller waved a large American flag given to him by the United States Air Force. The American flag Noah ran with every day was officially retired in a moving ceremony at Ocean Beach, CA when he arrived on Independence Day.

Noah’s unwavering dedication to be the voice for the rare disease community by running across the U.S. three times was inspiring to many advocates. One patient stated at a reception, sponsored by the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD), following the transcontinental run, “that he created a bridge for all rare disease groups to work together.” The impact that Noah delivered during his “Run4Rare” was to show that every person matters. Noah’s message of hope for patients with rare diseases has reached the halls of congress and every community he passed through on his journey.  His passion and tenacity as an advocate should remind us all that we need to advocate for ourselves as well as the entire rare disease community.

Noah and Marc Hannah and Noah Marc, Woman, and Noah Noah

This article was originally was posted at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/840206

The National Organization for Rare Disorders
The Importance of Rare Disease Education
Sophia A. Walker

February 25, 2015

Recently a wise professor told my class that we medical professionals are some of the most powerful people in the world. Indeed, we have the ability to meet people at their most vulnerable, sometimes on the very worst day of their lives, and help them. “This profession,” he told us, “is such a privilege that we must never miss the opportunity to have at least done some good for every patient.” Over the past several weeks, as I have planned rare disease awareness events and begun preparing to enter the clinical years of my medical education, I find myself considering these words more frequently. However, at the end of the day, I wonder how powerful we are, really…

My interest in rare diseases originated during my senior year of high school, when I first started volunteering at the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD). I was overwhelmed to discover the many obstacles experienced by patients who have rare diseases. On a technical level, any disease that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans is considered rare. Of the more than 7000 rare diseases, only approximately 350 have treatments that are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I found that individuals with these diseases, almost two thirds of whom are children, show great courage and perseverance in the face of significant discouragement. Although I had always wanted to be a doctor, it was not until I witnessed such unrelenting determination to overcome barriers in healthcare that I discovered my own enthusiasm for medicine.

All physicians strive to provide attentive medical care with the utmost compassion and empathy; however, as medical professionals, we must also be our patients’ most vocal advocates. Although I was not yet a physician, I still wanted to contribute to this effort. I wanted to provide a forum for the nearly 30 million Americans with rare diseases whose voices often go unheard in the medical community, and I wanted to share this passion with my peers. Every year, my fellow students and I host a Rare Diseases Awareness Event. Patients, students, clinicians, and researchers come together to share their experiences and insights regarding rare diseases. We strive to shed light on the lives of these individuals by allowing them to share their own stories, sometimes for the very first time.

Although many students may assume that we do not need to know as much about rare diseases because we are unlikely to encounter them in our practice, this is simply not the case. In fact, every one of us preparing for medical careers will see patients with rare diseases, and the extent to which we prepare ourselves for this reality will determine the impact we can have on these patients’ lives. Patients who have a rare disease face difficulty in every step of medical care, including diagnosis, treatment, and preserving quality of life. Sometimes, patients go years without receiving the correct diagnosis for their condition. Once they finally have an answer, often no treatment is available for their condition. As future physicians, we must aim to improve these prospects; the first step in doing so involves developing a keen understanding of this patient population.

The opportunities for medical students to learn about rare diseases are vast. Gaining a basic understanding of how the experience of having a rare disease is different from having a more common disease is equally essential. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has great information related to rare diseases on its website, and the NORD website provides overviews and links to more than 200 patient organizations that provide excellent information about specific rare diseases. Students can also apply for a free NORD student membership by writing to bhollister@rarediseases.org. Once you register, you receive a monthly eNews and quarterly newsletter specifically designed for students planning healthcare careers. If you’re attending the American Medical Student Association annual convention in Washington, DC, on February 27 and 28, come to the NORD booth in the exhibit hall where patients with rare diseases will be sharing their stories.

With each speaker I listen to at a rare diseases event, with each new person I meet, I am filled once again with immense pride that our efforts, if even in a small way, have done some good. Unlike many people who are involved in advocacy efforts in this area, when I began this work, I did not have a personal connection to rare diseases. However, after years of getting to know people who have experienced these struggles, I can say that I now have several. In fact, it is the memory of the individuals I have met and the satisfaction in having contributed to raising awareness that has guided my interests, served as an influence in many decisions, and ultimately has been the driving motivation in achieving my aspirations. With every step I take moving forward in my career, rare diseases comes along with me and will continue to do so.

My passion for rare diseases advocacy has become perhaps the foremost aspect that defines me and has made me who I am. It has given me direction, has made me a leader, and continually prepares me to become one of those physicians who will do some good. A couple of years ago, one of my undergraduate professors asked me, “Are you that rare diseases girl?” He went on to say that a student who had been inspired to research rare diseases after attending my event had approached him with an interest in working in his lab. This is the reason why I raise awareness for rare diseases. If just one more person every year becomes inspired, that may eventually make all the difference in the world. It turns out that, in the end, we are all powerful together. After all, according to the NORD motto: “Alone we are rare. Together we are strong.”®