Lightning and rain. Heat and humidity. Runners in this year’s Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon and Marathon encountered a variety of weather challenges on Saturday. However, the delays and adverse conditions did not deter 87 students from University of Louisville Schools of Medicine and Dentistry who finished the race so they could present their hard-earned medals to children fighting an even tougher battle.
It was the ninth year students from the School of Medicine have participated in the UofL chapter of Medals4Mettle, running the Derby Festival races in honor of patients in the UofL Division of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation. This year, students from graduate programs and the School of Dentistry also participated.
Julie Klensch, a fourth-year medical student, presented her miniMarathon medal to Audrey Nethery in a special ceremony following the races. Klensch has run all four years for Nethery, an 8-year-old with Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare genetic syndrome that causes her bone marrow to produce too few red blood cells.
Running has become an important stress reliever for Klensch during her years in medical school, but she says she is even more grateful for the relationship she has built with Nethery and her family.
“When it’s raining or I don’t want to run some days, I remember that I could be in treatment for years for a condition that’s out of my control,” Klensch says. “It helps me remember the bigger picture of the people we are treating. It has shaped how I will do things and treat patients as a physician.”
Medals4Mettle (M4M) is an international organization that allows endurance athletes to donate their awards to critically ill individuals in honor of their courage in the face of life-threatening illnesses. The UofL program helps health professional students see the struggles of the children and their families who are dealing with cancer and life-threatening diseases, giving them a deeper understanding of the patients they will treat as practicing physicians.
This year’s UofL Medals4Mettle program was supported by Stock Yards Bank and Trust, Pacers and Racers, Pure Barre, Home Fit, 413 fitness and UofL Pediatrics.