UConn KDSAP’s Initiative to Promote Kidney Health Awareness in Youth Populations – Spring 2020 UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship – Change Grant Project
The KDSAP chapter at UConn advocates for the awareness of chronic kidney disease; often overlooked at primary levels of healthcare. With the support of the Change Grant, group members Maria Guerrero, James He, and Serena Verma will establish an educational program for middle school students focused on healthy habits, an emphasis on prevention efforts, and kidney-centered activities.
Maria, a John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholar, is a junior majoring in Biological Sciences while also pursuing a minor in Neuroscience. She was born in Cuenca, Ecuador, and is bilingual. She is currently involved in research at the Integrative Physiology lab, is VP of Huskies for Haiti, and is Service Chair of MEDLIFE. She is currently a Co-President of UConn’s Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP), a service-oriented organization she joined her freshman year. She has not only witnessed the club’s tremendous growth in a little under 3 years, but has also been able to further solidify her journey in medicine as well. Throughout her freshman year, Maria completed over 300 hours of community service through an AmeriCorps program: Jumpstart! This is where she initially discovered the importance and impact of working with younger populations by going into classrooms twice a week with lesson plans. Bringing together two of her passions, medicine and teaching, Maria hopes that this project will spark an interest in middle schoolers while bringing awareness to the prevalence and prevention of chronic kidney disease, and will be successfully carried on by future members of KDSAP. Aside from academics, Maria loves to travel and has completed three medical mission trips abroad to Peru, the Dominican Republic, and has led a team of UConn students to Ecuador with MEDLIFE. In the future, Maria hopes to continue to serve as an advocate for underserved and vulnerable populations as a physician.
James He, from Woodbridge, CT, is a junior in the STEM Scholar community majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology while working towards minors in Mathematics and Neuroscience. He is currently an undergraduate researcher in the LoTurco Lab, a violinist in the UConn Symphony Orchestra, the Director of Programming of the Kidney Disease Screening Awareness and Prevention Program (KDSAP), and the preschool site manager for America Reads. His experience working with younger students and passion for medical science motivate KDSAP’s Change Grant initiative to broaden preventative care for kidney disease in middle and elementary school students. Throughout high school, James conducted a research study aiming to define accurate predictors of reading development in early education and realized the magnitude at which a child’s academic, social, and physical development can impact their lives decades later. KDSAP’s core focus on kidney disease, an often overlooked aspect of physical health, presented a clear opportunity to deliver a lasting impact in young populations. In the future, James hopes to integrate his interests in medicine and research as a physician-scientist. In addition to his academic pursuits, he is a passionate violinist, card game strategist, and basketball enthusiast.
Serena is a junior studying physiology and neurobiology with a minor in nutrition for exercise and sport on a premedical track. She is passionate about preventive health and wellness and is involved in teaching fitness classes at UConn recreation, partakes in nutritional science research on cardiovascular disorders, and is a co-leader of UConn’s Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP). She also loves service and has taken part in multiple alternate breaks and volunteers with the elderly at Mansfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. To kick back and have fun, Serena enjoys singing with her all-female a cappella group Rubyfruit. She hopes that her passion for working with others and her scientific curiosity will lead her to the field of medicine one day, so that she can care for patients holistically as a primary care physician.