Living La Vida Lupie

Derived from a Senior Capstone class assignment, this year’s newest edition towards community engagement was devoted to Lupus awareness. The Club “Living La Vida Lupie” was founded by six senior Communication Studies majors who partnered with Lupus Research Alliance and Lupus LA to raise awareness for Lupus research, to advocate, to inform fellow classmates about the disease, and to promote finding a cure.

Whether it be the “Go East LA” college awareness program, improving children’s preschool language and literacy skills through “Jumpstart,” or simply engaging in community service, Cal State LA prepares students to serve the changing needs in a global society.

The club serves as an ambassador branch whose goal is to raise $1,000 in proceeds towards Lupus research. All of the donated proceeds for the club will go directly towards Lupus LA - a partnered non-profit organization, whose mission statement declared that their sole purpose is to conduct medical research, have a patient program dedicated to those affected by Lupus, and promote advocacy and awareness on both local and national level for more government involvement.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects more than 1.5 million Americans. Nine out of ten lupus patients are women, the majority of whom are of minority descent. Lupus can attack virtually any organ of the body, including the kidneys, brain, heart, and blood. There is no known cause or cure.

Raising awareness is an important part of the Lupus LA mission. Lupus is widespread but lacks awareness or accurate information. Research shows that although 1.5 million people in the U.S. have lupus, nearly two-thirds of the public knows little or nothing about the disease. In fact, more Americans have Lupus than AIDS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, making it one of this country’s most prevalent medical problems. In Los Angeles County alone, there are over 60,000 people are suffering from Lupus.

According to the American College of Rheumatology Workforce Study, it is estimated that about half of practicing rheumatologist will retire in eight years - meaning that in 2025 there will be a shortage of 2,600 rheumatologists in the U.S. To help ease those diagnosed with Lupus’ stress, Lupus LA began as a rheumatology fellowship with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Within the fellowship program they train various free clinics and hospitals in Los Angeles on how to recognize and diagnose Lupus.

Lupus LA has currently provided over $150,000 in support of medical research programs by partnering on a national level with Lupus Research Institute and the Alliance for Lupus Research.  Since 2000, the LA branch has donated $10.5 million towards lupus research and have more recently has help start a grant program in which patients are able to receive $500 annually to help cover the costs of Lupus-related emergencies. Lupus LA’s current support groups are located in Alhambra, Baldwin Park, Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Ontario and Sherman Oaks, a Spanish-language group in Boyle Heights and a new group in the Crenshaw area.

In regards to Lupus Advocacy they currently have a government lobby team, social media team and a celebrity ambassador program in hope to spread awareness. Their patient program offers one-on-one consultations, doctor referrals, support groups, emergency grants, and patient education. For medical research Lupus LA invests in rheumatology study, giving back to the community in local projects, and funding medical research.

According to Jasmine Alarcon, President of the club, who was recently diagnosed with Lupus, “My Lupus diagnosis has definitely been a journey and a learning experience for me, but I have to say I am overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from my Livin La Vida Lupie colleagues and the Lupus LA organization.”

And in regards to how she feels about having a support group on campus, “I am definitely feeling the love, being a part of a club on campus that is aimed towards funding lupus research and helping individuals like myself has been extremely rewarding on so many levels. I am beyond grateful for the support and encouragement.”

According to Michael McGrath, another founding member of the club he describes the end result for the club and his thoughts on starting this club his senior year, “Our goal is to create awareness, so that our fellow peers know what Lupus is, and give them an opportunity to help.”

“Personally, I won't be graduating till Fall ‘17, so I hope to recruit more students to our club, that way the club can continue spreading awareness even after we have graduated.” said McGrath

According to the club’s advisor Dr. Lena Chao, “In my past experiences teaching the Capstone course I have seen some of the most extraordinary professional projects produced by our students, and the Lupus LA club project ranks right at the top!  What is so profoundly impressive is that no Capstone project has raised the level of funding that Lupus LA has in such a short period of time, and the caliber of talent, commitment, creativity, resourcefulness and cohesion of the club members is clearly in the league of professional public relations practitioners!”

And her thoughts on being advocacy driven, “I have always been immensely impressed by the fact that our students naturally gravitate toward community-based, non-profit organizations for their Capstone projects, and their desire to “give back to the community” is what sets our students both above and apart from all other campuses in the CSUs and the UCs.  This hands-on, application-oriented approach to learning in the Capstone course is designed to provide a segue between our students’ academic training and professional experience that mirrors real-world obstacles—which enables our students to engage in meaningful critical thinking and problem-solving strategies.  In every instance our students have risen to the challenge, and the ultimate reward is a tangible learning outcome that is not only mutually beneficial to the students and the organization, but is also tremendously gratifying—both intrinsically by giving back to the community, and extrinsically with a Capstone project extraordinarily well done!  It is incredibly reassuring to know we are producing graduates who are not just skilled at their prospective professions, but who are also model global citizens who are helping to build a better tomorrow!” said Dr. Chao.  

The Cal State LA’s branch this year's goal is to reach $1,000 in donations to fund research development and a cure for the disease.

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