Possibly the most hardworking and selfless Campus Celeb you’ll ever to know, Leah Steinmetz is more than just a 19 year old girl from New York city with a knack for running. Leah is a sophomore here at UW-Madison studying Neurobiology and Global Health with outstanding involvement in research and raising money for Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that’s miserably affecting people all around the world. Leah, our campus celebrity of the week, is making a change!
What would you like people to know about MS that they may not already know?
MS actually isn’t a fatal disease. It’s a miserable disease that causes a lot of pain and suffering. It’s almost worse because people deal with the disease their whole lives. Every time someone faces a relapse, the symptoms are almost always exponentially worst than the previous relapse, which is why finding a cure is so imperative. The psychological damage of the disease is miscommunicated and unfortunately devastating.
What role do you play to help research for MS?
Currently I work in a research lab in the Medical Sciences Building looking at the role of specific immune cells in your brain on MS onset and progression. It’s kind of difficult to explain how exactly I do that, but you’ll just have to take my word on it.
When did you start being involved in this research?
In high school! My school has a really cool program where you can drop most of your classes and write a full-length science paper and do research at the same time. I decided to research the treatment of MS using parasitic worms– a really controversial, but incredibly cool, topic.
Why is this topic so important to you?
I spent a full year in high school and have spent over 20 hours a semester every semester since I’ve been here dedicated to MS research. Honestly, I’m fortunate enough to not have been personally affected by MS, but a very good family friend my age was diagnosed our freshman year of college.
Have your family and friends been supportive and helped you engage more in your involvement with research for MS?
I’m really the black sheep of my family. My parents are both accountants and my sister is a consultant. I’m really the only one who is even remotely interested in science so they’re really excited for me and could not have been more supportive. Since coming to Wisconsin, I’ve made incredible connections with some of the best researchers in the world and my parents and friends have been supportive of me every step of the way.
What do you hope to achieve with your involvement in MS research? Where do you hope to see yourself, or this research, in 5 or 10 years?
I’m currently pre-med, really focused on public health. I plan on staying closely connected to MS as it has played such an incredible role in my life. I want to do more outreach in terms of prevention, awareness and encouragement of wellbeing. I actually don’t plan on being a neurologist or anything close to that. I want to be an OBGYN with a focus on women’s health for underserved populations whether that’s abroad or in country. In both 5 and 10 years I’ll still be in med school… fun!!!!! But in 20 years, hopefully I’ll be abroad… maybe in Rwanda, a country and culture I’m very close to, working for a nonprofit providing care for an underserved population there.
Most importantly, how can people help or become involved?
In the Fall, I will be flying home to participate in something called Bike MS, a 100 mile bike ride dedicated to raising money and awareness for those affected by MS get on a bike, let alone walk. I am riding for my family friend who has to deal with this horrible disease every single day. I’m looking to raise around 5,000 dollars – that’s only 50$ per mile. Any donation of any size truly helps and I hope that people can really see the devastating effects of the disease and the imperative need for funding to be able to do the research that I am doing because it truly makes a difference. (Here is the website where you can donate to Leah’s fundraiser!)
There you have it! Leah truly is a celebrity for her campus, and for people suffering with MS all over the world. Want to be a celebrity too? Help Leah make a difference and donate to MS!