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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Student club raises awareness about kidney disease screening

Over the summer, four students came together with the hopes of starting a chapter of the Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP) at Notre Dame. Their goal is to aid with the national issue of undetected kidney disease by providing free kidney screenings to members of the South Bend community. 

While completing a summer research program, junior Zachary Joseph was introduced to Li-Li Hsiao, the founder of KDSAP. After learning more about the organization from Hsiao, Joseph said he became interested in starting a chapter of KDSAP at Notre Dame. 

“The national organization is run by Li-Li Hsiao, and she was also running the research program I was in,” Joseph said. “So that is how I heard about KDSAP.” 

Joseph said he began by reaching out to fellow pre-med students junior Alex DelVecchio, sophomore Kennedy Gallaher and sophomore Jacob Finley. 

“Zach really took the reins on the project,” DelVecchio said. “He knew us all and he knew that we are all pre-med and so that was the idea behind reaching out to us.”

After establishing the team, Joseph next reached out to the Student Activities Office (SAO). Joseph, DelVecchio, Gallaher and Finley also worked on finding a physician advisor, which is a requirement set by KDSAP. 

“I reached out to Cody Ballinger who was really helpful in the process,” Joseph said. “SAO also has a page for prospective clubs so that was also helpful in learning about the process.”

Whereas an original club must only meet SAO requirements, a chapter of a national organization must meet both SAO and the organization’s requirements. This was something the club members said they had to keep in minding when creating the framework for the club. 

“Having lots of guidelines made it more of a clear path for us in terms of what we had to do to get started,” DelVecchio said. “If you are someone starting another club that is similar in nature, then you can start there. But if you are starting your own club you probably want to turn to SAO first.” 

The main struggle for the club so far has been going through SAO’s lengthy process for starting a club, something Joseph, DelVecchio and Gallaher expressed resentment towards.

“We haven’t seen SAO’s side of it. But seeing it from our side, I think that it could certainly be a much shorter process,” Gallaher said. 

Joseph added that he thinks the timeline is rather drawn out and consequently frustrating. Moreover, SAO put a pause on their typical prospective club application cycle and does not have a fall 2024 application. This is yet another obstacle Joseph and his team said they are trying to overcome.

As students in the midst of the process, Joseph, DelVecchio and Gallaher had various pieces of advice to give to students who could someday be in a similar position. The three students agreed that starting early is essential to getting approval from SAO. 

“The biggest thing is to start early,” Joseph said. “It is a long process and it is harder to complete once the school year starts and stuff starts piling up.”

The hopeful founders of Notre Dame’s chapter of KDSAP also underscored the importance of reaching out to people and contacting anyone who could assist.

“Don’t be afraid to push. Reach out to as many people as possible and make sure they know how passionate you are about starting your club. Just dive in,” Gallaher said. 

Though still trying to get approval from SAO, who, again, have put a pause on their regular application cycle, Joseph, DelVecchio, Gallaher and Finley have begun searching for students who want to be a part of the club. 

“We sent assistant dean Maureen Dawson an email asking her to mention us in her weekly email, and she did. After that was when we started getting some emails rolling in about people wanting to join,” DelVecchio said. 

The team also suggested reaching out to friends and classmates as a place to start recruiting club members, the very method Joseph used to establish the founding team.