Physician Assistant Students Rally for Marfan Syndrome

By jretter | March 26, 2015

In 2010, two-year-old Angelina Dolge passed away due to complications from Marfan Syndrome, a disorder caused by a mutation in the genes that encode for the body’s connective tissue. Though Angelina’s life was cut short, her aunt, Samantha Liddy, PA-S, was inspired to pursue a lifelong career in medicine. Liddy’s personal connection to Marfan Syndrome is what led Arcadia’s Physician Assistant program and those of six other schools in the Greater Philadelphia area to choose The Marfan Foundation as the recipient of this year’s Physician Assistant Olympics Fundraiser.

“I felt extremely honored when the Marfan Foundation was chosen because Angelina’s legacy is so dear to my heart,” said Liddy. “Many people are unfamiliar with this disease and honestly, before Angelina was diagnosed, my family knew very little as well.”

With 1 in 5,000 people living with the disorder and half of those people going undiagnosed, the Marfan Foundation helps families affected by the syndrome by providing access to resources and supporting medical research. Knowing how much this fundraiser would mean to families like Liddy’s, students were eager to “raise as much money and awareness as possible,” says Bridget McHugh, PA-S, who serves as chairperson for the fundraiser. She made the decision to take on a leadership role in order to rally for Liddy’s family and to encourage fierce student involvement in the project.

“Service allows us to see another side of health care; the side operating on a need for research and funds,” said McHugh. “When we become practitioners, we will only be able to help our patients as far as the dollar has gone to supply a cure, so while we have the time and resources as students, it is vital that we put our best efforts forward in fundraising activities.”

Liddy and McHugh are both featured in a video on the fundraiser’s website. The project will culminate with the 13th anniversary of the PA Olympics at Southampton, N.J.’s Bamboo Gardens. Before this year’s games, each program is working to meet a joint fundraising goal of $6,000. While their efforts will be a great contribution to the Marfan Foundation and the families it helps, students also will walk away having learned “empathy, compassion, and determination for helping another person,” said McHugh.

Those lessons are part of what Liddy, who aspires to work with veterans of the U.S. military, said has been an “exceptional education so far” as she completes her first year in Arcadia’s PA program. It has been challenging academically, but Liddy believes her classmates have helped make it a very rewarding experience.

“We have leaned on each other to get through this year,” said Liddy. “You know you have chosen the right profession when you are fascinated by the material you are studying and are humbled by the patients you meet.”