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'One less thing to worry about': University of Calgary students battling diseases receive bursaries


Crohn's and Colitis Canada has awarded University of Calgary student Brady Elchitz a $5,000 scholarship to help him with his studies while living with and managing his disease.

Elchitz, a second-year kinesiology student, was diagnosed with Crohn's in 2015.

"My mom was diagnosed with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) when she was 12 years old, like around the same time as me, so she was more or less just expecting it for me," Elchitz said.

"I've found a good medication that suits me. I've been on it for six and a half years now."

Elchitz says IBD is a hidden disease that no one knows about unless they've gone through it, but that it has serious side effects he has to deal with.

Elchitz is helping with research and made a proposal for kids and adolescents with IBD looking at how physical activity can improve their symptoms.

"In 2021, I started an IBD youth group along with the Crohn's and Colitis (group) in Alberta," he said.

"That's mainly just based on the idea for these younger kids from 12 to 20 years old, to find a sense of community with people who have IBD to have common interests."

Paul Kilbertus, senior manager of PR and communications for Crohn's and Colitis Canada, says the bursary program started in 2012 and has had 139 successful applicants so far, with 15 being awarded annually.

"What we really hope is for young people in particular who are living with a chronic disease that is very disruptive to your daily life, that they have one less thing to worry about," Kilbertus said.

"That they've got some resources available in order to pursue their studies, to pursue their interests, to pursue their passions and not have to worry about financial matters as potentially they would have if this money was not available for them."

Sarah Jacob, a master's neuroscience graduate student in her sixth year at the University of Calgary, is one of three winners of a $2,500 bursary from the ALS Society of Canada and the Kevin Daly Bursary Fund.

The bursary is granted to post-secondary students who share a personal connection to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

"My mom has ALS and ever since she got diagnosed, I've wanted to dive into research, explore everything there is to know about this disease," Jacob said.

"So that's why I started doing research in ALS back in 2020 and that's why I wanted to pursue a master's in ALS."

Jacob says the bursary will help with her tuition because she's taken out a lot of student loans throughout her undergrad studies.

"I want to be able to contribute to the research community that's trying to find a cure for ALS and just do whatever I can to help," she said.

"Currently, with my master's, I'm trying to figure out the role of the microbiome and what that plays in ALS."

Kim Barry, vice-president of community services for ALS Canada, says this is the first year the Kevin Daly bursary is being awarded to three recipients.

"Sarah has done an amazing job in terms of research into the world of ALS," Barry said.

"She has this added layer of complexity of dealing with a parent who has a diagnosis and also wanting to find a cure for ALS and so she's right in the trenches, really bringing awareness to the disease."

Jacob says her mom is proud of her studies.

"She's had ALS now for, officially, five years," she said.

"Her condition progressed a lot and really fast. She's still OK, and she's the strongest person I know." Top Stories

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