Lauren Meiss believes her inner strength comes from being a rate disease patient herself. As a medical student at the University of Califnornia, San Francisco, Meiss entered the David R. Cox Prize for Rare Compassion and won third place champion. Her essay, which discussed her own rare history with Cystic Fibrosis, talks about how having a rare disease from birth doesn’t seem abnormal as she has never known another way of living.

“It was important to me to apply to this program because I wanted to more deeply explore my feelings toward rare disease care. In writing my essay for the application, I had a very meaningful opportunity to dive into what drives me toward rare disease care and how I personally can have the most constructive impact as I move forward in my medical education,” said Meiss.

She met with many patients, including a woman named Rachel, caregiver to a late cystic fibrosis patient.

“I was completely overcome by a flood of emotions when I first spoke with Rachel. Our common experiences with the threats of cystic fibrosis ignited a conversation that spilled into our next few meetings.”

She also met with Rick Guidotti of Positive Exposure, a non-profit organization the seeks to show the beauty of rare disease patients through photography.

Meiss is most interested in working with children in the rare disease community.

“Because I am so interested in rare disease and, more specifically, the impact of rare disease on a family, I have read many stories of patients and families, listened to many podcasts, and watched many documentaries that address this topic. In particular, I have been very drawn to the progression of Progeria research and care because I was so drawn to a little girl named Adalia Rose. She is obviously overflowing with personality and has definitely had a big impact on drawing me toward the field of rare disease care.”

Though it is always difficult to see a patient suffer, Meiss has no regrets on being involved in the program. “Meeting the patient served to solify my interest in rare disease.  I got to see on a very personal level how rare disease of a patient can have a lifelong impact even in the lives of the healthy people that love him or her.

Read Lauren’s powerful essay here.