Essential Tremor Played a Huge Role in Shaping Who I Am Today

Each semester, the IETF awards four $1,000 college scholarships to students who have essential tremor through its Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund. As part of the application process, students are asked to write an essay on the topic, “how essential tremor has affected my life.” The following essay is from one of our fall 2021 scholarship recipients.

By Reed Podoll,
Kansas State University,

“Hey, are you ok? You seem a bit nervous.” This question was brought up extensively throughout my childhood years. It seems odd, but it was because I had been diagnosed with essential tremor at the young age of two, which causes my hands to involuntarily and endlessly shake, amplified through stress or focus. The first part of that question stuck with me throughout the years: “Am I ok?” Or more accurately, “Am I ok with this?” Though I dreaded it at the time, what I didn’t realize is that essential tremor played a huge role in shaping who I am today.

Reed Podoll photo

I initially had to look to my father for guidance, since he has essential tremor, too. His help became crucial during the early years of school, as learning to write and type became difficult because of my essential tremor. He taught me to slow down and remain calm to keep the jittering to a minimum. That advice has stuck with me over the years. But as I got to middle and high school, I found that not everyone was as accepting of my essential tremor.

During eighth grade, I decided to take an art class, even though I knew I’d be at a disadvantage. I was inspired by the sketches my mother would do. Though I had explained my situation to the art teacher at the beginning of the semester, when it came time for the 3-D design project, I was told my lines weren’t “straight enough” and I received a lower grade because of that. This wasn’t the only time something like this happened, as during my sophomore year I had been tasked with filling out event guides for the student council. I had put hours into making sure they were as accurate as could be, but ultimately that time was wasted when the staff members said the handwriting was “messy and unprofessional” so they wouldn’t look at them.

When it came time to find a career to pursue, I wanted to go into radiology like my grandfather, but was denied as I needed fine-motor skills. I could have given up there, but I decided to find the best way to still stay in the medical field and found biomedical engineering. It was through pursuing this new goal that I discovered my love for biology and math, which I didn’t know I had. I now had the drive to push myself further than before, with plans on track to finish calculus 3 by the end of my senior year.

After touring the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at Kansas State University, I plan to attend their biomedical engineering program with a focus on sensors and devices. The money from this scholarship will help me to be able to afford the costs associated with living in the dorms, so I may meet and encourage other students who may have gone through the same experiences I have. 


Do you want to help support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.