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 2020 scholarship recipients.
By Brandon Staple
University of Colorado-Denver
Raised a poor, dyslexic, and partially-homeless African-American with few socioeconomic opportunities, I was unable to see a successful future.
So when I was diagnosed with essential tremor in 2014, my disease compounded my situation causing severe anxiety and despair. Luckily, I was treated by a wonderful neurologist who became my mentor. She taught me that ET was my “new normal” and empowered me to pursue those opportunities that seemed unattainable before my diagnosis. So, despite ET, I’m navigating its challenges.
Specifically driven by my dyslexia and ET, I forged a unique discipline of solving complex problems, not just once as a normal person, but repetitively, thus, always discovering multiple non-obvious answers. This ability became a transformational habit that gave me a unique advantage in understanding the intricacies of complex concepts, like artificial intelligence (AI), that others struggle with. Thus, my disease transformed me into a highly-accomplished student who was one of 10 nationwide accepted into the prestigious BS/MD program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, directly out of high school.
Today, I’m achieving my goal of completing my pre-med biology (neurobiology focus) undergraduate degree with a minor in psychology and advancing to become a neuropsychologist. Additionally, my disease was instrumental in exposing me to important ET-based professional and community organizations in which I’m establishing my service-leadership. Finally, my ET opened up numerous opportunities for me to volunteer as a mentor and role model for others suffering from the disease.
I have three main educational and career goals. The first is to complete my pre-med undergraduate degree and advance to become a neuropsychologist. In my career, I plan to leverage advanced capabilities, like AI, wearables, noninvasive brain stimulation, to gain new insights into the complex neurological and genetic factors underlying conditions, like ET and Parkinson’s disease. This will enable me to deliver the next generation of medication, therapies, and surgeries to address the disease.
The second of my goals is to serve as an effective leader in ET-related professional and community organizations, like the International Essential Tremor Foundation and the Tremor Action Network, to increase awareness of the condition and be an effective advocate for policies that accelerate the delivery of new treatments for ET.
My final goal is to be an effective mentor who inspires the next generation of healthcare professionals so they can join the fight against this terrible disease.
Impact of a Scholarship
Despite my college success, I’m facing significant financial hardships. My predicament started when my dad, the primary family breadwinner, suffered a stroke that left him fully disabled and unable to work. So, I became the main income source for him and my mom, who is his caregiver. I was working three jobs which I lost because of COVID-19 business layoffs. With unmet college needs and growing medical bills, a scholarship will enable me to focus on college and participate in important school and community activities, rather than constantly worrying about funding.