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Young parents Fred and Vicki Modell are overjoyed by the arrival of their first child, a perfect baby boy they name Jeffrey. But just months later, it becomes clear that something is wrong. Jeffrey is diagnosed with a rare disease that leaves him frequently sick and perilously susceptible to even the most common cold. He begs his parents to “Do Something” and though they desperately try, Jeffrey ultimately succumbs to his illness at the age of 15.
Out of their devastating loss, Fred and Vicki turn to their enduring love for each other to find the strength to fulfill their promise to Jeffrey and they resolve to ‘do something.’ With just $500 in the bank, the couple sets out in search for answers to what took his life. Guided by Jeffrey’s memory and the hope to help just one child, Fred and Vicki turn pain into purpose and end up touching the lives of parents and children all across the world. Millions of lives have been forever changed because of Fred and Vicki's determination to “Do Something.”
Welcome to JMF’s blog, Vicki’s Voice! We love hearing from people in our community, and our blog provides a meaningful platform for us to communicate and connect. Here on the blog, we share more personal stories about our programs, patient experiences, Foundation milestones, caregiver health, updates from the lab, and more topics to support our global PI community.
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We are delighted to announce our newest Q&A series that will center on sharing attendee experiences at global immunology meetings with our community to emphasize the importance of international collaboration and education. Education is an essential part of our work, and we are honored to provide travel grants to young physicians, researchers, scientists, and nurses to travel to important conferences in the field of Primary Immunodeficiency and Immunology as part of our WINMD program.
Today, we are pleased to share our recent conversation with Agustin Bernacchia, a Biochemist Immunology Resident at Children's Hospital Ricardo Gutierrez in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Agustin was accepted to present a case report at the European Society for Immunodeficiencies (ESID) and received our WINMD grant to support his attendance at the meeting. We hope you enjoy reading about his experience!
What made you interested in immunology? Please share a brief overview of your career and current work.
I studied Biochemistry and since then I have been interested in the role of laboratory tools to improve the diagnosis, follow up and risk stratification in clinical scenarios. In my last year of college, I won a scholarship to do research in hemolytic disease of the newborn. I was involved in the development of a method to improve the use of Rh immunoglobulin prophylaxis. Although it was not related to primary immunodeficiency diseases (PID), it was my first contact with researchers studying immune mechanisms that could ameliorate people suffering from a disease or a pathological condition.
From that experience, I realized that I wanted to continue working with immune-related disorders, but in a clinical setting. That is why I started a residency (which I recently finished) in clinical immunology in a children's hospital where we mainly study children suspected of inborn errors of immunity (IEI). My current position involves doing functional assays and molecular biology techniques for diagnostic, follow-up, and immune characterization purposes.
Why did you want to attend ESID?
The ESID meeting gathers the most renowned clinicians and scientist who work in the latest advances in clinical management, genetics, and pathophysiology of PID. I always wanted to participate in an international conference that would allow me to learn the latest advances in the field and have the opportunity to interact with colleagues from different parts of the world.
What was the biggest takeaway of attending ESID?
In my opinion, attending workshops of topics related to diagnostic tools and networking with colleagues were the most valuable parts of ESID. The key message for me was that establishing collaborative networks is of essential importance in the study of rare genetic disorders such as PID.
Is there a specific research effort or development in the field of immunology that you’re particularly excited about?
I found the use of the latest technologies, such as transcriptomics, for the immune characterization in novel PIDs very interesting. From a therapeutic standpoint, I was very excited to learn about gene therapy and thymic transplantation.
How will you take what you learned at the ESID conference and apply it to your daily work?
I will try to set up new laboratory tests that will help us to make better therapeutic decisions with our patients.
Do you have any advice for first-time conference attendees?
This is an excellent opportunity to learn and to boost your career, so don't be afraid to ask any question and make immunology friends!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
I find it very rewarding to learn how our immune system works while also helping people who suffer from immune-related disorders.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community?
It is very important to emphasize the huge help that these grants give us. Given the economic crisis that is affecting so many countries in the world, financial aid is of utter importance to promote collaborative networks and enhance education of young health professionals in training that otherwise could not afford to attend these meetings.
Read more about our travel grants and apply here.