Emma Cardwell

2019 Educational Enrichment Fund Scholar

At the age of four, Emma’s journey with epilepsy began when her younger sister Abby was diagnosed with epilepsy. Emma witnessed Abby struggle through hundreds of seizures, hardly breathing at times, weakened, sedated, and barely able to eat or sit up. Many drugs and therapies were tried, but Keppra proved to be the only medication that calmed her seizures and allowed her to learn to walk and talk.

However, at fifteen, Abby began to seize again and is still without a clear diagnosis. Until a cause and cure are found, Emma’s family continues to be at the mercy of this devastating disease.

Seeing the impact drugs and therapies have on seizure-freedom has driven Emma to pursue a career in medicine, in particular, neurology. She wants to learn more about the genetic causes of childhood epilepsy and how treatments can be developed to target rare forms of the disease, and to ultimately find a cure.

Emma was accepted into Middlebury College, where she is currently a Neuroscience major on the pre-med track. To pursue her interest in epilepsy and genetics, she has secured a summer internship at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago working with Dr. Sunita Misra. The study involves data collection of 100 patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) to determine which genetic abnormalities and brain MRI abnormalities predispose a patient to LGS. The results are expected to help predict which patients who already have epilepsy will evolve into LGS thus making their treatment more timely and specific.

The Education Enrichment Fund scholarship will help fund Emma’s internship which will provide her with world class experience in the field of epilepsy research. This experience is directly on her future path of finding treatments and hopefully cures for rare childhood epilepsy syndromes with a genetic basis. She is eager to be at the forefront of this movement so her sister and others like her can live a life seizure free.


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