By Dorothy Bliskey
For most of her life, Lauren Curwick, a Beaver Dam native, has been carving out a path to become a physician – one who will aid children with childhood cancer. Her journey began at the young age of seven after she read a book about a little girl with cancer. “From that point on my experiences have revolved around my passion for science, medicine, and helping others,” Lauren said.
Lauren completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota in May of 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Biology. She began medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee this fall. The four-year course of study will result in her earning a medical degree and will move her forward into the residency program – a training program that spans from 3-7 years depending on the medical specialty chosen.
“After finishing my residency, I may sub-specialize, which is an additional couple of years,” Lauren said, noting she would like to be a physician at an academic hospital and is keeping her options open as far as the specialty she chooses. “I am interested in pediatric oncology as well as other specialties working with critically ill children.”
Applying to medical school was a lengthy process, Lauren said. “The application process is extremely competitive, but very rewarding. There is a primary application, and if you are selected, you are asked to fill out a secondary application from the schools who are interested in learning more. If they would like to move forward with your application, they invite you to an interview.”
Prior to her acceptance to medical school in the fall of 2016, Lauren was heavily involved in projects, volunteering and work in the medical field. While doing her undergrad studies in Minnesota, Lauren volunteered in the surgery lounge at Fairview Hospital and performed cancer research at Masonic Cancer Research Center.
After college graduation, she moved to a small coastal town in South Carolina to commit a year of service to the AmeriCorps VISTA program. She worked at Tidelands Community Care Network, an office that helped individuals without health insurance find the care they needed. When her year-long commitment to the VISTA program ended, Lauren worked as a medical scribe in the ER until she began medical school.
Her ability to advocate for children with cancer was evident by her sophomore year of college at the University of Minnesota when she initiated a program called Designing Dreams. The program’s focus was to re-design the bedroom of a child with cancer upon their return home from the hospital, giving them renewed happiness and hope for the future.
“I was interested in making a difference on campus by starting an organization for students – something that would benefit children who are sick or in the hospital,” Lauren said. “I talked about it with my mom who is an interior decorator, and she helped me come up with the idea of Designing Dreams. Through her, I’ve grown up loving art and design. Designing Dreams was the perfect idea for bringing two of my passions together – my interest in helping people and my interest in art and design.”
To date, Designing Dreams, which has grown from a student group to an official 501c3 nonprofit organization with a professional board, has designed 11 dream bedrooms for children going through traumatic, life-threatening illnesses. The room makeovers Lauren and her team create are in demand from Arizona to New York City. Fundraising efforts and donations from businesses, organizations and individuals have made the project sustainable financially.
“We have been receiving applications for room redesign projects from all over the country,” Lauren said. “We wish we could do them all, which is why we have moved forward with hiring a Development Director so more rooms are possible, near and far.”
“It is amazing to see this community come together to encourage and support Designing Dreams,” Lauren said. “Nothing can quite explain the impact they are making and the look on the child’s face when they open the door to their new room for the very first time. It’s moments like these that matter for children facing cancer.”
Book to benefit childhood cancer research
By Dorothy Bliskey
Another venture Lauren Curwick has become involved in is the illustration and promotion of a children’s book titled “My Dog Named Hope.” The story is about a little girl with cancer, her amazing dog named Hope, and a family’s journey through childhood cancer.
The book was written by Joe Dean, a pediatric oncology advocate and lecturer in search for a cure for childhood cancers. “Joe’s son Sam, was one of my best friends throughout college,” Lauren said, noting she had talked to him regarding Designing Dreams and pediatric oncology causes in the past. “Joe reached out to me about potentially illustrating his book after Sam mentioned I also was an artist. He had this grand idea of creating a book for charity, and I am so glad I was able to help bring his idea to life through illustrations.”
“Joe has been able to read the book to classes in the Milwaukee area, and I hope to be involved with book readings as well,” Lauren said, adding that she has plans to read it to children at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
“This book is meant to bring hope to children and their families facing this horrific disease,” Lauren said. “It is meant to educate the public on childhood cancer, bring awareness to classrooms, and to raise money for pediatric oncology research and services.”
The fight against childhood cancer is close to Lauren’s heart, especially with initiating Designing Dreams and working with children suffering with cancer.
“It is hard to understand why, out of all the funding for cancer research, only 4% goes towards pediatric cancer research. The survival rate has increased for children over the years, but the long-term effects of treatment are devastating.”
“Since We Energies has covered the entire cost of production and printing of this hard cover book, it ensures that 100% of the proceeds benefit pediatric oncology research and services,” Lauren said.
The book can be purchased through Amazon or by contacting Lauren at (920) 219-0104 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.