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Parker lives beyond boundaries of her disease

NEW YORK — Fallbrook resident Roxanne Parker has been awarded a $10,000 scholarship through the Crohn’s Scholarship Program: Reaching Beyond Boundaries sponsored by biopharmaceutical company UCB.

Parker, 18, lives for the thrill of the outdoors and physical challenges. Whether it is plunging into the deepest waters on a SCUBA dive, climbing a mountain or serving as team captain on her varsity tennis team, her motto is: bring it on.

This is all the more impressive because two years ago, Parker was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a debilitating, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) illness in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the GI tract.

The disease often leaves Parker feeling sick and at times causes her to quickly lose weight and endurance. It’s emotionally difficult as well; because of her weight loss from Crohn’s, classmates have accused Parker of having an eating disorder.

Parker takes pride in staying active and understands the care and preparation that some of her more perilous pursuits require.

At the mere age of 12, she not only was nationally ranked at 75 in girls’ junior open tennis but became a certified SCUBA diver.

Parker is currently working toward her Divemaster certification so she can train new divers. She has climbed Half Dome – a granite dome in Yosemite National Park that rises to more than 4,737 feet – twice.

She played tennis between Crohn’s-related surgeries while tending to an open wound daily for several weeks, proof of her will to live life on her terms no matter what challenges she faces.

Despite numerous surgeries and hospital stays, Parker not only thrives in her physical pursuits but in her academic and social endeavors as well.

As captain of the academic team, she learned about working with others under pressure and graduated at the top of her class as an AP Scholar with Honors.

Parker was also president of the Environmental Club and volunteered 50 hours for the nonprofit organization Save Our Southwest Hills, protesting against the proposed Liberty Quarry site adjacent to the Santa Margarita River Preserve.

During the holidays, she plays piano recitals at local retirement homes.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, Parker finds inspiration in having Crohn’s disease. After watching doctors help her for years, she decided she wants to become a doctor herself.

She participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum in Medicine last summer, when she also visited the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, UCSF and the UC Davis Medical School.

This fall, Parker enrolled at the University of California, Davis to study biological sciences. Her ultimate goal is to earn a MD and research the possible link between Crohn’s disease and the timing of childhood vaccines.

It was due to Parker’s outstanding accomplishments that she was awarded with the scholarship, which will help her to reach her academic goals while allowing her to continue to stay active in her community, the outdoors and beyond.

Information on the 2010 Scholarship Program can be accessed on http://www.crohnsandme.com, an interactive Web site designed to empower people living with Crohn’s disease.

More information can also be found on the Crohn’s & Me Facebook page.

 

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