Master’s Student Submits Dissertation On Heart Condition That Caused Her Brother’s Death
When Molly Schiller’s little brother Max passed away aged 10 from an undetected genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), his family knew very little about the disease.
Six years later, Molly, now 22, has just submitted her Master’s dissertation on the condition, conducting research that she hopes could eventually lead to life-saving therapies for people with the same condition as her brother.
Molly says she decided to pursue a career in science after throwing herself into her GCSE studies as a way of coping following Max’s sudden death in 2015. ‘I quickly decided I wanted to specialise in heart conditions, because it was so personal to me, and to try to continue Max’s legacy and make a tangible difference for other families who might be going through the same thing,’ she tells UNILAD.
She’d also been learning about the condition through her family’s charity, Max’s Foundation, which they set up ‘around a kitchen table’ shortly after his death to help raise awareness and funds for research into HCM, which affects around 1 in 500 people in the US.
Through her research at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, she’s discovered that HCM has a wide a range of genetic causes, with vital research to identify genes associated with the condition necessary to help diagnose people at an early age. ‘It’s been fulfilling to feel like I’ve done my small part in helping the families affected by the condition,’ she says, adding that she’s hopeful that her research will help provide a basis for future investigations.
Unfortunately, research in this field is still underfunded, and Max’s Foundation has been pushing to raise money to help finance more studies into the condition. The charity has raised more than £590,000 so far, and is hoping to raise another £200,000 through their fundraisers over the next couple of years.
Molly says she tweeted about her dissertation to raise awareness of the condition, and to share how proud she was that she was able to do something in Max’s memory. Her post quickly went viral, receiving more than half a million likes and hundreds of messages. ‘The response has been completely and utterly unexpected.’ she says. ‘So many people have responded and messaged me to say they have or know people with the condition, but it’s so rarely spoken about. I hope that the work I am doing now has changed that a little bit, and started the conversation.’
She’s still waiting on her dissertation mark, and says that while she’ll be continuing her work with Max’s Foundation and is considering a PhD in the future, she’s taking a bit of time off from the ‘hard and emotional’ research work.
‘I know people say that loved ones were a ray of sunshine all the time, but with him it was so true,’ she says of Max. ‘My parents and myself are so so happy to be able to be able to share his name and smile with the world, and to know that helping other young children will be his legacy.’
‘Everything that we do is for him.’
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