Evangel pre-med grad Rachel Lundberg turns trial to triumph
January 8, 2014 | Kim Jeyaraj
Rachel Lundberg is a woman on a mission, but her path has proven to be a winding road.
“I wanted to build a strong foundation for my faith while growing academically,” Lundberg says. “I just knew Evangel was where I was supposed to be.”
Then came an abrupt turn in the road.
During her freshman year, Lundberg began fighting an intense battle with pain that threatened to cut off her hopes of earning a pre-med degree.
“I was more worried about missing class than anything,” Lundberg says. She discovered that acute pancreatitis was the cause of her debilitating pain.
“During my first hospitalization, one professor rescheduled a test so I could take it with the class when I returned,” she says. “My professors were so kind and understanding — they didn’t just care about me academically, but cared about me as a person.”
Lundberg struggled with the illness throughout her time at Evangel, resulting in numerous hospitalizations and a surgery to remove her gallbladder.
She persevered through the pain, however, and after graduating in 2010, headed for medical school at the University of Minnesota.
This proved to be a life-changing decision.
“I didn’t realize how strong the school was in the area of pancreatitis,” she says. “It gave me hope.”
At the university, Lundberg received a pancreatectomy, a procedure where the pancreas is removed. Her insulin producing cells were harvested and returned to the body through another procedure called islet auto transplant.
Now living pain free, Lundberg is devoted to research in pancreatectomy.
She recently published an article — “Metabolic Assessment Prior to Total Pancreatectomy and Islet Auto Transplant: Utility, Limitations and Potential” — which describes how testing can predict the number of insulin producing cells that can be harvested in order to avoid diabetes after the pancreas has been removed.
“As I started opening up about my illness, I learned that there were many people struggling around me who would not have opened up otherwise,” says Lundberg.
“Now my passion is to help patients make right medical decisions.”