Senior snapshot: NU Fulbright Fellow to head to Europe to study organ donation, transplantation

Jillian Sandler

Weinberg senior Brendan Lovasik will be taking his brains and motivation overseas this summer to begin his quest to make an impact in the medical community.

This August, Lovasik, a biochemistry and economics double major, will be heading to Europe as a Fulbright Fellow. There, he will spend about nine months studying the best practices of organ donation and transplantation in the European Union in preparation for medical school and a career in transplant medicine.

Lovasik will be headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, but because the grant allows him to travel free of cost throughout all 27 EU member nations, he will also spend time in Berlin, Athens and Brussels studying organ transplantation.

A long slate of events has shaped Lovasik’s aspiration to become a transplant surgeon, he said. When he was a senior in high school, his neighbor and friend received a heart transplant after being diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy. Organ transplants once again became part of Lovasik’s life when he began volunteering at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and was assigned by chance to Case Management in the Transplant Division. Here, Lovasik witnessed a number of transplants, including a kidney donation between mother and daughter.

Lovasik later volunteered at the National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games in his hometown of Pittsburgh and later in Madison, Wis. There, he got the opportunity to witness transplant patients excel at various athletic feats.

“It was a profoundly moving experience to meet the transplant athletes,” he said in his personal statement for medical school.

In addition to his work with transplant patients, Lovasik has been extremely involved with the NU community throughout his four years. He is currently the vice president of Northwestern Class Alliance, which hosts events such as Dinner with 12 Strangers and NU Day at Wrigley that are aimed at connecting current students with alumni. He has danced in Dance Marathon every year he’s been an undergraduate and was on DM’s finance committee since his sophomore year. He has also run the Chicago Marathon and will run in another one in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Lovasik has served as hearings board chair on the University Hearing and Appeals System, which hears cases involving violations to the Student Code of Conduct and administers appropriate sanctions to those who breach the code.

He said one of his favorite classes at NU included a humanities course, taught by Prof. Gary Morson and University President Morton Schapiro, which he said examined how people make choices. Lovasik said he enjoyed the course’s joint teaching style.

“The combination of Schapiro’s economic background with Morson’s humanities background really challenged each student to reflect on their own personal viewpoints about the material,” he said. “Their in-class chemistry showed what truly great friends they are in and out of the classroom.”

He also cited Cell Biology with Prof. Greg Beitel as another one of his favorite courses due to its focus on stem cell research.

“The incredible potential for stem cells in transplantation is an emerging branch of science that promises to be beneficial in years to come, and it was a privilege to be taught higher-level concepts of stem cell research as an undergraduate,” he said.

Lovasik said his four years at NU have been enhanced by the people with which he has had the opportunity to interact.

“The community has a wide variety of people, and they’re really motivated to be the best in whatever they can be,” he said. “It’s really inspiring to actually interact with people and see the multitude of backgrounds that they come from and what they hope to do throughout their lives.”

Even with his promising future, Lovasik said he will greatly miss the community at NU.

“The people that you’re with make such a huge impact on your life, especially in your undergraduate career,” he said. “That’s professors, that’s other students, that’s your friends.”

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