Comm Students working to make Kidney Disease ‘visible’


Francis Boeck, Executive Editor

SUNY Buffalo State senior Delvin Maurino admitted he didn’t know much about kidney disease before this semester.

Not many people do.

In fact, doctors and kidney advocates often refer Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) as an ‘invisible disease’ because of the lack of outward signs a patient will show when dealing with it.

“One of the challenges we have with kidney disease is the disease can sometimes be invisible,” said Jeremy Morlock, director of the Kidney Foundation of WNY. “So, people don’t realize how many people it can effect and how important it is to get screened.”

So this fall, Maurino and his 13 classmates in professor Mary Jane Masiulionis’ Group Communication class (COM 307) have been tasked with making the invisible disease visible.

“The goal is to raise funds and bring awareness to the Kidney Foundation of WNY,” Masiulionis said.

The class is one of several service-learning classes at Buffalo State. The students in COM 307 have been split into two groups.

The first has been planning and putting together a Trivia Night, an event that will raise funds for the Kidney Foundation and bring awareness to the disease.

The other has been interviewing donors and recipients for a video that will be shown at the event.

The Trivia Night, which will feature two games of Jeopardy!, some raffles and a 50/50 drawing for Buffalo Bills and Sabres memorabilia, will take place on Nov. 15 in the Bulger Communication Center. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for Buffalo State students, children and seniors. All proceeds will go toward the Kidney Foundation of WNY.

“There’s going to be food,” Masiulionis said. “There’s going to be cider. We have so many different things going on so people can really come in and enjoy themselves.”

Maurino, who is in the second group, has written a bunch of articles and worked on a couple films during his time as a student at Buffalo State and outside of school writes a blog about local hip-hop artists.

But he’s never been as committed to something as he is to this project.

“I’ve done other things before in media,” Maurino said. “But this gives me more of a purpose. I feel like what I’m doing is more than just myself, this is going to better the community.”

He has been writing blog posts for the foundation’s website as well work on the video.

Maurino fully realized what kidney disease was all about when trying to set up an interview with a woman who was awaiting to receive a kidney.

“It gave me a completely different perspective on life,” Maurino said. “Her life is completely taken over by this right now. It took her like two weeks to reply back to my email because her life is taken up by going through dialysis.”

The videos will be something that Morlock feels will go a long way to bringing awareness to kidney disease.

“There are a lot of really good stories out there that are relating to Kidney Disease, kidney health and living donation,” Morlock said. “Stories like that are really the best way to get people’s attention. We have a great network through the work that the Kidney Foundation does to those people who have personal connections but we haven’t had the time or resources to capture of their stories.”

The experience has been life changing for classmate Kayla Baez as well. The class has given the senior sociology major the opportunity to learn about charity work. She has plans to go to start a non-for-profit after graduation.

“This is one of my first service-learning classes and I love it,” Baez said. “I wish all of that all classes were service-learning classes.”

“As a sociology major, I have a lot of classes where all we do is talk about a problem,” she continued. “And I always thought it would be really good if half the class would be talking about the problem and the other half would be us trying to solve the problem. This gives us hands on experience on how to solve the problem.”

In October, the class visited the Kidney Foundation offices and met with Barbara Breckenridge, Director of Patient Services and Community Outreach. Breckenridge discussed her work dealing with Kidney patients and her own experience as a recipient.

Morlock and Breckenridge are the only full-time staff members at the Kidney Foundation of WNY, so the help they get from the service-learning classes at Buffalo State really goes a long way.

“One of the great things about working with this class is that as the students have learned more, I think they’ve really gotten excited about the opportunity to help,” Morlock said. “So they’ve been taking the ball and running with it. As a small organization, we are so grateful for the help the students can give us in putting that together.”