“This jerk literally did this to me,” Reid pounds his own chest with his fist, “to tell me not to get on the plane with the priority seating because I clearly didn’t have a disability.” We are walking with Reid to lunch, as he shares his journey flying here to PTI in Cambridge, MA from Tennessee. “And I tell him that I have cystic fibrosis, along with some colorful language you should probably not include in the article; then I board the plane,” Reid laughs.
Reid D’Amico, Director of the US Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association (http://www.cfroundtable.com/), has dedicated his life to making the needs of the CF community both known and relevant to those outside of it. Through his involvement in the Association, Reid has occupied multiple positions (including Chair of the Clinical Trials Committee), and created grant programs (including the Lauren Melissa Kelly scholarship (https://cysticfibrosisnewstoday.com/2017/05/22/kelly-scholarship-gives-those-with-cf-choices-besides-bachelors-degree/), to help those with CF pursue a college education).
Most recently, Reid spearheaded the Speakers Bureau campaign to motivate people with CF to speak at schools, fundraisers, and even on the Hill to politicians: completely funded by the Association. Reid explains his rationale for establishing the Speakers Bureau campaign, “These are experiences that I’ve done personally, and I want everyone in the CF community to do the same, because they’re in a very powerful position to advocate for themselves.”
Reid himself is not afraid to directly approach legislators and make his case known. He’s even worked with the state of Tennessee on a few legislative projects to help people with expensive illnesses afford medical care. “We have unique stories and challenges, and it’s so important to get these stories out so that [legislators and donors] can take people like us into account in decision-making,” he passionately explains the basis of his patient advocacy.
Reid not only connects the needs of the CF community to the public as a patient activist, he also collaborates with CF researchers as a researcher himself. Since Reid was younger, he’s always had a keen interest in engineering. When he was in high school, he was (and still is) a self-declared “international science fair nerd”. His favorite high school project was a hydro-electric turbine that extracts biofuel from marine algae, and could be used to help low-income coastal communities in South Carolina. Eventually, he pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in biomedical engineering at Duke University and is currently conducting research on pulmonary systems as at National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (https://www.nsfgrfp.org/) at Vanderbilt University as a PhD candidate.
Reid eventually fell in love with biomedical engineering, because it allowed him to combine his keen interest in engineering and acute, personal awareness of the daily suffering cystic fibrosis inflicts. “Being an engineer gives me the opportunity to leverage my personal experiences and make a change,” Reid explains his interest in the field.
He’s always had his eyes set on the pulmonary systems specifically, because of his personal experience with CF: “because having CF, it’s very much an organ system I care about, that I’m literally so aware of with every single day, with every single breath… engineering and the pulmonary system have not really met yet, so I want to trail blaze this organ system that really hasn’t seen engineering yet!”.
Through creating opportunities for the CF community with his position as Director of the US Adult Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and through committing to scientific discovery as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Reid has dedicated his life to helping the CF community. “Cystic fibrosis is a large part of my identity. It has definitely limited me, but it has also enabled me to find my passions and to make an impact,” Reid concludes.
You can follow Reid’s CF advocacy here:
CF News Today: https://cysticfibrosisnewstoday.com/category/cf-regenerative-medicine-column/