Joseph Stoume, a senior at Greenbrier High School, distributes fliers for his Hepatitis C Walk-A-Thon fund-raiser at the Eubank Blanchard Community Center in Appling. Stoume is organizing and promoting the fund-raiser for the Hepatitis C Research Foundation as part of his senior project.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Joseph Stoume is encouraging the public to lace up their tennis shoes and walk for a good cause.
"I just want to raise awareness about hepatitis C because it's not highly known throughout the United States," Stoume, an 18-year-old Greenbrier High School senior, said about his senior project.
From 8 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. today, Stoume will sponsor a Hepatitis C Walk-A-Thon fund-raiser at the Eubank Blanchard Community Center, located at the corner of Georgia Highway 150 and Ray Owens Road in Appling.
Participants are asked to make a donation, which will go toward research for the incurable disease.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes the liver to become inflamed. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3 million Americans have contracted the virus and about 35,000 new cases are estimated to occur each year in the U.S. Contraction of the disease can occur as a result of sharing needles, accidents with health care workers or even blood transfusions.
Stoume, who dreams of one day having a career as a forensic scientist, said he was torn between a career in psychology and research on the virus. But he said he decided to study the virus because it hit so close to home.
"My stepfather got into emergency medicine and somewhere in his career he contracted it," he said. "He has strand 1b, which is one of the most deadly strands known in hepatitis C."
Kim Buchanan, an English teacher and senior project co-coordinator at Greenbrier, said Stoume's project is very commendable.
"I have been very impressed with Joseph's maturity in regards to handling his project," she said, adding that several students have chosen to do their senior projects on life-threatening conditions. "He has really invested a significant amount of time and thought into organizing his Hepatitis C Walk-A-Thon. I hope he is as proud of his accomplishments as I am."
Since he first began his research this past August, Stoume said, he has learned about the "cause and effects" of the virus and how people can become infected.
He also mentioned that his perception about the virus has changed.
"I see how it has affected (my stepfather)," he said. "He's told me how it's affected him, but now I can actually, physically see it.''
Instead of choosing to job-shadow a physician who specializes in internal medicine, Stoume said he decided to raise awareness by sponsoring a fund-raiser, which will benefit others in the future.
"I want to raise as much money as I can," he said. "With the funds that I get from people, it will help with research so we can move closer to a cure."
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