BioMatrix Announces Winners of Its 2021 Memorial Scholarship Program

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by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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BioMatrix Specialty Pharmacy has announced this year’s winners of its memorial scholarship program, designed to help people with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders pursue higher education.

Six scholarships, each worth $1,000 and honoring people who made “unique” contributions to the bleeding disorder community during their life, are awarded annually, the company stated in a press release.

Applications were evaluated by a Hemophilia Federation of America committee, with awards based on several criteria, including academic merit, a reference letter, and an essay.

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Luke Castaldo, a junior at Moody Bible Institute majoring in music worship and media arts, received the BioMatrix Ron Neiderman Memorial Scholarship. Castaldo was diagnosed with hemophilia at an early age.

The need for frequent infusions, as well as the pain associated with bleeding episodes, were challenges to him as a boy. Castaldo embraced these challenges and learned to adapt, communicate about hemophilia, and advocate for himself.

“These obstacles, hard as they were, prepared me for life, which has been influenced by hemophilia in three major ways: resilience, leadership, and hope for the future,” Castaldo said in the release.

Jarett Guillow, a doctoral student at University of California Riverside School of Medicine, was the recipient of the BioMatrix Joe Holibaugh Memorial Scholarship.

Guillow will harness his life journey with hemophilia in his medical studies.

“I aspire to be a pediatric hematologist because of my experiences with hemophilia,” Guillow said. “From being my guiding force towards studying to being physically active and to finally being accepted into medical school, hemophilia has made a beneficial impact on my life.”

The BioMatrix Mark Coats Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Luke Luckey, a junior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Luckey is majoring in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience. Born in China, he was diagnosed with severe hemophilia. He spent nine years in an orphanage experiencing severe pain with inadequate medical treatment.

At age 10, he was adopted and came to the U.S., where his health improved.

“Hemophilia has greatly influenced my life in various ways. I’ve developed empathy, compassion, and care for others,” Luckey said. “I am also optimistic for the future, as I believe that I am capable of achieving anything if I work very hard. Having hemophilia gives me a sense of purpose to do good things in the world.”

Steven Sclafani, a sophomore at Utica College studying physical therapy, received the BioMatrix Tim Kennedy Memorial Scholarship.

“Living with a bleeding disorder doesn’t make me special. I have never wanted to be looked at as the kid who will die from a papercut or the kid who has to walk around with bubble wrap on,” he said.

“Everybody has their struggles. Luckily, mine pushed me to be successful in life. So, in a weird way, I am very thankful for hemophilia,” Sclafani added.

The recipient of the BioMatrix Millie Gonzalez Memorial Scholarship was Laikyn Dae Tyson, a freshman at North Carolina State University studying criminology.

Tyson was born into a physically active and athletic family and was as active as her brothers. After her hemophilia and anemia diagnosis, however, her family pushed for more cautious behavior, which she initially rebelled against. However, Tyson came to understand its importance after she experienced a significant health scare.

“I realized I did need to be more careful,” Tyson said. “I could not ignore my disease any longer. I came to the conclusion that just because I have to ‘be careful’ does not mean I have to give up my life.”

Timothy Wohl, a clinical doctoral student of physical therapy at Ohio State University, received the BioMatrix Mike Hylton Memorial Scholarship.

Wohl was diagnosed with von Willebrand disease when he was 5. His parents, fearing an injury, were protective and limited his physical activities.

He grew fearful of typical childhood activities, such as playtime and recess at school. During his years visiting physicians and physical therapists, Wohl came to understand his bleeding disorder and became a competitive swimmer in high school and college.

“My long-term career goal is to work with children who face barriers to exercise like I did, so I can help them regain a sense of autonomy in their lives,” Wohl said.