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UA student honored for bringing attention to diabetes

Sarah Robinson

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University of Alabama student Koushik Kasanagottu’s efforts to spread awareness about diabetes in his community have earned him recognition from national coalition Campus Compact.

Kasanagottu, a junior majoring in biology, strives to fight diabetes through educating others on the illness and ways to prevent or manage it. His work as president of the University’s Diabetes Education Team, host of the University’s first World Diabetes Day and volunteer for Southeastern Diabetes Education Services, among other contributions, have led to his most recent honor.

He was named a 2013 Newman Civic Fellow. The award is given by Campus Compact, a national coalition committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. Given in memory of a founder of Campus Compact, Frank Newman, the award recognizes students across the country demonstrating an investment in seeking solutions in their communities.

Kasanagottu, who is from Birmingham, Ala., has two grandparents with diabetes. He and his father are at high risk for the chronic illness. When he learned that the disease was not only prevalent in his family but also Alabama, he devoted a significant about of his time and energy into educating people about it.

He and fellow DiET members have visited the Alabama Black Belt regions, spreading basic knowledge about diabetes.

“We bring the education down to them, instead of having them come to us,” Kasanagottu said.

He said DiET was a part of his vision to have more programs in Alabama dedicated to training students to educate others.

According to the American Diabetes Association, one of every 10 Alabamians has diabetes. Kasanagottu said having programs, like DiET, will create conversation about the proper diet and exercise.

“Diabetes is not like cancer, where you can’t do anything about it,” Kasanagottu said. “If they follow some simple things, they can at least manage it.”

Newman Civic Fellows are nominated by university or college presidents apart from Campus Compact. Maureen Curley, the president of Campus Compact, said UA President Judy Bonner’s recommendation highlighted Kasanagottu’s leadership skills.

“It was an extremely convincing and well-put-together application, which really showed this young person having great passion, particularly in recruiting other students on the campus and help them organize planning some training,” Curley said. “It’s not enough just to have an idea. He actually helped develop it and then took responsibility to make sure other colleagues of his were well-suited and well-prepared to take on this project very seriously.”

Rebecca Kelly, director of health promotion and wellness and co-advisor of DiET, said Kasanagottu was an excellent choice for a 2013 Newman Civic Fellow winner. She said she is confident his work has made a positive impact.

“Koushik is a passionate leader who turns ideas into action and has grown the student organization numbers and reach each year,” Kelly said. “Through the coordinated efforts of the Project DiET volunteers, Koushik and Project DiET are making a difference in the hundreds of lives they touch each year by increasing awareness and education of the risk factors to prevent and delay the onset of diabetes, as well as provide general information to help individuals identify resources to best manage their health.”

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UA student honored for bringing attention to diabetes