Stritch Magazine 2020
A good steward
A student’s personal loss fuels his mission to improve the system
For a decade, Travis Nielsen watched his mother battle cancer. But after countless hospital visits and treatments, it wasn’t the cancer that took her life. Instead, she passed away due to an antibiotic-resistant infection in her lungs.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2019 Antibiotic Resistant Threats Report, more than 2.8 million antibiotic resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. For Nielsen, a second-year MD/MPH student at Stritch and the Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health, the loss of his mom led to a newfound fascination with antibiotics and drug-resistant infections. “There’s no way of avoiding antibiotic resistance entirely, but properly managing our use of the drugs is one way to slow down the spread of resistance,” he says.
In 2018, Nielsen earned a PhD in medical biology from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Shortly after, he collaborated with infectious disease experts to publish articles in top medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Annals of Internal Medicine. The studies take a stark view of the development of antibiotics in the United States and offer radical changes to government regulation of production and distribution.
One of the ideas presented is the implementation of a federal board made up of clinical experts, patient advocates, and industry representatives to oversee and incentivize the development of antibiotics through targeted funding.