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Meghan Mutrie blogs about Malaghan

12 February 2013

We are excited to announce that Meghan Mutrie, athlete, television presenter and sports reporter has come on board as a Malaghan Ambassador for the Run for Research! Meghan will be at AMI Round the Bays on Sunday to cheer on those doing the half marathon and will also be at the Malaghan tent at the end of the race – so be sure to come by and say hello. Last week after finding out she had been awarded Canada’s Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work with a global sports charity, Meghan visited the Institute for the first time and was inspired to write a blog which you can read below:

3.2 million people can't be wrong.

There's a Facebook page with 3.2 million 'likes' called 'ScienceIsSeriouslyAwesome’. The page posts crazy facts, incredible findings and amazing photos from the science world, all things that would've made you excitedly squirm in your seat in your high school science class but were too 'cool' to admit.

I am one of those closeted geeks - and I know there are more of us out there - but I only have pedestrian knowledge when it comes down to the subject of science; I love it, but I don't always understand it (insert joke about the opposite sex here). When I heard I'd be getting a tour of New Zealand's leading independent medical research institute, well, I got excited and showed up half an hour early.

The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research is the 2013 AMI Round the Bays Official Charity Partner. I'm an Ambassador for this year's event and as such, was privy to get my geek on for a guided tour of the institute. The purpose of my visit was to educate myself about what exactly the Malaghan does so that in turn, I can educate the public - but in conversational English.

It quickly became clear to me that there is a reason why the scientists get paid to find answers and I get paid to ask questions.

Vicky Hale showed me around the secure, sterile and almost intimidatingly pristine laboratories but her demeanor, coupled with the big personalities of the scientists I met, humanized the sleek institute. I sat down with Kylie Price, a Flow Cytometry Fellow (pardon me?) and was prepared to sink into my chair to let the majority of information sail over my head but Kylie was fluent in both scientist AND civilian speak.

Kylie talked to me (not at or over) using metaphors, personified the little macrophages and dendritic cells and was so genuinely passionate about flow cytometry that I ended up with an honest comprehension of what the Malaghan does.

The Institute is focused on finding the path to a cure for cancer, asthma and allergic diseases, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and infectious diseases. The scientists at the Malaghan believe the cures for all of these diseases lie in our own immune system and they tailor their research accordingly.

We walked around the rest of the building, peered into various laboratories, met more really cool scientists (no one had crazy hair and thick glasses like how I classically pictured them in my head) and 'played with' a million dollar cell sorter (I actually squealed with delight at one point). As into it as I was, I was mentally calculating the costs of running such a high-end medical research institute as this; it's hard to believe that it is independently funded.

Treating the Cause, Not the Symptom

Kiriana Ronaki is a 2-year-old New Zealander with a brain tumour. Her chances of survival are bleak even after they removed 80% of the tumour (about the size of an orange) but her amazing family and friends are courageously rallying around her during chemo and doing all they can.

Everyone will sadly have an anecdote of someone they know exactly like brave little Kiriana, and this will continue to be the case until we start treating the cause AS WELL AS the symptom. Kiriana and her family have nothing to do with the Malaghan, I just used her as one very real example of the thousands battling cancer within New Zealand, and the Malaghan just completed a brain tumour trial and is awaiting the results that could potentially help people like Kiriana.

Most Kiwis will encounter at least one of the diseases that the Malaghan is working to find a cure for; maybe not directly, but the statistical chances say you will and especially as NZ is such a small, tightly knit country. By supporting the Malaghan Institute, you are altruistically helping treat the cause, which hopefully in turn, reduces the number of symptoms, or people struck down by disease.

Of course I’m not saying to stop supporting your loved ones, and their loved ones, etc.! I'm just saying that maybe it's time we start thinking about our health differently; proactively versus reactively, long-term versus short-term, and as a whole instead of case-by-case scenarios, that sort of thing.

I used to babysit when I was 13 and at the end of the night when the parents would ask, 'what do you think you should be paid?' I would awkwardly stutter and scuff the ground then sulk off with a measly five-dollar bill. Moral of the story is that I’ve always terrible at asking for money so in this case, I’ll direct you to another Malaghan Ambassador, the lovely Jason Pine of Newstalk ZB. He has taken it upon himself to raise money for the Malaghan Institute by participating in the Run for Research as part of AMI Round the Bays and challenging another Ambassador (and World Champion runner, no big deal), Melissa Moon to train him.

Check out Jason and Melissa’s video below:

To sponsor Jason visit: www.everydayhero.co.nz/jasonpine
To follow Jason's progress 'Like' the Malaghan Institute Facebook page

If you are registered for AMI Round the Bays and want to join those fundraising for the Malaghan Institute why not consider joining the Run for Research – there’s still time and every dollar you raise counts! Just visit www.runforresearch.co.nz and click ‘Fundraise now’.

As far as the run itself, whatever your reason for getting involved with the AMI Round the Bays, good for you. Seriously. That wasn't a patronising comment. Whether you’re running it for yourself, a friend, to fundraise, beat a personal best or even just because, you’ll be another face in the biggest and strongest Round the Bays turnout in its history! I’m so impressed with the Wellington community and proud to be part of it.

I'll be plodding my way through the half-marathon but am sticking around afterwards for the prize-giving. Please come say hello and I’d never turn down a hug. You’ll find me either at the finish line (I always get goose bumps watching everyday people at the end of their race) or in the Malaghan tent.

See you in five days, Wellington!