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passion AND purpose

| Diane Walkoff

Nichole Gervenak
Biology major, chemistry minor

Like many college students, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior Nichole Gervenak is passionate about health and fitness. The biology major is an avid runner, tennis player and bicyclist, and even teaches Zumba. What most people don't realize is that Nichole has epilepsy — and though her fitness activities bring her joy, they also serve a higher purpose.

"Many patients used to be told that working out or participating in any type of sporting activity would not be possible," Nichole said. "Through advances in seizure research, many studies point to the correlation between working out and decreased seizure activity. Side effects of anticonvulsant medications, such as depression, anxiety and weight gain also can be drastically reduced when exercise and diet are taken into consideration."

Nichole's understanding of the connection between diet, exercise and overall health has deepened as a result of what she's learned in her biology and chemistry classes.

"Science allows you to have a complete understanding of how your body functions, and gives you the knowledge to properly fuel it," Nichole said. "You can recognize the chemical and biological functions of ingredients found in health/food products and ask questions about their benefits. There are many useless or even harmful 'supplements' found on shelves that can be recognized quickly and avoided with just a basic understanding of chemical nomenclature."  

Nichole refuses to allow epilepsy to prevent her from living life to its fullest. And as a volunteer for the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Wisconsin, she has had the opportunity to share her knowledge and optimism with those who have similar challenges.

After graduating from UW-Eau Claire, Nichole plans to continue helping others with epilepsy and similar conditions. Her future plans include an advanced degree in pharmacy, with the ultimate goal of helping develop new therapies for central nervous system disorders. With Nichole's passion AND purpose, there's no doubt she'll do just that.