Accommodations for IBD in College – About IBD Podcast Episode 131

What happens when your professional life and your IBD overlap? Sari Grossman is a research scientist, Crohn’s disease patient, and advocate for patients with chronic illnesses. She shares her experience with Crohn’s disease, including her family history of IBD, diagnosis at a young age, her unusual symptoms, and the impact it had on her life. She speaks candidly about the physical and emotional challenges of living with a chronic illness, and how she has learned to cope with the ups and downs of her condition.

Find Sari Grossman at:

Find Amber J Tresca at:

Find Mac Cooney (mix, sound design, and theme music) at:

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[MUSIC: IBD Dance Party]

Amber Tresca  0:00 
I’m Amber Tresca and this is about IBD. I’m a medical writer and patient educator who lives with a J pouch due to ulcerative colitis. It’s my mission to educate people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, about their disease, and to bring awareness to the patient journey.

Amber Tresca  0:21 
Welcome to Episode 131.

Amber Tresca  0:23 
My guest is Sari Grossman, a research scientist, Crohn’s disease patient, and advocate for patients with chronic illnesses. 

Sari shares her experience with IBD, including her diagnosis at a young age, her symptoms, and the impact it all had on her life. She speaks openly about the physical and emotional challenges of living with chronic illness, and how she has learned to cope with the ups and downs of her condition.

Sari also discusses her work with the Crohn’s and Colitis Student Initiative at the University of Michigan and the importance of a supportive community.

Amber Tresca  0:55 
She shares how the group provided her with a sense of belonging, comfort, and a wealth of resources, including access to IBD specialists and educational events. She also talks about the obstacles of starting a patient organization on campus and offers advice for those who are interested in doing the same.

Finally, stick around for the end to hear our polarizing take on New York pizza versus Detroit pizza.

Amber Tresca  1:24 
Sari, thank you so much for coming on about IBD I’m really excited to meet you and speak with you today.

Sari Grossman  1:31 
Thank you for having me.

Amber Tresca  1:33 
Oh, yeah, of course. I want to begin with getting an introduction. So Sari, would you tell me and our listeners a little bit about who you are?

Sari Grossman  1:42 
Yeah, so I’m Sari I have Crohn’s disease. I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 14 years now. I’m from West Bloomfield, Michigan. I’m a double graduate from the University of Michigan. I just finished graduate school. So I’m in a little bit of a limbo period right now. But that’s a brief introduction of me.

Amber Tresca  2:06 
Right, perfect. Thank you so much. So yes, you were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when you were quite young. I’m wondering though, do you have any memories of that time? Or if you don’t have any memories? What did people tell you about that process of your symptoms, and then getting a diagnosis.

Sari Grossman  2:24 
I don’t have a ton of memories, my symptoms started at 10 years old, and I was diagnosed by 11 years old, it was about an eight to 12 month turnaround, which is extremely fast for most IBD patients. But because IBD runs in my family, it was pretty likely what I had. And so because I was young. And because it was a short period of time, I don’t have a ton of memories, I do have some memories being a child where I was embarrassed by my symptoms, because I feel like those memories really stick out, especially when you’re young. And I have a few memories of being quite sick. But other than that, I don’t really remember being worried or any mental anguish surrounding it because I was young. And I just really remember like the actual symptoms mostly.

Amber Tresca  3:17 
Right? What were the symptoms, because as you told me earlier, they’re a little bit different than what people tend to think of when they think of Crohn’s disease. So what were you dealing with at that time?

Sari Grossman  3:29 
Yeah, so I’ve pretty much never had the classic bathroom issues, which is very rare in Crohn’s disease. I had more upper GI involvement. So there was a lot of nausea and throwing up when I was a kid. And it wasn’t really classic nausea, it was more so like I would be eating and there was no warning like I would just suddenly like throw up which like caused a couple of embarrassing situations because I was like, never able to really get to the bathroom in time. But I had also good amount of fevers and loss of appetite. So I lost a good amount of weight when I was a kid. Those were the main symptoms and of course, abdominal pain, but I think really, it was the the nausea and the throwing up that was most prevalent for me.

Amber Tresca  4:23 
Yeah, that must have been really upsetting and difficult to deal with. And then also a little bit different than what we think of usually with Crohn’s disease. So when they started looking to diagnose you, like, how do you remember how they went about that? Because they’re probably looking in your throat, right?

Sari Grossman  4:43 
Yeah, so I got a double colonoscopy endoscopy, I’m pretty sure and that was a good confirmation of diagnosis. I think before that. They did a few other tests. They started with an ultrasound which I remember which I’ve added What that I guess they were looking for actually have no idea what they were looking for. Then, I think I went just straight to a colonoscopy, pretty much everyone knew what I had my pediatrician knew. I’m sure my mom knew. And I’m sure the gastroenterologist knew at that point, but it was just a matter of confirmation.

Amber Tresca  5:19 
Right? Right. Sure. And you think they knew, because I also know because you let me know, when we were coming up with the content for this episode that IBD does run in your family, which most people don’t have a family history of IBD. So which of your family members have IBD? And then how is that is yours different than theirs?

Sari Grossman  5:43 
My mother has IBD, she was diagnosed at the same exact age, I was at 11. So that was again, you know, one more factor that they were pretty sure what I had. Not that everyone’s diagnosed at the same time, but just the coincidence of that. And then her father also had IBD. But I wasn’t able to meet him because he passed away before I was born. And later on, we also found out that his uncle, so my mother’s great uncle, also had IBD, which must have been right around when IBD was discovered.

Sari Grossman  6:17 
So I am a fourth generation IBD patient, which is slightly unique, not a label that I’m super proud of, but it is what it is. And clearly there is some genetic component in my family. So my mother’s disease has varied from mine. But it’s hard to tell if that is just on the disease basis, or just because treatments have drastically changed so much over the course of her lifespan that it’s hard to really know which avenue the disease would have gotten on had she had access to biologics and didn’t have so many surgeries. It’s really hard to tell.

Sari Grossman  7:00 
And I think it’d be impossible to compare to the other generations. I’m not really sure. But I mean, I don’t think anyone had as much of an upper GI involvement as I have. But that’s kind of more rare anyways, so.

Amber Tresca  7:16 
Yeah, it’s so interesting. You’re 25, right? Yes. Okay. So your mom was probably around my age. So we were diagnosed in what they call now their pre biologic age. So right, yeah, very few treatments and the treatments that we had, we’re not going to get at the inflammation. So even if you could sort of tamp things down and go about your life, maybe it wasn’t really hitting the IBD and handling it in a way that we have now. So I know I’m really grateful. I’m sure your mom is really grateful that you have access to better drugs than she did. But what was that? What was that like for her taking you through this diagnosis process? How? What kind of feelings does she have about it?

Sari Grossman  8:06 
Because I was so young, I definitely was not concerned with how my parents were feeling. But we’ve talked about it later, later in my life. And she I know it was very devastating for her I don’t think she really let herself think or thought in general that she would also have a child with IBD. And so I think there was definitely a period of denialism, maybe a couple of months, but you have to face reality when you have a sick child.

Sari Grossman  8:37 
And she, I remember, she described to me that after diagnose after my diagnosis, she would wake up and it just felt like a ton of bricks that hit her every morning upon realizing that I had IBD. So I think it’s definitely difficult for her for sure. But she’s never let IBD stop her from doing things, the IBD communities, very strong, pretty much everyone does, what they want to do still in their life, and so I think she has solace in that she knows all that she’s overcome. So it’s okay, but definitely difficult.

Amber Tresca  9:15 
Right? Right. It also sounds like she was a really good role model for you for what it was like to live with chronic illness and to not let it get in the way of you know, what you wanted to do with your life?

Sari Grossman  9:27 
Definitely. She always said, you know, you can, you can do whatever it is that you want to do, you don’t let it stop you form relationships. You don’t want it stop. You do what you want at work, of course, in reality, it can be a lot harder to do certain things. And there are a few things that I’ve steered away from in my life that I thought I probably couldn’t do, but if I wanted to do them bad enough, I know I could have.

Sari Grossman  9:58 
I guess an example of that is throughout college, I never really considered studying abroad because I knew it would be so difficult to get my biologics out of the country that I completely never even considered it like it never even crossed my mind. It wasn’t something that I absolutely had to do want to do. And in that case, I think I would have done it, I would have figured it out. And I had friends that did it. But there are certain things in my life that I analyzed now where I think I think I just wrote them off from the beginning because of it. But I know that I’m capable of doing anything that I want, if I want it bad enough.

[MUSIC: About IBD Transition]

Amber Tresca  10:51 
So, college you just finished with grad school? You went to the University of Michigan for both undergrad and grad? Yes. Okay. So accommodations at school. Now, when I went to college, by the way, I went to Michigan State University. So for people who haven’t grown up in Michigan, they’re arrivals schools, which is a lot of fun. It didn’t even occur to me to ask you, were able to get some accommodations. So I’m interested to know how you went about that, and how you began the process, if you’ve got what you needed. And then I’m also wondering if the idea of accommodations played into your choice of school at all.

Sari Grossman  11:40 
When I was accepted to the University of Michigan, and I knew I would attend their senior year of high school, I took it upon myself to switch from a pediatric gastroenterologist from my hometown to an adult gastroenterologist at The University of Michigan. And she was quite involved in a lot of patient connection. And so she was the one who suggested to me, I’m pretty sure that I could look into accommodations. And she filled out the form, which is sent to the SSD office or students or services for students with disability.

Sari Grossman  12:21 
And from there, they met with me and a representative discussed what accommodations may be appropriate for me. And it wasn’t back and forth, which was very nice. And I really hadn’t had much accommodations in high school, I was completely healthy throughout high school, so there was really never a need. So I wasn’t even really sure what I should ask for. But I ended up settling on two main things. The first, which I took most advantage of, was taking my exams in a separate room that had an access to a bathroom, a lot of the large lecture hall classes did not have access to a bathroom during exams just because of, I don’t know how they managed to organize 300 people plus, so that wasn’t gonna work for me. And I really liked taking my exams in another room, I almost never use the bathroom option, but it was a type of insurance for me.

Sari Grossman  13:21 
So I knew that if I got sick on the late notice that I would have that set in place. And so that made me feel really good. And what they would do is if I went to the bathroom, they would stop the clock, and then they would restart it when I came back. So I didn’t have extra time. But I had that insurance, if I were to need to go to the bathroom a few times that I could still finish my exam in the same amount of time as anyone else. So that was the first major thing. And then the second thing was supposed to be a flexible attendance or assignment policy, which I never ended up using, which was more so on me because I was very much the highly achieving perfectionist type in college and I would just power through it. Even when I was really sick, I would show up and I would submit my exams and assignments on time, which I don’t recommend.

Sari Grossman  14:17 
There was a time senior year that I was really sick through finals, but I just wanted to get them over with so I took my last final exam and then walked myself to the emergency room. So I’m glad I had the accommodations in place. But it’s interesting how a lot of times it takes you growing up to realize that you should have used those accommodations. So I still recommend people get them and have them in case they need to use them and to do so freshman year because a lot of times it takes several months to put those in place. Have your doctor fill out the forms and I’m sure it’s different at different schools. So if you’re doing that while you’re sick, it’s really not a great process. I would definitely do that at the beginning.

Sari Grossman  15:02 
So all in all, I felt like I had the accommodations I needed. But I was the one who didn’t use them appropriately a lot of the time. So that’s on me.

Amber Tresca  15:14 
Yeah, but it’d be, it’s kind of difficult, you have to come around to it mentally, I think as well, it’s a huge hurdle to do that in the first place to admit that you’re different than your peers. And that you might need a little extra help. And Alright, it’s in place, but then it’s on you to then come around like to it again, like on that day, and say, you know, maybe I really should stay home and rest today and not try to push myself through an exam. Like, that’s really difficult.

Sari Grossman  15:44 
Yeah. And I think that’s the, like, just a part of college in general is you, there’s a lot of growth period, and for the first time, your parents aren’t there telling you like, you need to stay home, or you need to go to school. And so it was on me, and because I tended to be in the opposite direction that I was going to school no matter what, that’s just how it manifested in the end. But there definitely is some psychological component to it for sure.

Amber Tresca  16:11 
Yeah. Although I would say that’s probably pretty typical of people with IBD is just to push through. And just to keep going. Yeah, maybe we can all take a lesson to slow down a little bit more. And if we have accommodations in place, maybe we should use them. So were you aware that the University of Michigan has some of the best IBD specialists in the world there before you went to school there?

Sari Grossman  16:41 
No, I definitely did not. I always wanted to go to the University of Michigan. And it just I lucked out. But I always wanted to go to a bigger school. And so probably even if I ended up choosing a different school, whether it was you have them or any other large school logarithms are paired with academic centers that have pretty decent IBD specialists. So that worked out in the end.

Amber Tresca  17:09 
Yeah, yeah. And also at U of M, there’s a great student group there, which, you know, I’ve come to their events as well, the Crohn’s and Colitis student initiative. But you were obviously involved with them for several years. So how did you first learn about the group? And what was that experience, like having a group like that on campus for you.

Sari Grossman  17:34 
So I actually stumbled upon it by chance, I was going through the hundreds of student organizations online that they list, and I stumbled upon the Crohn’s and Colitis student initiative. And I got super excited about it. And there’s a festival at the beginning of the year where every organization gets the opportunity to set up a little booth, and then usually just freshmen, but sometimes older students can walk through and sign up for student orgs.

Sari Grossman  18:04 
So I saw out the CCSI booth, and I went there, and I introduced myself and I said, you know, I have Crohn’s. And I’m really interested in joining your group. And from that moment onto when I graduated graduate school, which was over the course of seven years with COVID, that I was heavily involved in this group. And it wasn’t something for me that I really thought I needed. I was more just excited about it in general, but because I had a mom was Crohn’s. It wasn’t my first time meeting people with Crohn’s. It really wasn’t about that for me.

Sari Grossman  18:45 
But it was the first time that I was surrounded by a group of people with Crohn’s and also all people my age. And I think that was a really big factor for me that I didn’t know I needed going in. But especially when I was pretty sick in the later years of college, it was a lot of support for me. And just a great educational resource, because there were a lot of people that were in our group chats, and usually the meetings were smaller, more intimate. But if anyone had a question, there’s always somebody in the group that had gone through it had tried that medication, had heard of that doctor.

Sari Grossman  19:24 
And so it was a great resource and just a really great connection piece automatically what I would meet someone there, it was kind of like you would be friends. And so I’m still really good friends with a few of the people from CCSI that I keep up with. I still see some people graduated four years ago and I still talked to them. I went to my friend’s wedding from CCSI last summer. And it was also a great place to learn more about the research going on because U of M is real At a hub of some of that research, we would have different speakers talk we would have dieticians, we would have gi psychologists, we had professors that would study pain and happiness, not necessarily even related to IBD, but kind of tangentially related to IBD. And so I learned a lot about that.

Sari Grossman  20:19 
And in a really comfortable setting, we would go to fundraisers together take steps, we did a lot of great things. And we would have one to two doctors show up at every meeting to so we could ask questions. And a lot of academic centers, definitely you have them the wait to get information from your doctor can sometimes be frustrating. So to have that resource there to ask a doctor quick question, instead of calling the office or going in the patient portal was really great and especially great during COVID, when people had so many questions about vaccines. And it was impossible to get that information anywhere else besides maybe a webinar that ccfa put on.

Sari Grossman  21:03 
So it was overall, a really great experience. And I have the opportunity to be president and to be a graduate student advisor, and to also meet people who were a couple of years younger than me. And that was also a really great experience to

Amber Tresca  21:22 
Keeping a student organization going. It really does sound like a lot of work on top of everything else that you’re already doing. What would you say to people who want or thinking maybe they don’t want to volunteer for such an organization? Or what would you say to anyone who doesn’t have access to something like that? And they think that they might be want to start it at their school? Do you have any advice?

Sari Grossman  21:47 
Yeah, so the first thing is I know CCFA has some online support groups. So you should have access to that support and a bunch of different platforms online, I think they have a like power of two programs, you can just reach out with one person. There’s groups where you can go on Facebook and discuss those things that are usually unmoderated but then they think they’re also more moderated groups. So no matter what setting you want, I’m sure there’s something out there for starting it at your school, I think it can be difficult.

Sari Grossman  22:21 
And I think an extra barrier that CCSI has the other student groups don’t have is not everyone is ready to talk about their IBD or identify themselves with IBD. And so it was pretty hard to get members and a lot of other schools in Michigan used to have pretty thriving Crohn’s and Colitis, student groups, Michigan State had one, I think Grande Valley had one and it’s hard to keep them up. Because even if you have one or two dedicated members, which is really all it takes, once they graduate, you know the nature is like you have to have someone else coming in to keep it up. And so they very easy fizzle out. So that is definitely a barrier.

Sari Grossman  23:06 
But I would say to just try and do your best. And at a school with even 1000 people, right? There are people there with IBD, there are so many of us. So there’s definitely people there, whether or not they’re willing to join us another story, but I would definitely encourage people to try because it has really been a huge source of support in my life, and was one of the reasons that I chose U of M again, for grad school, especially just with COVID and feeling like an extra need for support. And also kind of another layer of being ostracized with the pandemic of having being a young person that has to be careful when a lot of other people don’t understand that.

Sari Grossman  23:48 
So I definitely encourage people to reach out to maybe a doctor that could be partnered with the University or just in the area and see if they’re willing to sponsor, because I know it’s pretty valuable for the doctors that have been involved to, to really get more of that patient component that they get to know us with out being in the confines of one hour or you know, twice a year such.

Amber Tresca  24:15 
Right. I also think too, maybe there’s a lesson here for administration staff at universities in how they think about their students who are coming with disabilities, and that maybe providing a little different or extra support for these kinds of groups might be helpful because you were making a decision to stay and go to grad school because you had that great social support. And maybe it would have been different, you know, had you not had that.

Sari Grossman  24:45 
Yeah, actually, when I was interviewing for other graduate schools, they often would have, you know, older grad students come and take you around tours and one of them had looked me up on Facebook saw that I had IBD and may also had IBD. And their twin also had IBD. And they were like you need to come here, we need to start an organization here like you can help us.

Sari Grossman  25:14 
And, just, I mean, I was there for like two days. And this all unraveled. So I think there are a lot of people excited about this. And they want to start at their own school and they just don’t know how or don’t feel like they have the support. But a single person can do it, you just start by, you can try to reach out to your disability office and try to advertise on their website or their email list. I think that’s a great place to start. We would hang up little posters in bathroom stalls for to advertise our organization. Yeah, that’s exactly where you would find someone.

Sari Grossman  25:55 
So there’s a lot of different avenues you can you can go down. But yeah, it is funny how you you go other places, and people find you.

Amber Tresca  26:05 
Yeah, maybe a little creativity goes a long way.

[MUSIC: About IBD Transition]

Amber Tresca  26:30 
I want to move it along to your field of study and what you’ve been doing with your time while in grad school, because you’ve had a little bit of experience in being a clinical researcher now and also some doing some work in the IBD space. So why don’t you tell me a bit about the work that you have been doing while you were at UNM. And then you know how you got started with it really,

Sari Grossman  26:56 
The disclaimer is that I was never somebody that wanted to research and IBD I’ve been very interested in biomedical research and disease based research, but never IBD because I really didn’t want it to encompass the totality of my life. And so I reached out to an infectious disease doctor about doing clinical research with him during my master’s degree.

Sari Grossman  27:24 
And we had decided on a particular project for the following year, it was based on C. difficile infection, which is a gastrointestinal infection. And when I came back in the fall, he said, we can keep the project the way it is, but I want to study this in IBD patients, because a gastroenterology fellow and resident approached him over the summer, and wanted to join the project. So to make it more relevant for them, he decided he would put an IBD twist on it. And he didn’t know that I had IBD. At the time, I’m not sure if he remembered it or not. But I was basically pushed into this IBD project, which I never would have picked off the bat.

Sari Grossman  28:08 
But it ended up being a nice experience. And I think that was because I was healthy and symptom free during this research project, I don’t think it would have been as positive had I been dealing with IBD on a moment by moment basis, but because I could separate that. And it wasn’t such a big part of my personal life at the time, it ended up being pretty positive. So the project was a computational modeling project that sought to identify factors that contribute to IBD flare in patients that are tested for CDI or C. difficile infection. So to give a little background, CDI has a lot of symptoms that overlap with IBD, flare, diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, fever pain.

Sari Grossman  29:01 
And so it’s very hard to distinguish between these disease these two disease states in IBD patients. And it’s important because you want to treat the patient accordingly. And on top of that IBD patients have higher rates of getting CDI and also asymptomatically carrying the bacteria. So us these patients are at higher risk of these infections. And we don’t really have a great way to distinguish between the infection and flare on top of the fact that the infection can cause a flare. So I was doing computational work to kind of look at how we could start to begin to distinguish between these two disease states and it was very different than what I had been doing because up until the summer before this project, I was really doing laboratory based research, and I had more control Over what types of projects I was studying, so it was never even slightly in the realm of IBD.

Sari Grossman  30:07 
But this clinical research was pretty much a new thing, and is more close to what I want to go into in the future.

Amber Tresca  30:18 
Do you think that there might be a tendency for people to think that because you’re living with a condition that you’d be more interested in studying it?

Sari Grossman  30:27 
Definitely, I have a good amount of friends and CCSI, who are going to med school to become gastroenterologist, or pediatricians that can help, you know, pass off kids to be diagnosed for IBD. And I think there’s definitely a huge interest in patients to study their own illness, I just always went the other way.

Sari Grossman  30:54 
You know, it was part of my personal life, my family life, a lot of my friends and had at that point, there was just there was just no way that I needed more IBD in my life. But I think I, I was, I was definitely more passionate about my work, I’ve always wanted to go into drug development, or really just anything related to pharmaceuticals.

Sari Grossman  31:21 
And that definitely derived from being dependent on medications to feel well, and realizing the importance of how medications can really change so many people’s lives, and quality of life, too. So it all kind of comes together. I just didn’t want specifically IBD to be the topic of my research, but it happened and it was still a good experience. So that was good,

Amber Tresca  31:49 
Good, good. I’m glad it worked out in the end. And the C. difficile infections, I mean, so difficult for anyone. But then, as you said, for people with IBD, it can really lead to some bad outcomes. So it’s a great area of study. And something that we need to know more about. That is definitely something that is quite different than when I was diagnosed to now is that it’s more recognized, and that a lot of times when you are starting to have your symptoms come back, and maybe you are having a flare up, one of the first things they might do is test you for a C Diff infection.

Amber Tresca  32:29 
And that was something that they that they didn’t do before. So it’s really important that people get tested for it. And then if you live with an IBD, that you get it diagnosed and get it treated, especially right away. Although I’m told, I’ve never had a C. diff infection. I’m told that when you have it you, you pretty much know it’s kind of like having an intestinal blockage. Like when you have it. Like you know you have it, there’s not really like a lot of question.

Sari Grossman  32:54 
Yeah, I hear it’s pretty bad.

Amber Tresca  32:56 
Yeah, definitely, and can take time to clear up. So the research is important, but you’re thinking that you might go in a slightly different direction. So what do you think you’ll do next professionally? Or what are you looking at?

Sari Grossman  33:13 
I’m applying to jobs now, mainly in the pharmaceutical industry and Clinical Affairs. So either clinical research, or there are lots of different positions that help out with aspects of clinical trials for drugs and development or drugs that have already been approved, but they want to approve it for new indications or new formulations, etc, etc. And so I this past summer, I interned at a company and clinical development. And I really liked that.

Sari Grossman  33:47 
So hopefully something having to do with organizing clinical trial data or managing the clinical trial itself. But I guess in that sense, I do not have a choice of what drug I get put on probably so it could end up in the IBD space again, because it is such a big field. It’s possible that my path with IBD research is not at its end, but we’ll see.

Amber Tresca  34:19 
Yeah, that’s it’s probably likely that it will come up again, in your professional career, I’ll just say, especially for something like a secondary indication for a drug that’s already been approved. So you’re so you’re open to the idea. You’re not saying no to being in the gastroenterology space.

Sari Grossman  34:36 
I’m not saying no. But, you know, I may take like a vial off the counter for myself. No, I’m kidding. But But yeah, well, I, you know, I can’t be completely blocked off to that idea because it is out of my control to some extent. And I think it would be exciting in some realms.

Sari Grossman  35:00 
And also just in the positive sense, I am so happy every time I see something coming through the pipeline, that in a sense, it would be an honor to work on one of those drugs. And if I was on, it would be pretty cool that I had a part in the process of that of taking something that I worked on. So I’m not completely turned off to the idea. But yeah, you’re right, it’s probably likely to happen if I’m in the field in the long term.

Amber Tresca  35:30 
Yeah, and I get the idea of the separation. I mean, in my own life, you know, I deal with that I specialize in writing about inflammatory bowel disease, and then other digestive diseases as well. I do work in other space, too. But it can be. Sometimes it’s just all IBD all day. So it is nice to sometimes do something that’s a little bit different.

Amber Tresca  35:55 
I guess this was let me ask you this, though. What would be your ideal area of study? What would be something that if you were to get a grant? And I’m not saying like, I don’t have any money? Like, I wish I did. I wish I could give you a grant. But if you had access to grant money, is there something in particular that you would like to study and and look into?

Sari Grossman  36:21 
Yeah, so I, my master’s degree is in immunology. And I’ve always found immunotherapy. Super, super interesting. So I would love to work on you know, something tangentially related to diabetes, or really any other autoimmune disease I’ve found interesting. Also, I’ve done a good amount of oncology research, which, you know, highly benefits from immunotherapy.

Sari Grossman  36:50 
So I think anything immunology related, which is most things these days would be super interesting. But I have kind of a large range of scientific interests. So there’s nothing that I’ve really been always trying to look at. I can whatever is up and coming, I’m pretty jazzed about usually like, I think it’s super cool. So yeah, I think something immunology related, but doesn’t have to be anything super specific.

Amber Tresca  37:20 
Yeah, I mean, it’s a huge field. And there’s a lot of work going on in it, which is wonderful to see as a person that lives with an immune mediated condition. It’s like, that’s great that it’s been it’s been focused on now. So and it’s in it’s also wonderful to see young folks like yourself, go into the field, whether or not you work on IBD projects. It’s I think it’s still you never know how something that you’re working on cannon packed in a in a way that you never even thought that it would. So it’s just moving that moving immunology studies forward, just you know, in any kind of way. I think it’s really great.

Amber Tresca  37:53 
So, so I want to ask you, though, from one Michigan girl to another Michigan girl, I grew up not too far from you. You grew up in West Bloomfield, I grew up in and around Mount Clemens, although now I live in Connecticut. What so when I go back, and I visit my family, I have there’s a couple of things that are on my list. There’s some foods that I can’t get here in Connecticut, that want to go back to Michigan that are on my list. What would be your foods that you would like to have from Michigan? If you were living somewhere else?

Sari Grossman  38:30 
I have a really easy answer for you. My favorite restaurant is buddy’s pizza. I think Detroit pizza is better than all other pizza. And everyone hates me for having such an opinion. But I don’t care. So I would, I would bring buddy’s pizza everywhere. And I found out that I think you can have it shipped, like half baked to around the country, and I will definitely be taking advantage of that. So that’s my number one answer, but everyone’s like, Oh, I love New York pizza. How do you not like New York pizza and like No, but it’s just so much better. And honestly, it’s like heresy that you would say such a thing being from Michigan, but that is heresy.

Amber Tresca  39:21 
Okay. So I you know, as I said, I grew up in Michigan, and but I met my husband online and the first time so we had like a long distance thing going for a while. So I flew one time when I was I think it was 22. So I flew from Detroit to New York City, because he lived on Long Island to meet him and, you know, we were just trying to figure out whether or not this was something we were gonna continue to pursue because long distance isn’t easy. And one of the places that he took me to was his favorite pizza place.

Amber Tresca  39:56 
And they served New York pizza and I was just No, no, no. I wanted my Detroit pizza. And this was the early 90s. I didn’t even really understand. Okay, I knew what Chicago style was because I’d been to Chicago. But I understand that there was different pizza in different places. And then Connecticut has their own pizza situation going on, by the way. So it is very wild. I am not a fan of New York pizza. I will take some Detroit pizza any day. And whenever it is on a menu that is here in New England or in New York, I will totally get it. Because it’s the best pizza and I don’t really care. I’m on your side on that. Sorry. I really am.

Sari Grossman  40:48 
No, I have the same argument. With my boyfriend. I tell him that if I wanted to put sauce and cheese on a wheat then I would, but I prefer

Amber Tresca  41:08 
Yeah, and then don’t forget the grease. Right. You know, the new pizza. Like that was what bothered me was the greasiness of it.

Sari Grossman  41:15 
Yeah, it’s just, it’s, it’s fine. Like, it’s okay. But it’s not what I want.

Amber Tresca  41:24 
All right. Well, you know, there is something very special about growing up in southeastern Michigan, and it speaks directly to our pizza preferences. By the way, last time, I was in Michigan, I was there I was at U of M. for the annual event that’s thrown that’s for Crohn’s and Colitis patients. And one of the things that I did before I drove back to the airport, I think I was there for like, 36 hours. One of the things that I did was stop and, get some pizza.

Sari Grossman  41:57 
Okay, well, maybe next year, I hope to speak again, we can link up and we can suggest that buddy’s pizza should be the lunch event afterwards.

Amber Tresca  42:09 
You know, what if look, if somebody’s gonna invite me to come and be a speaker at an event in Michigan, and then they promised me some Detroit pizza? Like, that’s just, you know, I’m gonna do it. Like the answers gonna be Yes. Let me just put that out.

[MUSIC: IBD Dance Party]

Amber Tresca  42:26 
Well, thank you so much for talking with me and being on about IBD. I’m really grateful to have your story and have all this information, since you’ve already lived through, going through college, having accommodations, maybe not using them to your advantage as much as you should have. And so other people can learn from your experience. And so I really appreciate you talking to me today, Sari.

Sari Grossman  42:47 
Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

Amber Tresca  42:55 
Hey, super listener.

Amber Tresca  42:56 
Thanks to Sari Grossman for sharing her journey and her experience in accommodations while in undergrad and graduate school. Her points about campus support groups are incredibly valid. Motivated students are important to maintaining volunteer organizations. But I would also encourage people who are on staff at colleges and universities to look at the example set by the Crohn’s and Colitis Student Initiative at the University of Michigan and consider how they can support such a group on their own campus.

Amber Tresca  43:23 
And I say that as a graduate of Michigan State University, don’t worry, it only hurt a little.

Amber Tresca  43:29 
Links to a written transcript, everyone’s social media handles and more information on the topics we discussed is in the show notes. And on my episode 131 page on about

Amber Tresca  43:40 
You can follow me, Amber Tresca, across all social media as About IBD. Thanks for listening, and remember, until next time, I want you to know more about IBD.

Amber Tresca  43:54 

About IBD is a production of Mal and Tal Enterprises.

It is written, produced, and directed by me, Amber Tresca.

Mix and sound design is by Mac Cooney.

Theme music is from Cooney Studio


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