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Uncharted Territory - Alumni Seek Breakthroughs in Health Care
Kristen Eddings, left, and Lacey Birk Price, right, stand in front of a mural outside the future headquarters of the Gates Foundation in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.

Photo by Mike Siegel

You've probably heard of the deaths caused by AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis worldwide, and you've probably heard about the campaigns to prevent and eradicate these diseases.

But have you heard about the campaign against rotavirus? No? Kristen Eddings '06 and Lacey Birk Price '07 want to change that.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrheal disease among children, and, after pneumonia, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death among children under age 5. An effective vaccine against rotavirus exists, but that vaccine has yet to reach most children in the developing world.

"We already have the treatment plan," Eddings says. "It's a matter of funding and of raising awareness — a major way to speed up a vaccine getting introduced to a developing country."

In her work at the Washington Global Health Alliance, Eddings helps Washington-based nonprofits build partnerships around global health efforts. She ran into Price, a community relations coordinator for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at a meeting. Though they didn't know each other at Seattle Pacific, both Eddings and Price found their interest in global development sparked during their college years — for Eddings on a SPRINT service trip to Sierra Leone, and for Price in classes and a chapel service that highlighted the biblical call to care for the poor.

"Getting rotavirus on people's radar is going to raise visibility and advocacy efforts," says Kristen Eddings. "Because when a disease is on your radar, funding follows."

"I'm really compelled by the Gates Foundation's mission that 'all lives have equal value,'" Price says. "'From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required' (Luke 12:48) — that's one of my favorite verses in the Bible."

The two quickly realized they shared a host of common interests, including a desire to get other young professionals excited about solving global health challenges. Working together, they came up with a sure-fire way to pique the interest of 20- and 30-somethings: a party.

Dubbed "Party With a Purpose," the June 2010 event at Seattle's Pan Pacific Hotel was designed to fund efforts by nonprofit PATH to offer oral rehydration treatment for children with rotavirus and other diarrheal diseases in Kenya.

Their goals were more than met. They raised just over $13,000, funding treatment in more than 50 rural health clinics in Kenya and helping that country fulfill a national health policy goal. The event sold out, as 550 Seattleites showed up to dance, eat, drink, and learn. For Price, a highlight was meeting professional soccer players from the Seattle Sounders with their wives and girlfriends.

Well-known guests and fancy dresses aside, Eddings is excited that the event got people talking. "Getting rotavirus on people's radar is going to raise visibility and advocacy efforts," she said. "Because when a disease is on your radar, funding follows."

Eddings and Price plan to make the Party With a Purpose an annual event, each year raising funds to support a different Washington- based global health organization. Next year, they hope for a crowd of 1,000.