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News Brief: Blues legend's mother shares diabetes story

(10/31/05 10:00am)

Mary Vandross, 81, mother of legendary rhythm-and-blues singer Luther Vandross, talked to medical students about her battle with kidney disease and the ravages of diabetes in her family. Jeffrey Berns, a professor at the School of Medicine, teaches second-year medical students all about the kidney in a five-week course. The last day of the course is reserved for giving students a chance to interact with patients who suffer from kidney disease. This year, Vandross was one of two patients whom Berns chose as a way of facilitating learning and interacting with the students. "It is mainly an opportunity for the students to get a sense that the science they are learning has an impact on patients," Berns said. He added that the presence of the patients illustrated to the students the reality of the disease and its consequences. Almost 14 years ago, Vandross was told she needed dialysis, a process whereby the blood is cleansed outside of the body using a machine. It takes the place of an improperly functioning kidney. "I have been on [dialysis] for for one year and five months, and I feel great," Vandross said. Six members of her family have died as a result of diabetes. Her remaining child, Luther, died July 1, two years after suffering a stroke. Second-year medical student Gildade Boursiquot enjoyed the interaction with the patients. "It always helps when you see an actual patient," she said.