Get to know the Athletes for Real Medicine through the "Passion and Purpose" interview series. Leading up the L.A. Marathon, we will be posting monthly interviews as well as additional Athletes for RMF updates here on the Real Medicine Foundation blog.   So, stay tuned…

Interview with Athletes for Real Medicine team member Lisa Suen by fellow team member Brandi Howell:

Q: How/why did you initially get involved with Real Medicine Foundation?

A:  At the beginning of 2010, I set a resolution to "do with a purpose", meaning that I wanted to combine the things I loved to do with helping others – such as running my next marathon for a cause. It was during this year’s 2010 LA Marathon that I became aware of Real Medicine Foundation and its initiatives. After talking to the coordinator and reading up on their projects, I knew that Real Medicine Foundation was a charity whose values were in line with my own – providing long-term sustainable support to impoverished or disaster-stricken countries. These situations are often out of the local people’s control, so giving them hope and a way to better their situation was a value I was seeking out of a nonprofit.

Q: What inspired you to run the L.A. Marathon in 2010 with Athletes for Real Medicine Official Charity Team?

A:  After going through all the official charities for the LA Marathon (over twenty of them), Real Medicine Foundation stood out. They were a charity that I felt were in it for "the long run" when it came to providing humanitarian assistance.  I felt further drawn to their mission when I found out they were going to Haiti to provide support after the earthquake. That’s when I knew – this is who I’m going to run for.  In addition to their initiatives, I discovered that 92% of the funds raised would be directed to Haiti (the project of my choice).  This was especially motivating in my fundraising and training, as it was important to me to know that the end result would deliver clean water, food and medical supplies to the victims of Haiti.

Q: Tell us a little bit about Athletes for Real Medicine.

A:  Athletes for Real Medicine in my eyes is a community of athletes of all different abilities bound together through their support of a universal cause. It’s knowing as an athlete who excels in his or her own sport,  that he or she can transform that high-level of passion into helping others by supporting the Real Medicine Foundation.

Q: You went abroad to India to work alongside Real Medicine Foundation on their Malnutrition Program.  What were some of the highlights of that trip?

Baby William and mother

A:  The main highlight that sticks out in my mind even today is a baby named William in the village of Devigrah, just outside of the town where we stayed and where the Malnutrition clinic was based. We went on a field visit to identify any babies that were at risk for severe malnutrition. This is when we met William. He was already over a year old but had the appearance of a 6 month old. His eyes were glazed and watery, hair lacking pigment and he appeared extremely fatigued.  He suffered from severe malnutrition. Had the nutrition coordinators not identified him at that moment, he may have become another statistic in the overwhelmingly high malnutrition rates across India’s poorest states– rates that are even higher than in Africa, to my surprise! He was quickly referred to the nutrition center and began treatment. I was in India in May.  In November, I received word from India that Baby William is doing very well! The beauty of his story is: success, one child at a time.  This mission statement was established by Real Medicine Foundation in 2005 with the children in Sri Lanka, and it holds true today whether for a local child in Los Angeles or across the globe in India.

(Here is the link to the blog to give you some perspective)

More malnutrition treatment success stories from our project here and here.

Q:  Real Medicine is in 14 other countries.  Why did you choose India?

Lisa at the Taj Mahal

A:  I would have to say that this went back to my personal "do with a purpose" goal for this year. I wanted to go to India for the sake of culture, yoga and history for my personal enjoyment. However, I wanted to tie that in with volunteering abroad. This is where fate intertwined my two purposes in India. Additionally, malnutrition eradication was a project I felt so passionate about. I believe that basic necessities, such as food, water, health and shelter are rights for everyone. These are fortunes I am blessed with everyday and it truly pained me to know that so many were without these basics throughout the rest of the world. No child should ever die because he or she does not have enough to eat.  Knowing that as many as 6 million children under the age of 5 were malnourished in India, I wanted to help in whatever way possible.

Q:  You’re planning on running the L.A. Marathon in 2011.  Is there any particular country or cause that you’re fundraising for?

A: I think my "theme" for next year will be "sustainability". I find that it helps me with my yearly goals when I stick to a simple theme. With that, I will run for Haiti and India – two projects that I started supporting in 2010 and hope to sustain in 2011.

Q:  What words of wisdom would you share with the first-time marathoners out there?

A: Determination and passion for something greater will get you to the finish line. Step by step, mile by mile, you’ll get there, but enjoy the scenery and enjoy the "now" moment. To sum it up best, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" – Confucius – as is true in the marathon and in life. So press on!

For more information about RMF’s Athletes for Real Medicine, click here.

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