Nischal Chennuru: 13-Year-Old Raises Funds, Inspires Others

Nischal ChennuruNischal Chennuru may be just 13 years old, but he’s already making a big impact.

The Powell, Ohio, native raised $7,500 for The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) by running a 10K last October.

He did so to honor the memory of his grandmother, Suneetha Parlapalli, who died of breast cancer in 2009. While Nischal doesn’t have many memories of his grandmother—she lived in Texas and died when he was quite young—her experience led him to develop an awareness of breast cancer and a keen appreciation for the research needed to eradicate it. “I didn’t understand breast cancer at the time,” says Nischal. “But as I got older, I learned a lot more and wanted to make a contribution so that other people could get better.”

The busy soon-to-be eighth grader at the Wellington School, who travels the country as a nationally ranked fencer initiated a massive fundraising campaign. He created a website and encouraged friends and family to give online, reaching out to more than 100 people through phone and email. The funds he collected will be used to support the geriatric breast cancer research of Ewa Mrozek, MD, medical oncologist at the OSUCCC – James.

His parents are rightfully proud. “Our biggest priority is that we don’t want him to take things for granted,” says his father, Ashok Chennuru, vice president of payment innovation technology at Anthem. “It’s one thing to do well in school and get good grades, but he also needs a sense of purpose and to do something meaningful.”

Nischal’s mother, Sudhathi Chennuru, is an oncologist who completed part of her fellowship at the OSUCCC – James. She is impressed that her son’s fundraising is producing a ripple effect among his friends and classmates. “He has already been giving ideas and inspiring his friends to raise money. This will help our young generations continue to care for our community.”

Another person inspired by her son’s generosity? Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of The James. Caligiuri, who describes him as “amazing and inspirational,” gave Nischal—who is interested in a career in bioinformatics and medicine—a personal tour of his research laboratory. It was an experience Nischal and his father describe as “very impressive.”

“We saw proteins, cancer cells, PhD students and even a Rhodes Scholar working in the lab,” recalls Nischal. Given his desire to work in the rapidly developing field of bioinformatics, the laboratory is an environment that he will likely become accustomed to. Says Nischal, “Bioinformatics will allow me to take technology and make medicine better.” With his care for others and dedication to cancer research, his friends at the OSUCCC – James would say he is already making medicine better.

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