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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Indianapolis student awarded scholarship for accomplishments while living with rare, genetic disease

A student from Indianapolis is celebrating her accomplishments while being among one of the first to receive a special scholarship.
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – A student from Indianapolis is celebrating her accomplishments while being among one of the first to receive a special scholarship.

Olivia Cummings was awarded the RARE Scholars scholarship, newly created by BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., which recognizes students living with rare diseases.

The annual scholarship program provides up to $20,000 to students living with mucopolysaccharidoses, phenylketonuria or Batten disease.

Cummings lives with the rare brain-threatening disease called phenylketonuria (PKU).

Olivia has had to avoid meat, fish, eggs, nuts and dairy her entire life because PKU prohibits the body from breaking down an amino acid (Phe) found in all natural protein. Unmanaged, it can lead to neurological damage and intellectual impairment.

Despite living with the lifelong condition, Olivia graduated as valedictorian of her high school class in 2014, earned her BS in Genetic Biology from Purdue University in May 2018 and will begin medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine in the fall.

"In the spring of 2018 I received the Champion of Diversity award from the College of Science Diversity Office for my work on the leadership team for the Women in Science Program," said Cummings. "I am interested in empowering women and minorities through education and healthcare. I plan to continue these efforts in my medical career through community outreach and perhaps health policy.”