Katz and Phillips, P.A., founding partner, David Katz, is well aware of the devastating effects diabetes can have on its victims and loved ones alike as both his wife and daughter live with diabetes. In an effort to bring awareness to Type I Diabetes while doing something to benefit the community the firm implemented an annual $1,000 essay-based scholarship open to aspiring lawyers coping with diabetes.
This year’s winner, Case Western Reserve University student, Casey McCullen’s story tells of seeing the warning signs, but attributing them to stress; akin to fighting an armed yet unseen assailant. His eventual diagnosis and the struggles of managing the disease are and forever will be tied to his law school journey.
Unlike many who are diagnosed with Type I diabetes, McCullen’s symptoms and diagnosis did not present until he was 22 years old. He recalls, “…extreme fatigue, struggling to sleep, experiencing blurred vision, and being quick to anger…” He simply attributed it to the rigors of being a first year law student. Other symptoms included frequent urination, tingling and tenderness in his feet, insatiable hunger, and unexplained weight loss leaving him 40 lbs. under weight.
McCullen did what many of us in the Internet Age would do; he researched the symptoms online and although he found the same common thread – diabetes – he felt that an implausible diagnose, but a gnawing feeling lead him to go the local pharmacy to have his blood sugar tested. He was told that his fasting level was 350; normal levels range between 70 and 100. McCullen’s fears were confirmed by his endocrinologist and within one hour of that visit, was giving himself his first insulin injection – transitioning to an insulin pump within three weeks.
Treatment, McCullen thought, would result in immediate relief of his symptoms. Unfortunately, according to him his “…health got worse before it got better,” and he was confined to bed with finals quickly approaching. Luckily, the support system he had in place aided him in completing the semester. But, there was one more hurdle.
Prior to his diagnosis, McCullen committed to a summer internship with the International Bar Association in London. Not one to shirk responsibility, he boarded a plane and went to the United Kingdom. His symptoms worsened as his time overseas continued and he was forced to end his 12 week internship after nine weeks. When he returned to the states he was diagnosed with peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, gastroparesis, and thyroid cancer forcing him to withdraw from school to focus on his health.
Thankfully, the cancer had not spread, McCullen endured a thyroidectomy, returning to law school after missing only one semester.
Endurance, perseverance, and determination are the hallmarks of a law school education for most law students. For McCullen, that is magnified exponentially. With approximately three semesters left, he continues to expose himself to various opportunities. Though he continues to be intrigued by working internationally, ten years post-graduation he sees himself serving as in-house counsel in the public sector within a University, the Attorney General’s office, or within a Federal agency.
As for the firm’s take on McCullen, “This is the type of high-achieving student for whom this scholarship was created,” says Katz. “This is the tenacity Katz & Phillips sought to reward. Casey has shown a level of determination that demands recognition and reward.”