We are all waiting for something. For those impacted by Huntington’s Disease, the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment. They are waiting to be seen, included, valued, and inevitably cured.
Hidden No More
In May of 2017, Mr. Kim was invited to fly to Vatican City in Rome, Italy, to join the Pope in addressing and erasing the stigma associated with Huntington’s disease. Pope Francis boldly proclaimed “Hidden no more!” He went on to say, “The strength and conviction with which we pronounce these words derive precisely from what Jesus himself taught us. Throughout his ministry, he met many sick people; he took on their suffering; he tore down the walls of stigma and of marginalization that prevented so many of them from feeling respected and loved. For Jesus, disease is never an obstacle to encountering people, but rather, the contrary. He taught us that the human person is always precious, always endowed with a dignity that nothing and no one can erase, not even disease… Disease, which is an expression of fragility, cannot and must not make us forget that in the eyes of God our value is always priceless.”
Following this once-in-a-lifetime encounter, Mr. Kim, through the D.K. Kim Foundation, was inspired to once again partner with USC School of Pharmacy to establish the Kim Integrated Health Management Initiative (KIHMI). The focus of this initiative is to develop a model sustainable community with an integrated health management facility in El Difícil, Colombia. This area of Colombia is afflicted with poverty and a high prevalence of Huntington’s Disease – a rare and invariably fatal congenital neurodegenerative disorder. There is currently no cure for Huntington’s disease, but treatments can alleviate its symptoms, which include involuntary movements, cognitive, and psychiatric disorders.
The Mission of KIHMI is to design and implement solutions to improve the general well-being of communities affected by rare diseases, using local resources, expertise, and academic knowledge through collaborative alliances in a sharing environment. The KIHMI team consists of a coordinating committee, advisor and management committee, and a development and implementation team.