Derek Vielhauer

Being diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of one started Derek on a challenging life journey. The impact of the stigma attached with epilepsy was a monster, and epilepsy defined the first seventeen years of his life.

In high school, Derek faced a moment he would never forget: a status epilepticus tonic-clonic seizure in front of his peers. This seizure changed the course of his life. He was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, failing to gain seizure-control with multiple anti-convulsive medications. During Derek’s junior year of high school, he underwent a radical new treatment option – a left temporal lobectomy.

Brain surgery provided him so many new freedoms; the ability to drive, improved cognitive function, and opportunities that he never imagined possible. He was invited to Teens Speak Up!, a conference where young individuals speak to congressional leaders to promote awareness and support for epilepsy research funding. He also spent time at the Mayo Clinic, where he worked in a tissue-engineering lab with a surgeon and his team.

He plans to use his prior experiences to aid him as he attends Arizona State University in the fall to pursue a career as a physician assistant and a biomedical engineer.