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Recognizing the young asthmatic achievers

GSK Executives with the Winners Against Asthma Pedia Category. Photo supplied

GSK Executives with the Winners Against Asthma Pedia Category. Photo supplied

MEDICAL student Teesha Banta and aspiring lawyer Christian Laczawere adjudged as the grand prize winners in the first Search for Winners Against Asthma spearheaded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Launched in February 2015, the Search for Winners Against Asthma is a nationwide search for young asthmatic achievers aged 30 years and younger who are outstanding in their respective fields despite having asthma and inspire asthma sufferers that they, too, can win against asthma.

More than 2,000 young people submitted their entries in the hopes of sharing their stories to inspire other young asthmatics not to let asthma take control of their lives.

“We decided to target this particular age group because Asthma is a common chronic disease of childhood leading to reduced activity, school absences, ER visits and hospitalizations, says Dr. Gio Barangan, GSK Medical Director.

“It is also during this stage that young people are in the process of developing the necessary knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve their goals in life, as such we want to let them know that Asthma should not deter them from realizing their full potential,” Baranganadded.

In the youth category of 19 years old and below, Christian Lacza, a student from Navotas City was judged as the grand prize winner.

Christian is one of the 2014 Kabayan Ten Outstanding Public School Students, and 2014 Ten Outstanding Youth Leaders of Navotas City. He also was an awardee of the 2010 GawadHuwarangKabataan of the AntolinOreta Sr. Foundation and GawadModelongKabataan: Galing at Dangal ng Malabon of the Arnold Vicencio Foundation. He is also the youngest recipient of the Orator of the Year Award in Navotas National High School.

“When I was young, my asthma attacks were so severe that my mother would have to bring me to the hospital almost weekly. This made me realize that if I cannot excel in physical activities, I have to discover and focus on my other strengths,” says Christian.

“Going to my pediatrician was a constant necessity, and she made sure I get the proper medication and treatment, but more than she never failed to cheer me up and would always give me words of encouragement whenever I visited her.”

“Instead of letting asthma stop me I stopped asthma from interfering with my life as I pushed myself as a holistic learner– excelling in academics, student leadership and in various competitions.”

The runner up winners in the youth category are 15-year old student and dancer Christina Chua; taekwondo twins Andre Rafael and Anton Joachim Montero; consistent student scholar Kenneth Angelo Bagay and Dave Andre Labaton who is also a taekwondo medalist.

In the adult category, incoming third year medical student Teesha Banta was judged as the winner. The 23-year old student from St. Luke’s College of Medicine, was a full scholar in her first two years of med school and graduated Cum Laude from University of the Philippines Los Banos with the degree of BS Biology Major in Wildlife Biology.

She is a lifetime member in two international honor societies but besides her academic achievements, she is also actively involved in community service. As an active Girl Scout, Teesha received two of the highest awards given by the organization– the Chief Girl Scout Medal and is one the 75 GSP National Young Awardees. She had represented the country in national and international events, specifically as an advocate and a National Peer Educator on Adolescent Female Health.

“Asthma runs in our family but symptoms of severe asthma began when I was in college, which, unfortunately, was also the time when I was so involved in my schoolwork and scouting. My mother, who is a doctor and is also an asthmatic, helped me through most of my journey by taking care of me and reminding me to ‘ take my medicines. Actually, because of my asthma, I had to temporarily stop med school because bed rest was advised. But it did not stop me from taking a part-time job as a high school Science teacher. Besides being a doctor, teaching was my second dream job, Teesha narrates.

“Every time I have my asthma attacks, the only thing on my mind is to get well so I could go back to studying and become a doctor to prove that asthma should not stop you from pursuing your dreams.”

Teesha said she plans wants to specialize in Pediatric Pulmonology so she could treat asthmatic children.
Her message to other asthmatics? “During our many asthma attacks, we may feel powerless and helpless. We do not have the strength that non-asthmatics have and it may feel like it is the end of our dreams, I had that feeling when I had to temporarily stop med school because of my asthma. Well, these are all lies. Our condition is but another challenge that adds more meaning to each of our achievements, an opportunity to push harder, aim higher, and be better persons and citizens of our country. Perhaps we were given this condition because we have the ability to turn these “setbacks” into “set-ups” of better things to come. We can defeat asthma and we can conquer our dreams!”

The other winners in the adult category are UP student IannaEngaño an athlete, musician, artist and social activist; Yasmin Versoza a firefighter and member of the Marikina City Fire Truck crew; Christianne de Vera a triathlete; and Yliah Nina Bosch a registered nurse who is working as an Emergency Nurse Responder at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Criteria for Winners
The SWAA is open to all Filipino citizens or foreigner with a permanent Philippine address that have been diagnosed as asthmatic by a qualified physician.

The winners were divided into two categories: Category A (Youth Category) for below 19 years old and Category B (Adult Category) for 20 years old and above.

Applicants can choose to share how they have won against asthma. These may be in various fields including Arts, Academics, Career, and Sports.

Applicants were also required to answer the question: How did you Win Against Asthma? The screening committee then used the following criteria for each entry
Excellence in their Field or Category 50%
Evidence of winning over asthma 30%
Online Votes 20%

The winners will be given the following prizes: Huawei P7 Smart Phone; Five Thousand (PhP5,000) worth of GCs from Folded & Hung and Twenty Five Thousand (PhP25,000) worth of Sodexo gift certificates.

“A lot of asthma patients have accepted lifestyle restrictions resulting from uncontrolled asthma as the norm, assuming that frequent symptoms, exacerbations and lifestyle limitations are an inevitable consequence of having asthma. With the Search for Winners Against Asthma campaign, we hope to encourage and inspire more young people to live their lives to the fullest and not let asthma prevent them from doing the things they love.” Dr. Baranganalso credits actress Kim Chiu and International Rock superstar Arnel Pineda for helping them spread awareness of their campaign.

“Kim, Arnel and Michael are asthmatics who have proven not only to themselves but to the entire world that they can take control of their condition and never let their asthma stop them from following their dreams and achieving success in their very competitive careers,” Barangan added.

For more information about the Search for Winners Against Asthma campaign, visit www.facebook.com/WinAgainstAsthma