Lauren Hill made the layup.
It was the shot seen ’round the world. In 2014, Hill seemed to be on every news and sports program in the country when the former high school basketball standout played in one game for the college that recruited her, Mt. St. Joseph’s. The game was moved up so she could play before she died.
On the court, the ball was passed to Hill, #22. Turn, half step, left-handed layup, swoosh. Along with the millions of others who watched that video clip was Jessica Cummings, Lauren’s cousin. She was in high school at the time.
Fast forward a few years. Cummings saw a post on the Facebook page of the pediatric brain cancer research nonprofit The Cure Starts Now that mentioned Dr. Carl Koschmann, one of the country’s leading researchers and clinicians studying diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). It was the type of tumor that took Lauren’s life. The type of tumor that took the life of Chad Carr, the young grandson of former U-M football coach Lloyd Carr and the namesake of the #chadtough movement and foundation. The type of tumor for which there was no cure.
She reached out to Koschmann. “Initially, I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of me and my family for everything that he’s done,” says Cummings. “It turned out he had lab positions open.”
Cummings had recently completed her undergraduate degree in kinesiology, with a heavy concentration of neuroscience classes at LSA. Given Cummings’s experience in studying intraoperative neuromonitoring, along with her desire to become a pediatric oncologist, Koschmann saw an opportunity. He asked her to join his lab.
Initially, Cummings wasn’t sure what to do. She intended to go to medical school, which would lead to significant debt. Other job offers in intraoperative neuromonitoring would have given her a higher salary and more security.
Still, she was driven to find a cure for the cancer that had taken her cousin’s life, and she accepted the job in Koschmann’s lab. Working in the lab one night, she began feeling doubts about her decision. “Then I looked down at my watch to check the time, and—because I’m a weirdo and use military time—it read ‘22:22.’ The next night, the same thing,” she wrote on Facebook. “I think someone may have been telling me to stay put.”
That “someone,” of course, was her cousin Lauren. #22.