Emily Chandler: Using her voice in the fight against cystic fibrosis 

Emily Chandler, a first-year student at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy’s Orlando campus, has been defying the odds since birth. As an infant, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disease that affects multiple organs. Like many cystic fibrosis patients, Chandler didn’t have a normal childhood as it was accompanied with extended hospital visits for treatment. 

“There isn’t a cure for cystic fibrosis,” Chandler said. “As a kid, I was often on antibiotics since my lungs are vulnerable to infection. Spending a lot of time in children’s hospitals wasn’t a pleasant time.” 

Despite her illness, she found a lot of support through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to the awareness of cystic fibrosis. At a young age, she recalls walking alongside her family in Great Strides, a national walk dedicated to raising cystic fibrosis awareness. At the age of 15, Chandler’s involvement with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation expanded when the Southeast Florida Chapter invited her to speak at their annual charity event, the Boca Grande Classic fishing tournament. 

At this three-day fundraising event, Chandler assumed the role of a cystic fibrosis ambassador, captivating the audience with her story during the banquet dinner. Chandler not only embraces this important role with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation but treasures the supportive community it has provided her, choosing to speak at the event every year. 

“This organization has given me a community, I see them every year and call them my island family,” Chandler said.

Her impact on the Boca Grande Classic fundraising event is evident as the event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, contributing to a cumulative amount of $ 2.75 million over the past 20 years — all donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for a cure. Through the years, Chandler’s health has significantly improved in ways she never thought possible, a testament she attributes to the development of new medications, or as she likes to call them, “miracle drugs.” While Chandler is grateful for these new treatments, she recognizes there is still work to do in the cystic fibrosis fight.

“The life expectancy for cystic fibrosis has increased from 35 to 55 years in my lifetime. We need these numbers to continue increasing,” Chandler noted. 

Chandler credits her experience with cystic fibrosis as the sole reason why she wanted to pursue a medical career, specifically in pharmacy.

“Pharmacy has always interested me because I literally would not be here if it wasn’t for the lifesaving medications and treatments,” Chandler said. “I’ve spent so much time at hospitals being the patient. Being on the other side administering the patient care is a dream I’m working towards.” 

As she continues to fight cystic fibrosis and pursue a pharmacy degree, Chandler remains committed to raising awareness to conquer the disease.

“I share my story not for the recognition, but because it’s not just my own it’s the story of other cystic fibrosis fighters.”