New York Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka spends many a Sunday trying to inflict pain on opposing offenses, but off the field his mission is the exact reverse.
The 6' 5" defensive end is a marquee volunteer for Treat the Pain, a program from the American Cancer Society that aims to make effective pain medicines universally available by 2020.
Jenna Kohnke, a rising fourth year evening student at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, manages the Treat the Pain program. She spent her 2013 spring break in early March traveling with Kiwanuka and a film crew to Africa to work on a documentary about efforts to provide pain relief to rural Africans.
“Our program works on expanding access to essential pain medicines in developing countries,” Kohnke explains. “The film we are working on with Mathias Kiwanuka and filmmakers Casey Neistat and Oscar Boyson will be released late summer or early fall, following a piece that will air on ESPN.”
For a two-time Superbowl champion Kiwanuka, (whose sister Mary is a 2006 graduate of CUA Law) the trip was a return to his family roots. The ambassadors for the Treat the Pain program spent most of their time in Uganda, where some of Kiwanuka’s family still lives. His grandfather, Benedicto Kiwanuka, was the nation’s first prime minister.
Kohnke accompanied Kiwanuka and his wife, Tessa, as they visited with patients and their families, clinicians, and local nongovernmental organizations to learn about untreated cancer pain and the relief that can be provided with inexpensive, effective pain medications.
The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly three million people die each year around the world in pain from cancer or HIV without access to relief. Treat the Pain works with governments and partners in low and middle-income countries to make essential pain medicines universally available, to reduce the cost and improve the availability of medicines, and to improve the skills and motivation of individual clinicians.
With projects in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, India, and Haiti, Treat the Pain has worked with partners to provide 2.6 million days of treatment for patients in need since 2011.