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Education and Professional Studies

CWU Clinical Physiology Grad from Kennewick Triumphs over Blindness

Madeline Rannow from Kennewick will walk, accompanied by her guide dog Rudy, onto the stage at the June 8 afternoon Central Washington University Commencement ceremony to receive her diploma for her clinical physiology degree. Despite the challenge of being almost totally blind, Maddy completed the rigorous degree program, which required courses in chemistry, biology, gross anatomy, physiology, clinical populations, and psychology, in just four years. Her proud parents from Kennewick will share her joy from the stands.

Maddy was not always blind—she had normal vision until the age of six when a rapidly growing tumor in her brain was detected. The tumor, located in that region of the brain right behind the bridge of the nose and between the eyes where the two optic nerves from each retina cross (optic chiasma), encased the optic fibers as they passed to deep brain regions associated with vision. Removal of the tumor resulted in destruction of practically all the optic fibers, leaving her with just a tiny percentage of vision.

This same region also contains the pituitary gland, which controls many hormone functions, including growth, stress,  fluid regulation, and several other critical factors. The pituitary was also irreparably damaged in the tumor removal. Her development through maturation and physiological control was, and remains today, a function of a multitude of hormone replacements taken on a daily basis.

Despite the challenges, Maddy successfully completed high school, and pursued her physiology degree at CWU. When she started college, she didn’t have Rudy. She wanted to maximally utilize the little vision she had and not let the challenges disrupt her goal to become a rehabilitative therapist.  She persevered without a guide dog until her junior year. When she collided heavily with a metal-framed glass hallway door, she realized a service dog could help her navigate campus more safely.

Maddy’s capstone component of clinical physiology was a 400-hour internship during which she obtained invaluable experiences in occupational therapy settings, cementing her thoughts about the rehabilitative profession as her career goal. Preceptors indicated they learned as much from her as she learned from them.

The Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Sciences and the faculty of the Clinical Physiology program are most proud to recognize Madeline Rannow for her accomplishments and her dedication and perseverance to her education

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, valeriec@cwu.edu 
Photo courtesy Guide Dogs for the Blind