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The Sky's the Limit: Guthrie-Koch Scholars of 2023-2024

The Sky's the Limit: Guthrie-Koch Scholars of 2023-2024

Sarah Chamberlin Sarah Chamberlin

At flok, we recognize the significant challenges inherited metabolic disorders present, and the triumph of overcoming them to achieve an academic or career dream. Since its inception in 1995, our Guthrie-Koch Scholarship program has financially supported over 120 individuals on their higher education journey. The scholarship is named to honor Dr. Robert Guthrie, who invented the newborn screening for phenylketonuria in 1961 and Dr. Richard Koch, who spent his career investigating treatments for PKU. Both advocated tirelessly for implementation of newborn screenings nationwide. Early detection of inherited disorders of protein metabolism plays a critical role in diagnosis and treatment, and enables those born with these conditions to avoid severe neurological impairment. Their groundbreaking efforts catalyzed scientific development of screenings for more than 60 other inherited disorders and enable members of the flok community to lead full, productive lives.  

Historically, the Guthrie-Koch fellows have been individuals with PKU who receive a modest grant and a certificate, and then start or continue their academic journey with our best wishes. We are pleased to announce that, starting in 2024, the program will undergo the following changes, thanks to both a generous donor and the dedicated commitment of our Board of Directors, particularly former Guthrie-Koch Fellow Jacqueline Kellish.

In the upcoming year, we will initiate a fellowship model enabling past and current Guthrie-Koch Fellows to come together to share experiences, insights, and support. The first class of fellows received the honor before the current class was born. These early fellows possess significant life experience to share with the younger cohort. The younger fellows have had distinct experiences growing up with PKU.  Our hope is that by uniting nearly thirty years of fellows, we can enhance dialogue between these age groups and provide past and future fellows a way to contribute to the community and share their experiences for the benefit of others.  If you received a Guthrie-Koch Fellowship grant, please reach out to [email protected] so we can begin to build this alumni network and make sure you receive information on fellowship events. 

Aligned with our transition to flok, the 2024-2025 scholarship program will now accept applications from individuals with Classical HCU, MSUD, Organic Acidemia, PKU, Tyrosinemia, or a Urea Cycle Disorder. We are thrilled at the opportunity to broaden the pool of applicants and enrich our fellowship program with diverse perspectives. Applications will be accepted for the upcoming year from December 15, 2023, to March 15, 2024, at  

We award Guthrie-Koch Scholarships to those who demonstrate solid character, academic excellence, and strong advocacy within their communities. This year’s recipients are an exemplary group of students who represent what is possible through hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity.  While diverse in their backgrounds, skills, and pursuits, the 2023 Guthrie-Koch scholars share a common thread: each awardee strives to improve the world for other people. From technological innovation to medical care delivery, these students have big dreams underscored by a vision for a better tomorrow. Join us in congratulating the following recipients of the Guthrie-Koch Scholarship in 2023:   


Catelyn grew up in Oklahoma and began playing softball at the age of three. She received tremendous support from her lifelong metabolic dietitian and family and states, “I thank my mom the most for absolutely everything she has done for me.”  

Catelyn now attends Rose State College and strives to become a musculoskeletal radiologist. She continues to play softball and values being a positive role model. Catelyn’s advocacy efforts include finding new, simple ways to explain PKU to others and championing equal access to formula and medical care. She asserts, “The [basic] necessities that PKU requires must be available to everyone who has it.” 


Throughout her youth Natalie played softball, participated in various PKU events, and was a member of the Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering (BE WiSE) program. Both Natalie and her brother were born with PKU, and she always embraced the condition as a normal part of life. Natalie found meaning and a strong sense of community in sharing her PKU experience with others.  

Natalie currently studies computer science at Whitworth University, plays intercollegiate softball, and enjoys travel and art. She credits her university for making accommodations that allow her to eat a varied low-protein diet. As Natalie works toward a computer science degree, she has an interest in improving care delivery for those with metabolic disorders, such as faster turn-around times for blood work and labs. She states, “I would like to help solve problems and enhance peoples’ living using technology as a tool.”  


Growing up in Washington, Ava played both high school and club team soccer, where she was team captain. Ava began weightlifting and recognized the importance of nutrition and health in her athletic abilities and achievements. She started her college career at San Diego State University where she currently studies nursing and serves as a member of the student nurses’ association. In addition to her academic pursuits, Ava continues to play soccer and is learning to sail and surf.  

Ava remains a strong voice for the PKU community and uses social media as a platform to raise awareness for PKU and provide virtual support to other members living with the condition.  She shares, “Because of my PKU, I’m more understanding of the human experience. I now know that I want to give back and help the next generation.” 


Catalina and her brother were both born with PKU, and she found that being forthright about her condition gave her confidence to vocalize her needs and embrace it as part of her identity. She attended a PKU camp at Emory University, and now supports a PKU camp in Argentina where she currently resides. Catalina served as a camp counselor and assistant to her metabolic dietitian in Argentina and helped calculate protein allowances and determine meal plans for campers. She valued the opportunity to connect with other counselors her age and support her younger brother who also attended as a camper. 

Catalina is in her fourth year of architectural study at Torquato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She demonstrates her commitment to becoming an architect through a 3-hour commute to attend classes. Catalina shares the importance of self-acceptance in pursuing her academic dreams stating, “I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t ashamed, and being upfront with my classmates really helped.” 


From a young age William enjoyed piano, swimming, and outdoor activities. He learned the importance of discipline in managing his PKU to excel in competitive sports, academics, and other extracurriculars. That discipline led him to the University of Washington where he currently studies computer science, plays on the water polo team, practices piano, and backpacks with friends.  

As William pursues a computer and information science degree, he takes interest in entrepreneurial work. He views food availability and palatability as challenging aspects of PKU ripe for innovation. Despite the challenges of life with a metabolic condition, he has never let it hold him back and asserts, “I’m grateful for who I am and try my best to continue improving myself and the world around me for others.” 


Haleigh recalls with gratitude the academic support she received during her elementary school years. She went on to graduate in the top ten percent of her high school class. Haleigh also played on three athletic teams – soccer, basketball, and tennis- and held school leadership positions. Inspired by the excellent medical care she and her sister received while growing up with PKU, Haleigh decided to pursue a future in medicine and obtained a Licensed Nurse Assistant (LNA) certification her senior year. She states, “My goal growing up was to never let my disorder set me back or put limits on what I’m capable of doing.” 

Now in her sophomore year at Rivier University in New Hampshire, Haleigh is working toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with intent to earn a master’s degree. In addition to her academic pursuits, she participates in an athletic work-study program and serves as a campus resident assistant. She values the opportunity to make other students feel welcome and comfortable on campus saying, “My goal is to make a difference in the lives of those living around me.”  


Growing up in Maine, Lillyann took an active role in school athletics and extracurricular activities, participating in track, soccer, and cheer. She also served on the Student Leadership Council, Executive Board, and attended the Tufts Medical Science Zoom program. Lillyann shares that having PKU transformed her perspective on life and gave her incredible optimism for the future. She states, “Having PKU has helped me understand myself and other people in a way I could not experience without it.”  

She currently attends the University of Maine where she participates on the cheerleading team and pursues a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Lillyann strives to become a nurse practitioner with an emphasis on emergency medicine or pediatrics. She credits a strong support system of family, friends, and dietitians in helping her achieve her career goals. 

Photo of Dr. Guthrie courtesy of the University Archives, State University of New York at Buffalo.

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