Pope Francis walked the walk last weekend, when he followed through on his promise to make the Vatican more gay-friendly – or at least less gay-nasty – by honoring a sixteen-year-old gay American.
Jack Ankara is an all “A” student at a public high school in Crownsville, Maryland, where half the student body drops out before graduation. Last Saturday, he was presented with the Vatican’s International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, named for an Italian student of architecture, who died at the age twenty-six. Jack won the award for inventing a test that detects pancreatic cancer, after a friend of his family’s died from the disease.
After Jack developed a concept, using carbon nanotubes to identify proteins, he solicited over 200 university professors and medical researchers to help research and test his idea. He finally found Dr. Anirban Maitra at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who offered to help. There was just one catch, Jack had to be listed as a “volunteer” on the project, so as not to violate child labor laws.
Jack’s invention earned him over $175,000 in prizes and awards, including first place at the International Science and Engineering Fair, but he says the Vatican’s award was special to him, telling WBAL:
“It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist. I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing. It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT.”
Jack is now developing his invention to detect diseases besides pancreatic cancer, telling the Standard Newspaper:
‘You can switch the antibody to detect all kinds of diseases HIV and AIDS, Alzheimer’s, heart disease.”
However, that project may have to wait. Jack has joined a team of teens entering the ten-million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE, a competition to create a cell phone sized device that people can use to make reliable health diagnoses, with no doctor or medical specialists required. The Qualcomm prize will be awarded in 2015.
This rarely happens, but I find when it comes to young, gay, Jack Andraka, (below, holding his award,) I am in complete agreement with the Vatican. He is indeed, a wonderful role model.
Photo from Jack Ankara’s Facebook Page
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