Before coming to the University of Notre Dame as a master of science in global health student, Brian Kaltenecker MS ’13 knew he wanted to participate in Notre Dame’s long standing tradition of the Bengal Bouts.
Hailing originally from Columbus, Ohio, the middle child of eight wanted to explore the California coast and spend time with his older brother in the movie industry in Los Angeles, so he chose Chapman University in Orange, California, for his undergraduate degree in biological sciences. A childhood friend and high school classmate, Andy Nester ’10 came to Notre Dame for his undergraduate degree and participated in Bengal Bouts. For years, Kaltenecker vicariously lived through Andy’s experience of the fight. More important than the fight, Brian was drawn to Notre Dame through Andy’s experience living and supporting the mission of Bengal Bouts. “My mother is a teacher,” says Brian, “and with so many siblings I was strongly influenced at an early age that I am my brother’s keeper. Literally.”
Fighting for the global good started at Notre Dame long ago. The purpose of raising funds for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh gave Bengal Bouts its identity in 1931, after boxing was founded on campus by football coach Knute Rockne in 1920. Coach Dominic “Nappy” Napolitano ’32, ’33 solidified this identity of service combined with sportsmanship and safety as director and coach of Bengal Bouts for over 50 years. His words, “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished,” became the motto of the Bouts.
In 1955, Sports Illustrated columnist Bud Schulberg remarked that the Bengal Bouts, under the direction of Nappy, “established the ideal atmosphere of sportsmanship, safety and lack of any commercial taint…” This has been the essence of the event on campus and what has drawn students like Brian to participate and raise funds for the Holy Cross missions for the past 82 years. The tradition of sportsmanship, safety and competitive spirit in an amateur sport still lives on in today’s Bengal Bouts.
“I had never boxed before I signed-up to participate,” says Brian. “It wasn’t about the fight, I don’t really like getting hit. I played defense for my college football team so I like dishing out the hits a lot more. But learning about the wonderful work being done by the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh and doing the fundraising to support the effort was why I participated. There is camaraderie amongst the fighters. We all respect each other and help each other learn about the sport and raise funds for the program.” Brian hopes to some day visit the operation on location. Each year, a few of the fighters go to experience the Holy Cross Priests’, Brothers’ and Sisters’ battle against poverty by providing education and health care to the people of Bangladesh. “It is a wonderful opportunity and those who go have incredible stories about the work being done there.”
Though the Eck Institute for Global Health was established in 2010, international research and service in support of addressing diseases in developing countries was established at Notre Dame long ago and has been interwoven throughout the campus. This is what drew Brian to Notre Dame and is what is launching him forward. “At Chapman there was a strong emphasis on being a global citizen and I feel that parallel continue at Notre Dame,” notes Brian. “But in this master of science in global health program, we are developing tools to take the mission of better health for entire communities and implement it.”
During his year in the master of science, Brian prepared for his summer field experience under the direction of M. Sharon Stack, PhD, professor in the Notre Dame Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute. In the field, Brian worked with Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) in Honduras doing implementation analysis for their HPV vaccine program. Stack noted, “Brian’s research on the effectiveness of completing the three-dose HPV vaccine by young girls in the school or health clinic setting in Honduras provides a strong foundation for understanding how best to provide this essential cancer preventative in a developing country. The data he collected can be used to help justify vaccination in additional areas of the country, and to lobby the vaccine manufacturer for appropriate country-specific pricing.”
For two years before coming to Notre Dame, Brian worked in cancer research at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California. Next, he will pursue medical school at Marian University in Indianapolis in the fall. His ultimate goal is to take the experience and skill sets learned into the field of oncology, using his research in HPV and on the ground knowledge working in the developing world, to fulfill the EIGH mission to advance health standards for all people, especially people in low- and middle-income countries who are disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases.
“My field experience was unbelievable,” says Brian of his summer experience. “I was so humbled to meet so many amazing people and to take part in such an amazing program. Through my experiences I learned so much more about humility, spirituality and service. My research project went really well and I collected and analyzed some very interesting data that I hope will help in bringing HPV vaccines to Honduras.”
“From my experience I hope to continue to work with a number of organizations I met while I was down there,” continues Brian. “I have already begun to plan a medical trip to Honduras with fellow classmates and professors. I hope to build my medical practice around serving abroad. One day I hope to have a clinic in Honduras so that impoverished Hondurans have access to high quality medicine and medical technologies at reasonable prices.”
Brian states, “Special thanks to the Eck Institute for Global Health for sponsoring my participation in the Bengal Bouts. They practice what they preach!” For more info you can look follow Brian on his blog.
Funds raised by the Bengal Bouts have built primary and technical schools as well as health care clinics in Bangladesh. They pay for the education of impoverished high school and college students providing young men and women with the skills to support their families now and into the future. Everyday Bengal Bouts is changing the lives of the boxers in the program and their Bengali friends on the other side of the world. The Eck Institute for Global Health is a proud supporter of that mission.