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Trisha has a clear vision for her future

Sep 19 2018

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Dayton, OH — In the fall, Trisha Kulkarni will join the Stanford University freshman class and will no longer have to get on a plane to see Dr. Mahajan for eye exams, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be flying high. With Trisha, the sky is the limit. 

As a Centerville High School student in Ohio, Trisha did not let her blinding eye disease get in her way. She excelled academically, earning a 4.86 GPA, won numerous scholarships and awards, and even donned a black belt in taekwondo. These are just a few of her accomplishments. 

Trisha is breaking down stereotypes about people with disabilities. She wants people to know that just like everyone else, “when expectations are high, and parents and teachers believe, kids with disabilities can excel to the same levels as their peers, or even exceed them.”          

Dr. Mahajan first met Trisha at age 12 when she came to his clinic at the University of Iowa. She suffered from an inflammatory retinal degenerative disease. As a child, her disease left her with one prosthetic eye, and, in her early teens, a retinal detachment in her other eye took her remaining vision. Dr. Mahajan witnessed Trisha’s extraordinary courage as she adjusted to the challenges of being blind. 

“She and her family never lost sight of what was really important: Trisha’s intelligence, creativity, spirit, and will,” Mahajan said. “There was never any doubt that Trisha could achieve all of her goals despite her disability.” 

Trisha’s family traveled frequently from Ohio to Iowa, so Dr. Mahajan could treat her condition. And when he moved to Stanford University in 2017, they moved with him. 

Mahajan explained, “Trisha is an inspiration to so many people, including me. As my research team searches for eye disease cures and faces frustrations after long-hours in lab, thoughts of Trisha keep us all motivated. It’s such a privilege to know her and her family.”

The Kulkarni’s big picture view of the world has helped open up opportunities for Trisha, but it could also have a much broader impact on the blind community. Trisha’s family established the Kulkarni Family Golf Outing for Retinal Research in her honor, which over the past three years has raised over $100,000 and considerable community awareness about the condition. 

“This kind of fund raising is so important to curing blindness. It allows researchers to think outside the box, collaborate with other physicians, and make cutting edge breakthroughs,” said Dr. Mahajan. All donations further the Mahajan Lab's innovative research and are greatly appreciated.

Trisha was recently featured in the myDayton Daily News