USF professor bikes coast to coast to raise polio vaccine awareness
Nick Hall, a 67-year-old professor with the USF College of Nursing, is used to exercise, but this summer he was sweating a little more than usual.
Marking the 50th anniversary of his first cross-country biking expedition from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Hall recently returned from the town of Oceanside near San Diego to St. Augustine. His trip lasted from July 14 to Aug. 15.
Though he had done the trip before, this time he said he wanted to achieve two things: raise money to end polio, and show people that age is not a limitation to new goals and adventures.
Even though his journey involved sleeping in tents and abandoned buildings and spending large amounts of time alone, Hall said he was not afraid to set out. As a member of Rotary International, he said everything came together at the right time so he could travel.
“I was talking to the district governor Rotarian, and he asked if I would do this to promote the End Polio (Now) Campaign,” Hall said.
Polio is still a real threat, he said, despite the tendency for many to shelve the disease as a danger from another era.
“A single case anywhere means it is only one plane ticket away,” he said. “It’s a nasty disease in the same category as smallpox.”
The polio vaccine, originally created by Jonas Salk in the 1950s, is still cheap, costing only 60 cents per vaccine. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also agreed to match every dollar donated to the End Polio Now Campaign 2 to 1, meaning that each $1 donation would be able to fund five vaccinations, Hall said.
While Hall was on his journey, Nigeria was declared free of polio. The disease is still a very real danger in other countries, such as Afghanistan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, polio has no cure, only prevention through vaccination.
Although Hall strongly believes in the importance of the polio vaccine, he also said a strong immune system is an invaluable defense against disease. Hall said exercise and good nutrition are key to a strong, healthy immune system.
Hall teaches anatomy, physiology and nutrition courses at USF, and he has done research to link the brain and the immune system.
“People just sitting around watching me online are probably at a greater risk than I am (while biking),” he said.
Even though Hall said he greatly enjoyed the trip, it was not without its challenges. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, Hall said he came in on a huge dust storm that caused him to stop biking earlier than planned.
Later on, Hall had what he said was his worst moment when he ran over a bolt in the road, which caused him to fly over the bike and injure himself on Interstate 10. He waited for parts to ship in overnight and continued the journey the next day.
He also said he kept comparing the journey to the one he took in 1965, 50 years ago.
He said he remembered people asking him, when he was 17, how his mother would let him do this. Now that he is 67, people ask him how his wife lets him do this.
“People imprison themselves, because of the feeling that they need somebody else’s approval,” Hall said.
Hall said he encourages people to free themselves from their own expectations, especially if they believe their age is a barrier to better life experiences.
“Age is not a limitation to the things you can do,” Hall said.