MastAttack U: Introduction to Mast Cell Biology in Health and Disease

Hey, MastAttackers,

My long term goal for MastAttack has always been to teach mast cell patients everything they needed to know about mast cell disease to advocate for themselves effectively and to help others. This week, I was able to share that goal with my fellow MastAttackers. I am really humbled by the outpouring of support from my readers and the mast cell community. I cannot believe that I get to do this and I’m so glad I will be doing it with you guys. You keep me focused and help me fight on the hard days.

I have gotten a lot of questions regarding the logistics of MastAttack U so I figured I would answer them here.

This spring, I will be teaching an eight week course called Introduction to Mast Cell Biology in Health and Disease (MAU101). I do not yet have firm dates for the course but I expect it run for April and May. The purpose of this course is to teach material that allows a person with basic understanding of mast cell disease to build upon the knowledge. I will teach intermediate concepts specific to mast cell biology while also teaching the general biology necessary to understand it. For example, when I talk about the CKIT D816V mutation, I will first give a short explanation of what mutation means, how mutations happen, and why exactly mutations can affect the way cells function. Students will build an understanding of general biology in addition to specific mast cell concepts.

Every week, I will post a video in which I teach material by lecturing. The video will be posted on the blog and will be publicly available. I expect them to be 20-25 minutes long. Videos will be captioned and transcripts will be available when the video is posted. Once the video is posted, it will stay up indefinitely. You do not have to watch the video on the same day it is posted. You will be able to watch it at any time that is convenient for you.

I received a question about whether or not it is okay to translate my course materials and lectures into other languages for non-English speaking mast cell communities. This is fine as long as they are used for educational purposes and people are not charged for the materials.

The class format will basically be that I post a video on a specified day of the week every week for eight weeks in a row. Let’s say I post a new video every Tuesday. (Just picking a random day for this conversation.) The following Monday, we will discuss the contents of the video in a group discussion in the MastAttack Facebook group. People will be able to ask questions about the content at that time. I will have a list of prepared questions about that topic for us to discuss at that time as well.

Each of the eight lectures for this first course stands alone. This means that you do not have to watch all eight in order (or at all) and participate in all eight discussions. If you want to watch the first and second video, then aren’t interested in watching any more until the sixth video, that’s fine. You do not need to have seen the preceding lectures to benefit. All group discussions will be locked at the end of the discussion period but will still be available for anyone wanting to read it. This course is designed to be inherently flexible because we as a patient group need flexibility. The purpose here is to learn in a safe environment, not to add more stress and responsibility to our plates.

This course is open to every single person who is interested, whether they have a connection to mast cell disease or not. You do not have to have a science background. I will try my very best to make the science accessible to laypeople. I would like to know the names of everyone taking the course for my own edification but if you’d rather not tell me, that’s okay, too. You do not need special permission to access the videos or additional course materials, all of which will be on the website. If 800 people want to watch the videos every week and come to the discussion, everyone is welcome. With a lot of people, I expect there will be some hiccups as we figure out the best way for us to all communicate, but I’m sure we can sort it out. I will be relying on the help of a few admins and the good nature of students to keep things manageable.

I have the good fortune to know a lot of people who know a great deal about mast cells. For people with high level understanding, I will be running a Master class, probably in the fall. This course will be very different from MAU101 and enrollment will likely be restricted. This is because in order to ensure that students are learning difficult concepts, there must be assignments and I must review them carefully. I have a general idea of what I want the course to look like but will wait to share until I have more concrete plans.

I mentioned that my initial dream was to teach five people everything I know about mast cell disease. This is still my dream and my intention. I have not chosen anyone yet to mentor and will not for a few months, at least. If you are interested in being mentored by me, you are welcome to contact me and let me know. If you are not in the first group of mentees, please do not give up. The point of this transfer of knowledge is that the people I mentor will be responsible for mentoring another group of people. There will be plenty of opportunities for people to learn from me in this way. Again, once I have more concrete plans, I will let everyone know. In the meantime, if you think you might like to be mentored by me, take the MAU101 course and see how you like it.

A number of people have reached out to ask if they can compensate me for the course. I have decided that if people are able to and want to, that I will accept money from people to help offset some of my health care costs. I need to set up a mechanism for this and will tell people when I know exactly how to do that.

I do not have plans currently to incorporate MastAttack as a nonprofit for a few reasons (although I do plan to establish it as a legal entity). It is important for people to realize that any money contributed is not a donation and therefore not tax deductible. It would instead essentially be paying me for a service.

Please keep in mind that no one is obligated in any way to pay for this course. Many of us have astronomical expenses or would prefer not to pay for other reasons. This is perfectly fine. It will not affect your standing with me. Seriously.

I am so wicked excited that this dream has finally evolved into something tangible. It has been in the works for a long time and there were times when I was sure I would never get it done. I appreciate the kind words and support I have received since announcing the plans for MastAttack U. I don’t know how I got so lucky that I get to do this. I cannot wait to build a legion of mast cell patients who know their disease inside and out.

I’m leaving in the morning for my annual Girls’ weekend with my sister, cousins and friends, so I will be out of touch for a few days. Hope everyone has a swell and reaction free weekend!

Xoxo,
Lisa