Student’s health problem inspires professor to run in marathon

Training for a marathon takes a lot of heart, but a professor in the School of Communication has found the inspiration for his drive and determination in one of his students.

David Steinberg, professor in Communication Studies, is currently in the American Stroke Associations (ASA) Train to End Stroke program. He will be running in San Diego’s Musical Marathon in honor of Jonathan Itzkowitz, junior, who had a stroke on March 28, 2004.

“I heard about it from Dr. [Victoria] Orrego, whose office is next to mine,” Steinberg said. “It was incredible to think of this healthy, athletic young man having a stroke.”

Although he was shocked by the news, Steinberg was not sure how to show his care and support for Itzkowitz, who’d been a student in so many of Steinberg’s classes that he often joked he was “getting a degree in Steinberg.”

“I ran into him and his mother out shopping, after the stroke,” Steinberg said. “I was awkward and didn’t tell him what I wanted to-that I missed him, wished the best for him and cared about his condition.”

Steinberg found his opportunity when he saw an advertisement in The Miami Herald for Train to End Stroke. The program provides interested runners with a team, a coach and a training schedule, giving them the chance to help raise money and increase awareness about preventing and recognizing a stroke.

“Jonny, like many stroke victims, was initially misdiagnosed and taken to an inappropriate facility. Time is critical in stroke situations, and immediate diagnosis is vital,” Steinberg said.

Risk factors for a stroke include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity and obesity. The effects of a stroke can include one-side paralysis, trouble speaking, or being dependent on others for everyday activities.

In Itzkowitz’s case, the stroke caused the left side of his body to give out and, according to his doctors, was caused by working out excessively.

“I first had to wait for function to come back in my leg, then I had to learn to walk again,” he said. “I walk with a limp and still can’t use my left arm at all.”

Itzkowitz continues to work on regaining function in his left side. In the meantime, Steinberg has been preparing himself mentally and physically for the 26-mile marathon, despite his genetic condition called hemachromatosis which causes joint pain, fatigue and headaches.

“The treatment for hemachromatosis is phlebotomy-frequent blood donation, which adds to my fatigue. So for some time, I felt sorry for myself and didn’t exercise,” he said.

But after hearing about Itzkowitz’s stroke and seeing P. Diddy run in the New York Marathon, Steinberg was inspired to put the excuses away and get active. He trains four days a week and runs five miles a day, sometimes taking on longer distances on Sundays to prepare for his race in June.

Steinberg says the support he receives is fantastic.

“No one has told me that I am crazy or won’t succeed. Many have tips or stories of their own experiences,” he said. “If you see me on the road, give me a thumbs up.”

For more information about the ASA or how to make a contribution, visit the American Stroke Association website at

Catherine Howden can be contacted at