It is with great sadness that the University of Florida Diabetes Institute (UFDI) announces the loss of one of our former lab members and close friends, Sarah Katherine Wellford.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in her teens, Sarah chose to pursue a career path that would help better understand and improve the lives of those living with this disease. After graduating from Virginia Tech in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology, her quest brought her to work as a laboratory technician at UF under the direction of Dr. Todd Brusko, UFDI Director of Research. During her time in the Brusko laboratory, she diligently worked on a number of projects, each aimed at improving our understanding of why and how T1D develops. Specifically, she was a part of the nPOD team that efforts 24/7/365 for the aforementioned cause. Sarah was also involved in research designed to improve our understanding of how the human immune system develops in early life. Finally, she was active in studies attempting to advance novel cellular based therapies for T1D involving a specific group of cells within the immune system termed “regulatory T cells”. In 2021, her mission in T1D research took her to a new location in Florida, the University of Miami. Here, in pursuit of a Ph.D., she began work in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Malek, one of the world’s foremost leaders in the field attempting to understand regulatory T cell biology and the impact of Interleukin-2 on the function of such cells.
Over the years, the UFDI has been incredibly fortunate to see a number of its students and staff that have been directly impacted by T1D (either themselves or their family members) serve within its laboratories and operations. Not only do these individuals have a personal stake in driving progress to a cure for this disease but, they also provide an immeasurable impact on fellow laboratory members by their placing a “real life” perspective of the disease through day-to-day relationships.
The loss of Sarah, a tragedy due to the complications and risks of T1D, resulted in an emotionally challenging week for many of our UFDI research family who knew her.
Indeed, it brought back memories that Sarah not only served as a valuable member of her research group but in addition, she served as a “Social Director” of the Brusko laboratory during her time at UF. This was a testament to her outgoing nature, friendly and positive personality, and passion to advance science in a collective group that emphasized having fun as a critical aspect of her time in the lab. This said, her foremost directive was a commitment to advance the field towards a cure for T1D.
Cards of sympathy can be sent directly to the Wellford family:
9128 Walnut Spring Place
Mechanicsville, VA 23116
Sarah’s formal obituary and details regarding her memorial service are contained in the link below:
The UFDI will honor Sarah’s memory by strengthening its commitment and mission to finding a cure for this disease. Beyond this, in honor of Sarah’s dedication to T1D, the UFDI will create a new travel award designed for technicians to attend scientific meetings. While initially seeded with UFDI funds, please send any donations for to the address listed below and note “Sarah Wellford Memorial Fund” in the notes section.
The UFDI has and will continue to extend our deepest condolences to her family.