Julie Flygare Presents about Narcolepsy at Harvard Medical School


Last night, I practically skipped up the white marble stairs to Harvard Medical School. My neurologist met me inside one of the fancy marble buildings.  We said hello quickly and ducked into the classroom.

I recognized this classroom. I’d presented here four years ago with my neurologist.  At the time, I was less than a year into my diagnosis and a 2L at Boston College Law School.  I remember shaking with nerves outside the classroom, fearing what the medical students would think of my crazy narcolepsy.

Back then, I barely spoke about narcolepsy. I hid it away – my dirty secret. Speaking to a classroom of Harvard students, neurology residents and doctors was terrifying.

Yet, much has changed in four years. I speak openly and confidently about narcolepsy at every chance I get – at conferences, fundraisers, on first dates, on airplanes, at the nail salon.

Returning to this classroom yesterday reminded me of how far I’d come. The students asked a lot of great questions. We laughed together at some of my funny stories (without cataplexy, thankfully!). It was a joy to share my experience.

After my “patient perspective,” there were presentations about the scientific understanding of narcolepsy to date.  We’ve come a long way scientifically in four years too (with advancement in possible genetic and environmental co-factors causing narcolepsy)!

The medical folks constantly refer to narcolepsy as a “disease.” Intellectually, I know this to be true, but  in my heart – narcolepsy had also been “a second chance at life.”  For this, I’m forever grateful.

I was so honored to have this opportunity to share my experience at Harvard Medical School. A video interview of me is also featured in the first year Harvard Medical School curriculum as part of an innovative 5 hour neurobiology of sleep section.

I never expected this life path, but thank you for following me. Who knows where the next four years will lead!


  1. Anonymous on April 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Yeah, Julie, great job. Glad it went well. Having been on the medical student side of things in the past, the conditions you remember the most are those presented by those who actually have the condition. I hope that everyone in the audience last night will long remember your presentation and use the information to diagnose someone with narcolepsy in the future.
    Mark Patterson

  2. Gail on April 20, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Wow! Thank you for sharing the road you have traveled and the difference in approach to discussing the disease now versus four years ago. Accepting and understanding is liberating. So proud to call you my friend.

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