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Brock and Karen Wagner

Fighting IBD with Research

When Brock and Karen Wagner’s daughter Martha was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2010, they learned how little was known about the condition and how its incidence was rapidly increasing.

“As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to make your child better, and you want the very best care,” Brock said. Karen added, “It was very difficult for Martha when she realized this was a ‘forever disease’ — something she would have to deal with for the rest of her life. It was hard for our whole family, so we had to put our fighting gloves on.”

Roughly 70,000 children nationally suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a group of autoimmune disorders that includes ulcerative colitis. These diseases are very serious and complex, sometimes causing patients’ immune systems to attack and destroy their intestines.

When the Wagners started looking for specialty care for Martha, they realized they were lucky to live so close to one of the best pediatric IBD centers in the United States. They immediately connected with Dr. George Ferry, then head of the Gastroenterology department.

“Dr. Ferry saw the need years ago for an IBD clinic,” Brock said. “His foresight into caring for children like Martha was just what we were looking for.”

During their search, the Wagners also learned how little research is devoted to understanding these conditions, and they decided to do what they could to change that scenario.

In 2013, they made a 10-year, $250,000 commitment to fund research in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“We believe in what the doctors here are doing, and when you see that, you want to help,” Brock said. “We were inspired to fund research and support the IBD Center. Their research is already leading to new treatment methods, some of which Martha has tried with good results.”

When he isn’t fighting IBD, Brock works as CEO of Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewing Co., the oldest microbrewery in Texas. He uses the brewery for IBD fundraising and awareness events, such as the popular Feast of Saint Arnold, which benefits the IBD Center at Texas Children’s Hospital.

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“We believe in what the doctors here are doing, and when you see that, you want to help.”

– Brock Wagner