March 31, 2022 Boston, MA – Today, the final day of Autoimmune Awareness Month, Patient Authentic is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Chronic Boss Scholarship program.
The Chronic Boss Scholarship (offered through bold.org) seeks to reward women living with autoimmune diseases who have persevered and succeeded. Women who have an entrepreneurial spirit, whether that is in launching an initiative, a campaign, a startup, a blog, a club, a fundraiser, or other endeavor. Scholarships are awarded in the amount of $1,000 to ten outstanding Chronic Bosses.
In its inaugural year, the Chronic Boss Scholarship received 470 applications from remarkable women across the United States.
“I was blown away by the number of outstanding applications we received. It certainly made for an incredibly challenging decision,” said Lilly Stairs, Founder & Principal of Patient Authentic. “The ten winners selected are a group of extraordinary, entrepreneurial women who have transformed their struggle into their strength and built something special from the ground up despite living with an autoimmune disease.”
The winners represent the top 2% of applicants and embody the spirit of the scholarship.
West Linn, OR
Living with Autoimmune Encephalitis
High School Student
About a year after her diagnosis, when Abigail was just shy of turning fifteen, she founded a nonprofit organization called Abby's Hope Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and empowering individuals and families who are affected by chronic illnesses.
“The work that I do through my nonprofit has made such a positive difference in my life and in the lives of the people that I get to support. Had I not suffered through a period of great sickness, Abby's Hope Project wouldn’t have been started.” - Abigail Jenkins Abigail’s dream is to pursue a career in zoology/animal studies with a focus on marine vertebrates.
Living with Crohn’s Disease
Aliza had her first colonoscopy at 16 at which point she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. At 23 she learned she would require annual scopes to monitor increased risk of colon cancer. Aliza became an expert at colonoscopy prep and began “jumping at any opportunity to help others tackle the universally dreaded experience with ease”, and out of this Poopared was born.
“Now, as an MBA/MPH candidate at UC Berkeley, I continue to spread the gospel through an entrepreneurial colonoscopy prep product, Poopared. I’m curating a kit with all the medications, nourishment, and comfort items a patient needs for the best prep experience, accompanied by a digital companion to guide them through the process with clarity, mindfulness, and support.” -
In addition to founding Poopared, Aliza has flexed her leadership and advocacy skills on campus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she lobbied for her class of 330 students to ensure there would be no lapse in health insurance care for those that rely on consistent access. She also founded HaasAbilities, a community of 170+ MBA students with disabilities and allies
where she has helped to ensure that DE&I efforts on campus include those living with disabilities.
San Ramon, CA
Living with Ulcerative Colitis
High School Student
The adversity Dia faced in getting to a diagnosis and learning how to live with Ulcerative Colitis has shaped the leader she is today.
“For me every moment counts and I feel a sense of purpose through helping others, these beliefs only grew firmer during my flare-up and it urged me to act. I saw the learning gap widening and students falling behind in school due to the exacerbation of educational inequity that came with the pandemic. Well-known tutoring organizations were profiting from this situation by increasing their virtual class sizes and making the cost of one on one tutoring quite expensive. Consequently, I established One Step At A Time (OSAT), a free 1-on-1 virtual tutoring organization that has impacted over 500 students.”
In addition to building the OSAT from the ground up, Dia is the Founder & President of DV Girl Up, Vice President of the Girl Up Northern California Coalition, Entrepreneurship Director for Shooting Stars, the Vice President of DV Sankara Eye Foundation, and a Youth Activation Committee member for the Special Olympics of Northern California.
Living with multiple autoimmune diseases
High School Student
Three months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Gabriella was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases and started homebound tutoring due to her compromised immune system. When the pandemic began and widespread lockdown ensued, her friends did not fare well with the social isolation and she mobilized to help.
“I wanted to help my suffering classmates. Remembering my grandfather’s lessons, I did not want my illness to limit me; I used it to propel me forward. I presented a club idea to my school named “Kindness Through Crisis.” Students could virtually share their struggles and support each other. I started losing hope in the club’s formation due to strict school policies [but] I persisted, and the school finally approved my club.”
In addition to forming Kindness Through Crisis, Gabriella helped 236 people schedule vaccination appointments who were unable to do so on their own.
Living with Grave’s Disease
High School Student
After a harrowing trip to the ER, Kayleigh was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease. Subsequently she experienced accessibility difficulties within the public school system which, for her, brought to the forefront the “importance of accessibility in all places.” Kayleigh has pushed through the adversity of living with an autoimmune disease and is not only a 3x published teen author but helping others navigate the publishing world too.
“I found myself expanding my horizons and building an online platform dedicated to teaching others about writing in the general sense in addition to the importance of representation in fiction, and I hope to one day turn this platform into a business. Ideally, I would help other young writers find their way in the publishing world, especially young writers who find themselves underrepresented in traditional publishing...Disabled voices deserve a space, and they deserve
to be listened to.”
Kayleigh now has a following of over 18,000 on her Instagram and hopes to someday start a business that supports authors from every walk of life.
Port St. Lucie, FL
Living with Lupus + Hidradenitis Suppurativa
High School Student
Jolie’s autoimmune diseases tested “countless emotional and physical limitations” but despite living with these conditions she started JWL Cosmetics where she makes and sells reasonably priced natural and vegan cosmetics.
“Pacing. Each night, I was given a limited amount of hours during which I was comfortable sleeping. I spent the majority of my nights circling through the dark hallways of my kitchen and living room with my arms around my head to relieve the pain. Although the 4-6 hours of pacing led to uneasy mornings, those few hours offered me time to think. Brain-stimulated and heart racing, I was able to allow myself relief from the millions of ideas that ran through my mind each day. Better ways to market my small business. How to drive traffic to my website. I was able to turn nights of misery into productive days.” As she looks towards the future, Jolie hopes to start and own a vintage store that caters to shoe sizes of 10+ for women.
Living with uveitis and autoimmune arthritis
Even though Nia grew up with JIA, uveitis and other chronic conditions, she stated that “giving up is just not in my family’s DNA”. She was raised by her blind mother and taught to persevere. Throughout high school she consistently gave back to make a difference.
“During high school, I helped to close the racial education gap by spending over 100 hours tutoring and mentoring students from Baltimore City Public Schools. I have spent over 100 hours volunteering to help people who are blind and visually impaired. I designed and organized 50 profitable events to earn money to travel abroad with Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. During COVID-19, I created The Purpose Brand clothing line to fulfill my purpose and to help others find theirs.”
Nia has ambitions to own a construction firm and become a public defender.
Living with autoimmune arthritis
Nicole is committed to equity in the workplace for people with disabilities and is pursuing a PhD in this area.
“Having an autoimmune disease means I have to put my capability in context and know how to explain that to people. I knew I wanted to find a place that would help me become an authority so I could create change in this area.”
In addition to her passion for equity for the disabled community, Nicole has developed The Needs Languages which is a system to identify and categorize personality types designed to help people feel connected and find a sense of belonging. She has published two books on the topic.
Fort Worth, TX
Living with Psoriasis
High School Student
Olivia states that Psoriasis has transformed her world into “an outlet of newfound gratitude”. “Psoriasis has transformed me into a mentally stronger person, and I have become more aware of the people around me. I have learned that everyone has a beautiful story to tell about themselves and their experiences, yet we don't allow them the chance to express themselves
due to our own pride and judgment. Everyone has internal and external battles that we cannot see in their entirety. The ability to show empathy to others in today's society is so important, especially as mental health is becoming stigmatized more than ever. For this very reason, I started the Mental Health Awareness Club at my school.” Olivia hopes to pursue a career in dermatology so that she can empower patients to live with dignity and strength.