Community Health Leaders
Last updated: August 2023
In order to stay up to date on latest treatments, drug discovery, clinical studies and how to manage inflammatory bowel disease every day, InflammatoryBowelDisease.net brings you frequent articles, points of view and advice from health leaders and experts.
Current health leaders
Elizabeth Alvarez, 29, was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2011. She was 21 years old and endured many years of suffering with severe abdominal cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, anemia, weight loss, fever, eye infection, joint pain, mouth sores, hair loss, anxiety attacks, the works. Read more.
Tina Aswani-Omprakash is a Crohn's patient and award-winning patient leader and health advocate based out of New York City. She has had Crohn’s disease for 16 years, has had numerous surgeries, and lives with a permanent ileostomy.
Christal Davis is a 26-year-old graduate student living in Missouri. She first experienced the tell-tale symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease in 2016 while completing her undergraduate degree. Read more.
Molly Dunham-Friel, MPH
Molly Dunham-Friel, MPH, is an IBD & IBS Patient Advocate, Advisor, Blogger, and Content Creator living with ulcerative colitis and IBS. Molly Founded Better Bellies by Molly, LLC, a business dedicated to improving quality of life for patients living with IBD and IBS. Read more.
Jenna Farmer was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2012, after suffering from symptoms for 12 years. She is passionate about raising awareness of the disease and the realities of life with it. Read more.
Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2007, at the age of 19, after just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum and had her first ileostomy.Her journey with IBD has been a turbulent one; a multitude of treatments, complications, 7 surgeries and an insistent need to learn, ultimately led to her being a pro-active IBD advocate. Read more.
Melissa is a nationally recognized nutrition educator and speaker, Registered Dietitian and wellness expert. Advocating for balanced nutrition at all ages and a healthy lifestyle, Melissa aims to “practice what she preaches” in her everyday life. Read more.
Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden is a former TV news anchor with Crohn’s living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Read more.
Holland is a writer, marketing consultant, and patient advocate. She has been living with Crohn's disease since her early teens where she was misdiagnosed with severe IBS. Through her blog, Pretty Rotten Guts, Twitter account @jaimeeditor and new YouTube channel, CROHNicleS, Jaime uses social media as a way to share her Crohn’s journey and advocacy work with fellow IBD patient advocates. She also volunteers to help influence patient-focused policy, whenever possible. Read more.
I was born and raised, and still, live on the west coast of Canada. I have been living with Crohn's disease for over 33 years after 20 years of rarely even catching a cold. I was into soccer and was a competitive figure skater growing up prior to my diagnosis. Read more.
Mariah Zebrowski Leach
Mariah is a writer and patient advocate who lives in Colorado with her husband and two young sons. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the middle of law school, Mariah now uses her law degree to help people with chronic health issues. Read more.
Traci Musick-Shaffer is a writer, high school English teacher, ACEs Advocate, and UC warrior. She lives in the foothills of Appalachia and loves to write essays on topics she contemplates from her front porch, from hiking around the farm with her border collie, Holly, or when shooting pool in the barn with her husband, David. Read more.
Amanda Osowski is a wife and mother living and working in Chicago, IL. After earning a Masters Degree in Public Health, Amanda worked in clinical trial recruitment, specializing in breaking down barriers between patients and enrollment into clinical research. During her journey through infertility and after becoming a new mom, Amanda founded Heartfelt Beginnings, infertility, and postpartum doula agency. Read more.
Julie Marie Palumbo
After spending 10 years in the Financial Industry and suffering from a chronic illness, Julie decided to pursue a career in what she had been passionate about for years–creating a better, healthier, and happier life. Two years after reaching remission with her Crohn’s Disease, Julie is sharing her knowledge and experiences to change the life of others. Read more.
Paul is an elementary school teacher that battles through the everyday struggles of Crohn's. His remarkable story of fighting to stay alive in the early stages of the disease is unique. Because of his long stay in the hospital, he has developed endless friendships with nurses and doctors citywide. Read more.
I was an invisible man. Armed with my wide-toothed grin, I often put up a joyous facade for family and friends while pain and fatigue filled my interior. Embarrassed with ulcerative colitis, I masked a life that was anything but cheerful. Forcing myself to live as a normal college student sapped my energy. Read more.
Laura began her battle with inflammatory bowel disease at age 25. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis after only a few weeks from a sudden onset of severe symptoms. Read more.
After being diagnosed with Crohn's disease, Lenette was desperate for someone to talk to in the IBD community. Her goal has been to build community and bring a positive light to the IBD community.
Eshani Surya was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease in 2015 at the age of 21 when she was still in college. After her diagnosis at a formative age, she came to see her illness as a piece of what helped her become who she is today: a thoughtful, strong, and more empathetic person. Read more.
Marisa Lauren Troy
Marisa was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 13 and had absolutely no idea how much her world was about to be turned upside down. After undergoing many major abdominal surgeries including a total colectomy, Jpouch, Kock pouch (K-pouch,) and missing many semesters of high school and college, Marisa now lives with a permanent ileostomy. Read more.
Former health leaders
Shawn is a writer and patient advocate. Diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 17 years old, Shawn now shares, what she calls, “stories of strength” on her website, More Spoons. Shawntel struggled for many years after her diagnosis attempting countless prescriptions, diets and treatment plans. Read more.
In 2008, Brooke was diagnosed with Left-sided Ulcerative Colitis. Though it was a mild case at diagnosis, the disease rapidly advanced over a period of 4 years. In April 2012, Brooke was given a total colectomy after spending weeks in the hospital fighting a losing battle with her diseased colon. Read more.
Britten Creasor, 27, has been a Crohn’s warrior since 2012 when she was diagnosed with a severe form of Crohn’s Disease, which presented itself as a perianal abscess. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s, she underwent close to 30 surgeries between 2012-2015 to drain the stubborn abscess that wouldn’t heal. Read more.
Amber Elder (Colitis Ninja)
Amber became a ninja in 2011 when she began her battle with ulcerative colitis. In 2013, her colon declared an all out war against her. She began documenting the adventures of the Colitis Ninja and her battle with Toxic Megacolon and his ilk in March of 2014. After a year-long flare in April of 2014, Amber destroyed her evil, rebellious colon and has been sporting a happy, healthy j-pouch since July of 2014. Read more.
Luke is a songwriter, musician and comedian from Sydney, Australia who has been living with Crohn’s Disease for 25 years. After having his dreams of rock stardom thwarted by IBD on one too many occasions Luke decided to turn the tables on his illness and start mining it for inspiration. Read more.
Julia Gaspare-Pruchnicki is a 24-year-old medical student in Cleveland, OH. She has had much experience as an ulcerative colitis patient for the past 15 years, prior to medical school. Read more.
Colin Harris is a 30-something writer from Ohio, currently living in the Nashville, Tennessee area with his wife Kara, and their cat Sadie. He was given the worst birthday present ever in 2008 when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and forced to lay off the birthday cake at his party that evening. Read more.
Stephanie is a writer and a mom and the voice behind The Stolen Colon. She started blogging about her experience with inflammatory bowel disease in 2012 when she was faced with having her colon removed and getting an ileostomy. Read more.
Kelly was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 3 days after her 17th birthday. She’s passionate about helping others with IBD and started blogging 5 years ago as a way to give back to this community. Read more.
Jennifer Landau is a writer, editor, former teacher, and fierce advocate for her son, who was diagnosed with severe, sudden onset Crohn’s disease in 2014. Read more.
Growing up, Courtney was like most other young adults: healthy, happy and carefree. Things began to change during her early college years when she started dealing with questionable abdominal symptoms. In January 2012, she was finally given an answer and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. Read more.
Natali was diagnosed with severe Crohn’s disease in September 2008, right after her 18th birthday. With the incredible support of her family, she started fighting a battle she had no idea how to win. Read more.
Maria is a poet, essayist, and short story writer from Wilmington, Delaware who has Crohn's. Her poetry has been published in The News Journal, Currents, The Red River Review, Damozel Literary Journal, The Survivor’s Review, Wanderings, The Fox Chase Review, Van Gogh’s Ear, and by the University of Colorado. Her short story "Impresario" appeared in the anthology Someone Wicked, published in 2013 by Smart Rhino Publications. Read more.
Krystal a Crohnie, a mama of 2 babies and a mighty advocate for raising awareness and removing stigma of bowel diseases and rocking an ostomy! She likes to think of herself as somewhat stylish and has been known to take some risque selfies! Read more.
As an actor, Matt has appeared on a wide range of TV and film programs, most recently in a Co-Star role in a scene with Al Pacino, in a new Amazon series, "Hunters," produced by Jordan Peele. As a filmmaker, Matt's short, "Inside Job," won awards on the festival circuit. Read more.
Nelianjan "Neil" Nandi
Multiple life encounters gave shape to Dr. Nandi’s interests where he has dedicated his career to the management, research and education of those afflicted with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Read more.
Dr. Megan Riehl
Dr. Megan Riehl, a prominent GI psychologist at University of Michigan who has lectured extensively around the country in the area of psychogastroenterology and is considered a leader in her field. Her clinical expertise spans the field of gastroenterology from patients with motility disorders like IBS, to those with chronic gastrointestinal diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Celiac Disease. Read more.
Sara is a Crohn's disease patient who describes herself as Young and Rectumless, because how many other people can say that? Actually quite a lot, which is why she founded Inflamed & Untamed in 2011. She also just thinks it's hilarious! After the launch of her website she quickly became recognized as a key opinion leader in the IBD community. Read more
Casey is a 22-year-old with ulcerative colitis. On top of being, what she calls a professional patient, she is a wife, dog mom, nursing student, dental assistant and racecar driver. Her love for medicine stemmed heavily from her battle with UC. Read more.
In late 2015, during my freshman year at LSU, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 18. My diagnosis changed my life significantly. Instead of partying at college ragers, I raged at being sick under the covers of my bed. My life became a nightmarish roller coaster of pills, pain, and pressure. Read more.
Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare and patient community building. Read more.
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