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Below is the current list of National Youth Leadership Council (NCCL) members. To learn more about each of the members, just click on their name to see their brief biography as well as a Q&A about their experiences with the NYLC.
Hello! My name is Amy Dickeson and I am currently a senior at UC Berkeley studying Metabolic Biology in hopes of pursuing a career in medicine. I am ecstatic to have been on the council for two years now; it is incredibly fulfilling to be able to make an impact on students that have been affected by IBD, like me.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s the summer before my sophomore year of high school, though it took years of pain and suffering before I finally got answers. In 8th grade, I was misdiagnosed with an eating disorder after my weight and appetite began to severely drop, and I was failing to thrive. After a crippling year and a half of living with the pain and symptoms of an untreated disease, we turned to GI for answers, and I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Fortunately, my fantastic team of GI specialists were able to control my disease with oral medications, and I am proud to say I have been in remission ever since! Training my body to function again was a long and arduous process, but my whole experience taught me so much about myself and my goals in life, and I wouldn’t trade these lessons for anything. I feel fortunate to have gained so much from my journey with Crohn’s, and I hope to help others to do the same!
It took me years to be able to talk about my disease, and I had never met anyone going through what I was dealing with. When I came to Berkeley, however, I kept stumbling upon other IBD patients and I began to build up a small support system. It was so meaningful and fulfilling to meet others just like me; knowing that I wasn’t in this alone was unbelievably powerful. I felt a sense of urgency to talk about it and be an advocate for my disease. I found the NCCL and immediately knew it was something I wanted and needed to do for myself. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to be working for such a fantastic organization and to have the ability to help college aged patients with IBD. I’m looking forward to seeing where this opportunity takes me and I’m excited for a fantastic year full of new opportunities and programs!
My name is Brian Ward. I am currently 21 and a junior at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington and am studying Biology and Philosophy on the pre-medicine track.
Growing up in Tacoma, Washington, I enjoyed an active lifestyle. In the summer of 2008, however, I couldn't seem to find my way away from the restroom. I was blessed with a quick diagnosis and was immediately put on steroids. After a few years, my doctors recognised malnutrition and after deliberation, transitioned me to a biologic. While my medical condition improved, it was still difficult for me to cope. Through CCFA, however, I was able to go to Camp Oasis, take part in Take Steps, and get to know many inspiring people. Since then, I’ve gone from being a camper to a counselor for Camp Oasis, and my Take Steps team has gone from four people to more than forty, and now, I am lucky enough to be a part of CCFA’s NCCL!
I am currently on remission and doing well, but I still am passionate about Crohn’s and Colitis. IBD affects too many people and I am proud to work with CCFA to help patient care, educate people about my disease, and to ultimately find a cure.
Hello! My name is Catherine Wicker and I am delighted to have been chosen to be an NCCL member.
I am a Sophmore at Texas State University, majoring in Public Administration with minors in Political Science Communications and Leadership Studies. In addition to the NCCL I am member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, the Leadership Institute at Texas State, Dance Marathon and Christ Chapel.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis on my second day of kindergarten after several months of my mom calling the doctors telling them she was sure it was more than a virus and it wasn’t normal for a child to go to the bathroom 15 times a day or to lose that much blood. When I was 10 I had a total colectomy that was considered to be a cure. Unfortunately, I have continued to have intestinal issues and take medication daily. From day one of my diagnosis, my mom knew the best thing for me was to get involved with the CCFA so I had people that could support me while I lived with this illness. She was right; I am not sure where I would be today if she had not encouraged my participation.
Through the CCFA I have been involved with many different things including Camp Oasis, Team Challenge, Take Steps and IBD Day on the Hill four different times. I was honored to be recognized nationally by the CCFA in 2004 with the Local Hero Award. In 2005, I was delighted to be an Honored Hero for the South Texas Chapter and to attend their Winter Ball.
In 2007, I worked with three other friends and their parents to successfully pass the Texas Restroom Access Act. This Texas law allows individuals with medical conditions to have access to employee only restrooms. Watching then Governor Rick Perry sign the bill into law was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.
I am frequently asked why I have continued to take part in CCFA events for so many years. It’s simple; I want every child to experience the joys of childhood without the worries of IBD and the treatments that go along with it. I believe it is important for people with chronic illnesses to have a voice, but especially those living with IBD. I am extremely grateful for the support from my friends in NCCL and I am excited to be on the board and to continue advocating and fundraising for the CCFA so that one day we will have a cure!
Hi! My name is Colette, and I am 20 years old. I am originally from Eagan, Minnesota and am a junior at Iowa State University. I am studying Animal Science/Pre-Veterinary with a hope of going to Veterinary School and becoming a Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 13. I was hospitalized with many symptoms including blood loss, extreme fatigue, fever, nausea, and pain. After many tests, I was referred to Minnesota Gastroenterology in St. Paul. I spent the next two years trying different oral medications, all of which failed in a matter of months. Finally, I was put on steroids and Remicade. Remicade gave me remission for almost 9 months, but then failed as well. My doctor suggested I go for a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic.
I have been treated at Mayo for the past 5 years, and the doctors and staff there are amazing! After going a full work up with new pathology reports, scopes, and tests, my doctor prescribed Humira. Similar to the Remicade, it failed after 10 months. I tried 6MP, Methotrexate, Cimzia, and various types of budesonide. Throughout the last 4 years I had been flaring off and on, but it was mostly tolerable. My senior year of highschool, I started a flare after recovering from mono. This flare was so bad that I missed almost 60 days of school throughout that year. I was contemplating surgery and was about to go through with a full colectomy, but a final set of scopes found inflammation in my small bowel and esophagus. My diagnosis changed to Crohn’s Disease when I was 17, and I was put on prednisone to get me through the year. I have always struggled with prednisone and its side effects, and that year was the absolute worst. Luckily, my flare subsided before leaving for college.
My first year at ISU started out great! I was fitting in well, finding friends, and my health was not giving me an issue until October. Once October hit, I started to flare again and prednisone was the only thing that would keep me out of the hospital. Eventually hospitalization was necessary and I stayed for a week. Four more hospitalizations occurred in that first semester alone with this flare. Finally, my doctors started me on Entyvio in April. Luckily, this new drug has been life saving and *knock on wood* has put me in remission.
I am very honored and excited to serve on the NCCL, and I am so happy to finally meet other people like me. CCFA has taught me that I am not alone and that I have many resources and many forms of support available to me. I did not choose to get Crohn’s but I wouldn't change my diagnosis for anything. Crohn’s has shown me how much support I have from family, friends, and the IBD community. It has taught me self-discipline, responsibility, and compassion. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I cannot wait to see what this council can do to cure IBD!
I am a senior at Harvard University, concentrating in human regenerative and developmental biology pursuing a career in medicine/business, and participating in stem cell research in hopes of finding a cure for Crohn’s. On my campus I am involved with the Pre-medical Society and the Athlete Medical Mentorship Program. I also participate in Women in Business, club tennis, club volleyball, Alpha Phi sorority, and writing gluten-free articles for the Crimson Crave newspaper. I am so excited to be an advocate of CCFA and NCCL on my campus.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was ten years old after living with months of severe cramps and pain. At first, I was very scared. I had never heard of the disease, and I was worried about how it would affect my academic, athletic, and social life. With the help of my gastroenterologist, I was put in contact with my local CCFA chapter. My entire family has become very involved with CCFA at the local and national level. My father is on the national board as well as starting a local chapter of which he is currently president. We have fundraised through sponsoring local celebrity golf tournaments, deep-sea fishing tournaments, and corporate get togethers. Personally, I have organized teams for Take Steps Orlando since its inception there three years ago. I have managed a Team Challenge website for my mother who has run in 6 half-marathons and done one triathalon. I have attended my local conferences to learn more about new advances in treatments for IBD. I have met incredibly inspiring people at these events and am excited to see the support and awareness that can be generated to find a cure.
Throughout my journey with Crohn’s, I have been on many different medications. I have had several flares, one occurring at the end of my first freshman semester that led to a bowel resection and the removal of 10 inches of my colon. Although I have never fully been in remission, I have continued to participate in sports at a high level, excel in school, and find time to have fun doing things I enjoy. Crohn’s disease has not defined me: it is a part of me. It has given me the opportunity to be a mentor to others with IBD around me. I am extremely thankful that I am a member of the NCCL and that I get to work with an incredible group of people who understand me and are as passionate about finding a cure as I am.
Hello, my name is Emily Rund and I am a double major at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Richmond Virginia. I am currently a senior in the Photography and Film department with a concentration in film, as well as in the Kinetic Imaging department. I grew up in Carroll County Maryland.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at age four. Through trial and error I attempted most of the drugs on the market and eventually found a combination that has helped me live my life with minor gut issues. I have learned to look at the positives in my situation, the most important being my amazing support system. When I was nine years old I attended Camp Oasis as a camper and have gone every year since, now attending as a counselor. I have met my very best friends there and found my home away from home where I am comfortable to be myself with others just like me.
Through my involvement with Camp Oasis I have seen my close friends and campers living with IBD as best as they can. There are good days and bad days, but many of us have gone through more than any one person should endure. I am passionate about raising awareness for IBD, which I personally have worked on through making art but can now pursue further and more in depth as a council member. I am very excited to help find a cure!
I am a senior at Muhlenberg College, double majoring in Theatre and Media Communications. On campus, I am the Show Choir's Music Director, the Office of Information Technology's Resident Technician, and work as the Theatre Department's Student Master Carpenter. In addition, I mentor my high school's FIRST Robotics Team. I grew up in Blue Bell, PA, and am a proud member of the Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter of the CCFA.
With the help of the CCFA, I have thrived through the most difficult period of my life. At age ten, I began to experience symptoms of extreme nausea, fatigue, and lost 20 pounds in a matter of weeks. The answer, Crohn’s Disease, came about 6 months later following a battery of tests and hospital visits.
One of my first adventures following the diagnosis was CCFA’s Camp Oasis. From my first day at camp, I realized it was a place to spend time without worry, and an opportunity to make meaningful, lasting friendships with people I would have never met otherwise. Summer 2016 was my 11th summer at Camp Oasis. It is an amazing experience to return again as a counselor. My goal is to be able to give back to others what Camp Oasis and the CCFA have given me. I also captain Team Tiffany for the Take Steps Walk in order to encourage others to fight for a cure.
During my time with the CCFA, I have become an advocate for adults and children living with Crohn’s and UC, serving as the 2007 Youth Ambassador, the 2013 Honored Hero, and now as a member of the College Council. Having an outlet to help deal with a potentially debilitating disease while serving others is a tremendous honor. The CCFA has been there for me since my diagnosis, helping me along the path of turning a challenge into an opportunity.
I love sharing my story and speaking with others so please reach out if you have any questions or just want to talk!
My name is Jack and I am a junior at the University of Denver. I am majoring in Strategic Communications with a Marketing minor. I am a Brother of Theta Chi Fraternity.
Growing up, I was very healthy and often participated in two sports in which the seasons overlapped. In high school I participated in soccer, hockey and tennis. I was also involved with Campus Ministry. I am the youngest of three siblings and originally from Minnesota.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 15 during my sophomore year of high school. I ended up becoming very sick during hockey tryouts and failed to make the team. It took me awhile to become comfortable talking about my UC but have come to realize that it has made me a stronger person. I know by sharing my experience with others it may help them understand that they are not alone and that with the proper support and medication they too can lead a normal life. Personally, I have found relief in Remicade after having tried many different kinds of oral medications.
I interned at the Minnesota Dakota Chapter during the summer of 2014. The level of enthusiasm and passion for CCFA in that office is contiguous. They were the ones who introduced and encouraged me to apply to the council. I am very excited to bring CCFA to my campus and raise more awareness.
My name is Kajal Patel and I am currently a junior at Rutgers University studying Biological Sciences in pursuit of a career in the medical field.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 12 years old. Fortunately, after the usual symptoms appeared, my pediatrician referred me to a gastroenterologist. I was immediately hospitalized and put on oral medications. Once I became well enough, I attended seminars on IBD with my parents, and my curiosity in the medical field only grew. High school was a difficult time, as I went through different medications and multiple flares. However, my education has always been a top priority and I ended up graduating as the class valedictorian. Although I am relatively stable and have been taking Humira and other oral medications for the past few years, I recently had a surgery for a fistula.
Along with family and friends, I have participated in walks for Crohn’s and Colitis. I also started an organization called the IBD and IBS Association at Rutgers. The purpose of this organization is to improve the quality of life of students affected by either IBD or IBS, raise money to support basic and clinical research, offer educational programs to all students, and create support groups to help people cope with their condition at Rutgers.
I want others to accept their illness as well and not let their illness become their only identity but have their illness become part of their identity. When I was younger, I only saw the effects the illness had on me, but I never realized it was only a small fraction of my identity. I am so much more than my illness and I want others to see that for themselves. I would not be where I am today without the support and love I have received from family, friends, and most importantly the IBD community. I am so honored to be working with so many inspirational people in the NCCL. We stand together for the battle and we will succeed in finding a cure.
Hi, my name is Kalee Eichelberger and I’m a Senior at the University of Florida. I am studying Biology as a premedical student and conduct research in a pediatric gastroenterology lab investigating different pathways scientist can utilize for IBD treatment. I have been very influenced by the role medicine and health professionals have played in my life. The relationships I have formed at my school’s Disability Resource Center have inspired my minor in Disabilities in Society and the role diet has played in my IBD health has lead my college career.
Receiving a diagnosis for me was very challenging. I started having gastrointestinal problems from about the age of middle school, was scoped, and diagnosed with Celiac Disease. From then on all my GI problems were attributed to the Celiac sprue I had developed throughout the years. As time went on I was getting sicker and I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, and POTS. Treatment after treatment was failing and I started having the worse stomach pains I had ever experienced throughout high school. My junior year I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease after another flare put me in the hospital.
Achieving remission has been really challenging and painful but joining a CCFA support group helped me become more open about my disease and connect with others affected by IBD. Through the support group I was able to participate in Take Steps and find out about the NCCL. Because it took me so long to receive the diagnosis and care I needed, advocacy and education is something I am very passionate about. I now co-facilitate the Gainesville chapter support group, am an active Power of Two mentor, and help organize Take Steps in Gainesville. With CCFA’s support, I’ve been able to establish a student group on campus, raise awareness, and help push for a cure.
Hi! My name is Kira Nathan and I am a senior at Oberlin College, in Oberlin OH. I grew up in upstate New York but my family has bopped around a few times, until finally settling down in Richmond VA. In Ohio I study biology and history with the plan to go to medical school following college. I have been a part of the council for three awesome years and have loved every minute of it!
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 10 years old and luckily found medication early on that kept my disease under control. While my Crohn’s disease has given me challenges, I can’t imagine growing up any other way as it has inspired me to pursue medicine, given me immense confidence and independence. Plus, once I began to meet other people with IBD it inspired me to be more vocal about Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis whether within my own community, or outside of it.
As a result, I found the NCCL and the incredible community the council members create. They give so much support and advice that has helped me get the best out of college and whatever comes next. As a part of the council I have loved seeing the real changes a group of college students has made whether within or outside of the IBD community!
Hi! My name is Matthew Herrera, and I am currently a senior studying Biological Engineering at Louisiana State University, with hopes of pursuing a career in medicine and making a difference in the lives of people suffering from IBD. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and have lived there my whole life. On campus, I am a member of the drumline in the LSU Tiger Band, as well as the Biological Engineering Student Organization.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was five years old and was immediately treated heavily for the disease. I had minor complications with the disease while growing up, but was lucky enough to keep it under control for most of my younger life. High school was the hardest time for me with my health, having a couple major flare ups that hospitalized me for a few weeks. After a flare up during the first week of my senior year, I changed medications and have been in remission ever since.
As a patient, talking about IBD can be very challenging. I have constantly dealt with the embarrassing issues that are naturally associated with my disease, especially since a chronic illness can inadvertently affect every aspect of life. Living with Ulcerative Colitis is all I have ever known, so I’ve learned how to live with my illness and how to succeed in many aspects of life. However, I believe it is important to reach out and open up about living with an IBD, and I hope to be a resource for those living with a chronic illness.
This is my first year as a member of the NCCL, and I am looking forward to making a difference in the IBD community. The CCFA has given me the opportunity to help increase awareness, education, and support for patients suffering from these diseases, and I hope to help increase focus in my area while doing so. I am extremely grateful to be working with so many talented and inspirational people who are all dedicated to curing and treating inflammatory bowel disease.
My name is Missy O’Doherty, and I am currently a senior at the University of Denver. I grew up in San Diego, California, with two amazing parents and a wonderful sister, where I discovered my love for music and the practice of medicine. I am currently studying biological sciences and music, with a dream of going to medical school.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis the summer after I turned 11 years old. For the first three years, I went through almost every medication that could be given to a child for IBD with no relief. I was in an out of the hospital every other month during this time. Finally by my Freshmen year of high school, I was put on an infusion that finally put me into a remission. It was the first time I felt normal since my diagnosis, and kept me healthy all throughout high school. Although I have been sick since then, I have been lucky enough to go to college, compete in triathlons, and help CCFA raise awareness and much needed funds for Crohn’s and Colitis since. It’s a daily struggle, but the support you gain from CCFA and meeting others with this disease is astounding. I am lucky to have found CCFA and met so many inspiring and encouraging individuals through all the amazing programs they have offered me.
It has certainly been a difficult almost 10 years, but these past years have been an incredible journey. I have grown and learned so much despite the adversity I have faced as a result of my diagnosis and am thankful that this disease has helped me grow into this strong and successful individual. I look forward to making a difference through the National Council of College Leaders, for the 1.6 million Americans and many many college students living with these incurable illnesses everyday, who may not be as lucky as myself. I also hope to become an integral part of what the CCFA mission is about, and be a great role model by sharing it with all those whom struggle daily. Support and a great attitude is really what its all about.
I am a senior at the University of Missouri- Columbia. I am the middle child in my family with one older and one younger sister.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was ten. At first my disease responded well to oral medications and I was growing well and in remission for several years. During my last years of high school that changed. I recently had an intestinal resection and I am doing pretty well with the help of Humira.
When I was first diagnosed no one in my family had even heard of Crohn’s Disease. Man, we have come a long way since then! My first experience with anyone else who had Crohn’s Disease was through CCFA. Right away we became involved with the Take Steps walks every year. But then something changed that fueled my interest in helping advance research and awareness for Crohn’s Disease...my younger sister, Anabel, was also diagnosed with severe Crohn’s Disease.
I am no longer uncomfortable speaking about my disease, the more people know the more progress we can make. I participate in CCFA’s events, camps and fundraisers and have organized two successful 5K’s in the small town that I am from. When I first learned of the council a couple years ago I knew I wanted to be involved and now here I am. To set an example for my sister and any other young people that I can affect I will continue to live by the motto that says ‘I have Crohns’, Crohn’s doesn’t have me.
My name is Scott Gringauz and I am currently a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder. I am a member of The Presidents Leadership Class where the focus is to develop ethical and extraordinary leaders in society.
I am a business major in the Leeds Scholars Program with an emphasis in accounting. My goal is to obtain a Masters in Accounting in order to become a CPA.
Growing up in South Florida I loved spending time outdoors. I played everything from flag football to soccer but at the age of nine it became apparent that something was wrong. My growth was clearly stunted, I was not eating, I was gray in color and I was extremely lethargic. My parents had taken me to doctors but they overlooked my bad blood work. Eight months later I was very weak. Horrible lab results were the first factor and hint that this was not good. My GI doctor performed an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and determined that I had Crohn’s disease. Hospital stays, lots of medicines with side effects, multiple procedures, many doctor visits made it difficult to be a normal kid. Fast forward four years and my Crohn’s disease had progressed to the point of affecting my daily life. Initially my parents supplemented my milder meds with natural remedies, but after months of no results my doctors decided to put me on Remicade. Just one week after my first infusion I was already feeling like my old self. Finally, I could participate in all the activities I loved; especially playing sports. I am 18 now and have been in remission for five years.
Six months after diagnosis at age nine my family decided to get involved in the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I began by creating my own Take Steps Walk Team and then decided to share my journey in front of others at two fundraising events and, by sharing my camp experience in a video to raise funds for Camp Oasis My favorite CCFA experience is attending Camp Oasis first as a camper and then, as a LIT. I loved Camp Oasis because I was able to meet other kids who had similar journeys to mine. Now, I am on the NCCL and I hope to continue my lifelong commitment to making a difference within the CCFA community!
My name is Ty Redler and I currently attend the University of Florida. Before I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2008 I was a very active kid, I had a scholarship to play soccer in high school and I was also one of the top jazz baritone sax players in the state of Florida. Nine months prior to my diagnosis started me on the path that I did not know where it was going to go. On August 28, 2008 my life as I knew it was going to be changed for the rest of my life but I couldn't fathom this.
The day after I was diagnosed I started to research how I could possibly help these horrible diseases. I found CCFA and asked them how I could help. A few months later when I was healthy enough to leave my house they asked me to be the honored hero for take steps and team challenge and give speeches to recruit people for the events. After giving the speeches I met a girl who told me that I had to go to Camp Oasis.
When I got to college I knew I needed to help make an impact in the world so I started to look a position in a lab to join and perform genetic research. After starting in my first lab I was very persistent with questions, asking to take part of some experiments which in turn allowed me to take on my own projects and network with other researchers. Now after doing research for 4 years I can say that research is the building blocks to discovery, with discovery we will find a cure in the near future. After joining my lab I heard about the National Council of Collegiate leaders to help be an advocate for college students and patients across America so they can have equal rights to healthcare and to not be discriminated in any sense.
Although in August of 2008 my life was completely changed, it was changed in a positive way. I learned that we all are different and even though I have a condition this condition will not control my life; I will.
I am a sophomore at Saint Louis University studying accounting and finance with the goal of studying financial law post-graduation.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 9 years old. I was embarrassed and wanted more than anything just to be a normal kid. For years, no one outside my family knew I had it. Eventually in 8th grade I decided I wanted to make an impact in the IBD community. I went from no one knowing to speaking to my entire grade and sharing my story. I founded my own fundraiser to benefit CCFA which is now an annual event, attended Camp Oasis (and stayed) after many years of signing up and being too nervous to actually go, I participate in Take Steps yearly as the Team Captain of my team, am involved in ImproveCareNow as the Recruitment Lead of the Patient Advisory Council, am a part of the Central-Ohio Take Steps Walk Committee, and now a member of the NCCL.
Though IBD has presented me with many struggles, I am grateful for its impact on my life and all I have gained from battling the disease. It has been empowering to work with CCFA, alongside friends, to end the fight against IBD.