Patient Leader + Thought Leader Conversations, Part 1: The State of Patient Advocacy

MarlaJan Wexler is a leader among Patient Leaders, sharing her very real and often hilariously profane survivor story as Luck Fupus. In her words, Luck Fupus is about “the girl, the nurse, the patient, the part-time superhero… tales of life with lupus, congenital heart disease, fake boobs, and an out-of-order baby maker.” We can’t imagine anyone better to kick off WEGO Health’s series of Thought Leader interviews – where top Patient Leaders will interview industry experts.

MarlaJan’s inaugural Thought Leader interview is with WEGO Health’s founder and CEO, Jack Barrette, weighing in on the effect of the pandemic on Patient Leaders and the evolution of patient advocacy.

If you’re a Patient Leader with an idea for a Thought Leader interview or a Thought Leader ready to be heard, let us know here.

MarlaJan: How has the pandemic affected the process of patient centricity and engagement?

Jack: In some ways, the pandemic shut down of HCP offices to rep visits has helped to focus industry attention back on patients in general. At WEGO Health, we’re seeing innovative companies thinking hard about how to help patients transition to virtual care, for example, which means more collaboration with patient community leaders to understand what that journey looks like. Pandemic nightmares like “it’s dangerous to go to your doctor” have caused patients, HCPs, and payors to get creative—together.

MarlaJan: How has it affected patient advocacy, in either communication with companies or in access to providers/medications/devices?

Jack: Slamming the door on in-person events has really hurt; some advocacy organizations rely on their annual conference or fundraiser, and opportunities for patients to spend quality time with companies and providers is invaluable. But the silver lining has been the democratizing of so many events that were limited to who could physically travel or who could afford it – now everyone is on the same work-from-home playing field, and for most patient advocates, that’s home-field advantage.
At the risk of cheerleading a global disaster, WEGO Health’s been seeing a really positive surge in companies and providers using web meetings to have more frequent, more collaborative conversations with patient influencers and advocates. Hosting five Patient Influencers in person for a day takes months of planning; hosting the same five on Zoom for an hour can happen six times during those months at a fraction of the cost.

MarlaJan: What has happened over the past few years to advance patient advocacy efforts?

Jack: There has been a movement—and I’m proud to say WEGO Health has been a part of it—to line up patient advocates as peers with HCPs and industry. More than ever before, we’re putting patient advocates at the table as accountable contributors and partners – recognizing their expertise and compensating them for real work. And healthcare companies are seeing the real impact of working side-by-side with patient advocates: better-designed trials getting completed more quickly, patient access issues getting tackled, even marketing becoming more authentic and effective with the help of Patient Influencers. That means patients-as-peers isn’t a fad; it’s the new way.

MarlaJan: Which companies are doing a good job of interacting with patient organizations, and how?

Jack: WEGO Health works a lot with life sciences companies – pharma companies – and there’s tremendous variability. There are a LOT of great things happening, so here are just two examples.

At GSK, their lupus team is deeply committed to that patient community; they work with Patient Influencers to support the whole life of a lupus patient, not just their relationship with a medication. The GSK team spends time talking with Patient Influencers and designs programs with them – a recent standout example is the #WhyITattoo campaign to raise lupus awareness.
Alnylam is a standout in the rare disease space; as a biotech, they’ve built a remarkable patient-centric culture and helped to grow advocacy around porphyria, for example, a condition where patients are just beginning to find each other. A top Alnylam exec was on a panel with me recently, and he told the story of their sales reps delivering medication to patients who could not leave their homes during the pandemic – that job is nowhere in their compensation plan. Still, as a company, they think of the patient first.

MarlaJan: What needs to be done to improve patient advocacy efforts, either on the organization side or the healthcare company side?

Jack: I frequently counsel advocates to share their stories – and the value of working with them. How can your credentials of fighting chronic illness and leading a community of patients help solve real problems for your partners? Don’t be so damned humble!
One consistent piece of advice for companies we hear from WEGO Health Patient Leaders is to avoid the wham-bam-thank-you-advocate approach. If you ask a group of Patient Influencers how to best educate their communities, don’t just get your answers and never call back! The companies that follow up and say “we did this with what your group said” or even “we couldn’t do that because of legal, but we heard you” – those companies are building real trust.

MarlaJan: Describe some of the best moments you have experienced with moving the needle forward in advocacy.

Jack: I have the best job in the world because I get to be inspired by patient advocates daily. There are some life-changers, like our live WEGO Health Awards presentations to 16 of the top Patient Leaders as chosen by their peers and industry judges – I love seeing the patients-are-why-we’re-here needle not just flicker, but get buried like a sound meter at a Guns n’ Roses concert when top healthcare industry presenters can’t hold back tears of gratitude and admiration as they hug the winners. “This is why I do this, why I am in healthcare,” they say.

But right now—this moment—is a best moment for me, too, because MarlaJan Wexler, a powerhouse patient advocate, is leading this very interview, and you’re scheduled to lead an industry panel on this topic. Ten years ago, a patient even attending an industry conference would have been “inappropriate;” 5 years ago, I might have fought to get MarlaJan onto a panel; today, you’re the moderator, you’re the leader, and goddammit that makes my year.

HLTH 2020: Pull Up a Chair for Patients at Your Table

Year after year, conference after conference, patients are left out of the conversations around their care. And while we’re far from where we need to be as an industry and healthcare system, more companies than ever are noticing the need to involve healthcare’s key stakeholder: patients. One of those companies, HLTH, is demonstrating their commitment to patients and ensuring they get a seat at the table by partnering and supporting the WEGO Health Awards for the second year in a row.

The WEGO Health Awards recognize and honor those making a difference in the online health community, providing an opportunity to thank and support the Patient Leaders who are working to build a more human-centered healthcare system.

In 2019, HLTH invited the WEGO Health Awards winners to attend the in-person HLTH event in Las Vegas and hosted a live WEGO Health Awards ceremony to celebrate their achievements. As patients and caregivers shared their stories, the industry professionals and other attendees were quickly reminded of their “why” and the importance of seeing patients as people, and more importantly, as partners. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.

This year, HLTH has stepped up and given patients an even bigger stage at the conference. Out of an abundance of caution for COVID-19, the 2020 event will be held virtually. HLTH has invited all 96 WEGO Health Awards finalists to attend the five-day virtual event and will help announce this year’s WEGO Health Awards winners during a virtual ceremony celebration.

To patients, the opportunity to participate in conversations at HLTH is invaluable. There are few other opportunities for them to attend sessions and weigh in with their perspective and condition expertise. The conversations about them now include them – and to patients, it means more than words. We then asked our finalists to weigh in on what they are most excited for with regard to attending HLTH. Here’s what some had to say:

Patient inclusion at events is important because you can’t have innovation without patient input. The big decisions in healthcare are all too often made by people who don’t live with illness, who don’t use the services, and who won’t be affected by the fallout of those decisions.Caz Homer
I am proud to be a patient leader at HLTH because the healthcare ecosystem needs to start paying attention to patients and caregivers. Likewise, patients and caregivers need to become active, informed players in the ecosystem. Kevin Freiert
One message I hope to convey at HLTH about patients is we are just as passionate about health as you are. Together we can make a difference. This is why we are all here to begin with – to create change. Effie Koliopoulos

Beyond giving patients the platform they well deserve, patient leaders also see HLTH as an opportunity to build trust between the industry and their communities.

I am most looking forward to meeting more industry professionals looking to create deeper connections between patients and healthcare leaders at HLTH. Damian Washington
It is only through honest partnership that we are able to accomplish some of our most powerful achievements. Trust collaborations are the only way forward.Lauren Deluca

You see, these individuals aren’t just patients – they are potential partners who know what their communities need and are eager to partner with healthcare companies who are ready to make a real impact in the patient experience.

My passion in life involves sharing ‘my seat at the table’ with as many other patients, worldwide, as possible. My experience and what I learn will become THEIRS too!Tiffany Westrich-Robertson
When partnering with patients, everyone wins. The patients are heard and get a solution to a problem, and industry is handed a gift in the form of identifying a true problem that their product or service could solve. Win-Win. Kathy Reagan
If healthcare partners with patients, together we can work towards a system where providers are more effective and patients are not only empowered, but informed and active participants in their care.” Alexa Chronister

And though this industry has begun to accept that brands must partner with patients for real results, the question remains, how do companies best partner with patients?

To partner with patients, you must first build relationships with patient communities, develop patient-led initiatives and partner with patients on awareness and advocacy campaigns.Kristal Kent
The best strategy to partner with patients? Be open-minded, welcoming and collaborative. Be willing to listen to their points of view, and engage in an open dialogue that is comfortable for everyone involved. Treating patients in a professional manner just like you would an employer/employee or a potential business partner would help, too. We deserve to be taken seriously as well for our time, efforts and feedback.Effie Koliopoulos
Reach out to real patient advocates who can speak on their own experiences and the experiences of their community.Justin Birckbichler

However, building trust doesn’t happen overnight. Like any relationship, the patient relationship requires action and evidence that your brand is serious and ready to not just listen, but to also put their feedback and ideas into action. As you engage with these Patient Leaders at HLTH, keep their words in mind:

There must be continuous patient dialogue, and not a conversation held every three months. No gaps whatsoever. It is pertinent to empower patients to make them active partners in their healthcare.Grace B Charrier
The most powerful way to show patients your brand cares is to give them an opportunity to give feedback, listen, and act on what is discussed.William Yank
The best way to build patient trust in your brand is to put real people in the campaigns. Patients who are living with the issues that your brand is all about can do more in the way of trust.Suzanne Stewart

If you encounter a patient leader at HLTH, meet them with gratitude and compassion. These leaders are excited and ready to share insights, experiences, and ideas on how all sectors of health can work together to truly achieve the optimal future of healthcare. Embrace the conversations with open arms and discover the change the patient perspective can bring.

Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more of the best ways to partner with patients, why patient collaboration is so powerful, and how brands can truly build trust with patients – all directly from the WEGO Health Awards finalists.

Follow along with the #HLTH2020 and #WEGOHealthAwards hashtags to hear these real patient insights from those leading patient communities.

And be sure to connect with the WEGO Health Awards finalists on social – these are the leading patient influencers of the online health community and if you’re part of healthcare, you need to be listening.

Click here to learn more about HLTH and the virtual agenda. If you’d like to attend the WEGO Health Awards ceremony, click here.

Announcing the 9th Annual WEGO Health Awards Finalists

There are thousands of patients and caregivers sharing their stories, raising awareness, and guiding others through their own patient journey. Their endless work and energy to ensure no patient feels alone or lost is admirable and worthy of recognition. At WEGO Health, we believe these individuals are the key to solving healthcare’s biggest challenges and they deserved to be celebrated for their immense impact on the patient journey.

This is precisely why we created the WEGO Health Awards; to celebrate the patient leaders who are leading the online health community.

Year after year, we are truly blown away by the nominees and this year is certainly no different. We could not be more honored to celebrate these patient leaders across all conditions areas, platforms, and countries. With over 13,000 nominations, our 9th annual WEGO Health Awards season has been the biggest celebration yet.

We urge you to check out this year’s nominees, and you’ll quickly see the passion and power of these patient leaders. We hope this year’s nominees feel proud and validated that their work is making an impact. We truly thank each and every single one of you for your dedication to improving the patient experience and for being a shining light in your community. We are so very honored to celebrate your achievements!

Narrowing Down the Finalists

The three most endorsed nominees in each award category automatically become finalists. Three additional finalists are selected through multiple rounds of judging by WEGO Health community members. Nominees are reviewed and scored based on their fit for the award category, their uses of social media, and their focus on sharing information and fostering engagement.

Selecting the Winners

Starting Friday, our 96 WEGO Health Awards finalists will be reviewed and scored by our Finalist Judging Panel, comprised of industry professionals and experts, to ultimately uncover the sixteen 9th Annual WEGO Health Awards winners! Winners will be announced during our virtual ceremony, in partnership with HLTH, on October 15th at 7pm ET via a Facebook Premiere event on the WEGO Health Facebook page.

Finalists & Winners Will Receive…

Thanks to HLTH’s commitment to ensuring the patient voice is included and part of the conversation, HLTH is offering free passes to all WEGO Health Awards finalists and winners to the industry’s biggest conference on October 12-16th. Many of the conversations that take place here shape the future of the health space, so we are pleased to share that 96 patient leaders will be part of the discussion!

All finalists will also receive a WEGO Health prize pack in the mail.

Additionally, winners will receive:
• $500 prize to be used towards advocacy efforts or travel
• Compensated WEGO Health 2021 Patient Leader Advisory Board Seat (estimated cash value: $1500)
• Opportunity to be featured as a worlds’ top patient expert in HLTH’s patient-centered webinar series, as well as industry exposure opportunities throughout the year *Winners will get priority for speaking engagements and industry exposure events throughout 2021, depending on the state of COVID-19.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

Advocating for Another

LeAnna Headley

Our LANDing Crew

Mariana Arias

Elle Cole

Stephanie Hueston

Toni Mathieson

WEGO Health Award Description: Not all patient leaders are sharing their own patient journey. The Advocating for Another category is for the caregivers who tirelessly raise awareness to better the lives of loved ones. Though they themselves may not be sick, they are the caregivers of children, siblings, parents, significant others, or friends, who have an up-close-and-personal perspective that is invaluable. These individuals balance life as a caregiver, all while advocating on their loved one’s behalf – whether it be through blogging, social media or legislation.

Best in Show: Blog

Ella Hollis

Dr. Christina Hibbert

Meghan Smith


Cynthia Covert, The Disabled Diva

Caz (InvisiblyMe)

WEGO Health Award Description: Social media has its place in patient advocacy, but for many advocates, their blog persists as the heart of their advocacy. The Best in Show: Blog category is for the patient leaders who continue to publish new content or elaborate on relevant social posts through blogging. Aimed at sharing their story, raising awareness, or educating others, these are the health advocacy blogs we love to read!

Best in Show: Community/Forum

Megan King

Jeff Folloder

Kristal Kent

Jen Schwartz – Founder and CEO, Motherhood Understood

Go Shout Love

Estela Mata

WEGO Health Award Description: A diagnosis can be life-changing, but fortunately so can the support from an online community. The Best in Show: Community category celebrates the online communities or forums that create an inviting space for newcomers while maintaining a safe place that people have come to respect and rely on. These leaders have mastered managing, moderating, and engaging their communities all for the purpose of supporting others.

Best in Show: Facebook


Michelle Munt

The Invisible Hypothyroidism

Michelle Cole

Devin Garlit

IBD Warriors Support and Awareness

WEGO Health Award Description: Despite its recent controversies, Facebook prevails as one of the strongest online hubs for connection, conversation, and community amongst patients and caregivers. The Best in Show: Facebook category is for the patient advocates who lead in engaging Facebook groups or advocacy pages where people want to “Like”, comment, and connect!

Best in Show: Instagram

Pina Varnel

Brandy Haberer

Ellen Inouye


You Look Okay To Me

Nathan Todd

WEGO Health Award Description: It’s no secret Instagram has become the top platform for all things visual. The Best in Show: Instagram category is for the patient leaders curating thought-provoking images, engaging videos, entertaining Insta-stories, and helpful IGTV sessions aimed at sharing their story and supporting others. These are the advocacy accounts that fill your endless Instagram scroll with support, inspiration and community!

Best in Show: Podcast


Kathy Raegan Young – The FUMS Podcast

William Yank & Roni Bibring – The Illest.

Daniel Newman – The Talking Type 1

Michael Liben – Heart to Heart with Michael

Amy and Brittany – In Sixteen Years of Endometriosis

WEGO Health Award Description: More than ever, patient leaders are proving podcasts can be powerful! The Best in Show: Podcast category recognizes advocates taking their health stories to the airwaves to share their own experiences, explore community topics, or interview and learn from special guests. Whether educationally based, feel-good fun, or a way to meet new people, these are the advocacy podcasts you cannot stop listening to!

Best in Show: Twitter

Pina Varnel

Dani Donovan

Rene Brooks

Matthew Hodson

Agnes Nsofwa

Daniel Malito

WEGO Health Award Description: It’s not simple to create easily digestible thoughts in 280 characters or less, but there are some patient leaders who truly excel at it. The Best in Show: Twitter category is for the patient leaders making the most out of this character limit! Whether hosting Twitter Chats, providing snapshots of new information or sharing words of encouragement, these patient leaders embody the model of Twitter for #patientadvocacy.

Best in Show: Tik-Tok

William Yank

Paige Hennekam

Chloé Hayden

ASLSuzyQ- Suzy Stewart

Micah Thane

Jesi Stracham

WEGO Health Award Description: With the rise of TikTok, we couldn’t help but create a brand new category to recognize the patient leaders using TikTok for the greater good! The musical app has become a hotbed for awareness, giving creators the ability to take complicated topics and turn them into bite-sized units of education and entertainment. While this video platform is the home to lip-synching videos, viral dance moves and popular culture, many patient advocates are leveraging its features to make their advocacy interactive, entertaining, and plain old fun!

Best in Show: YouTube

Our LANDing Crew

ReBranding Autism

Damian Washington

You Look Okay To Me

Effie Koliopoulos


WEGO Health Award Description: The last five years have revealed that videos tend to be more engaging and more memorable than any other type of content out there. The Best in Show: YouTube category recognizes the patient leaders who are getting in front of the camera to share their story, vlog their daily lives or educate others about their cause. Though pressing record can be daunting for many of us, these patient leaders prove video is a powerful way to connect and communicate!

Best Kept Secret

LeAnna Headley

Dion Langley

The Wee Family

For the Breast of Us

Sarah Tompkins

Genny Jessee

WEGO Health Award Description: The internet is a vast place, making it nearly impossible to find all of the impactful content that exists. The Best Kept Secret category uncovers the hidden gems of the online health community that everyone should be following! Whether creating great content, providing endless support, or raising awareness for their cause, these patient leaders deserve the spotlight!

Best Team Performance

Zachary Valentine

Fight Like A Warrior

Lauren Deluca & the Chronic Illness Advocacy & Awareness Group

Lindsey Pacios & Team Cure

Fibromyalgia Care Society of America, Inc.

International Foundation for Autoimmune & Autoinflammatory Arthritis (AiArthritis)

WEGO Health Award Description: The Best Team Performance category recognizes a team or group that takes their activism to new heights because of the assistance from one another. Whether it be a group that runs an online chat, a non-profit organization, or a caregiver and patient duo – this award celebrates those bringing a team effort to their advocacy!

Healthcare Collaborator

Trishna Bharadia

Jennifer Champy

Tori Geib

Grace B. Charrier

Michele Nadeem-Baker

Kevin Freiert

WEGO Health Award Description: Fortunately, more than ever the healthcare industry is seeing just how valuable patient leaders can be! Our Healthcare Collaborator category is for the advocates bridging the gaps between industry stakeholders and healthcare consumers. Whether speaking at conferences, consulting with healthcare companies, using their education or research to help make a change in the healthcare industry, or creating apps and products to fulfill needs in the current system, these patient leaders are impacting the healthcare landscape at large.

Hilarious Patient Leader

Dani Donovan

ReBranding Autism

Lisa Walters

Christine Olivo

A Ballsy Sense of Tumor – Justin Birckbichler

Kristen Hernandez

WEGO Health Award Description: Ever heard that laughter is the best medicine? The Hilarious Patient Leader category recognizes the patient advocates infusing a healthy dose of humor into their advocacy. They may be witty, dry or sharp. But one thing is clear, their use of humor makes even the toughest of topics more approachable and more enjoyable.

Lifetime Achievement

Trishna Bharadia

Kristal Kent

Cathy Chester

Carrie Kellenberger

Lauren Stiles, JD

Amanda Greene ~ LA Lupus Lady

WEGO Health Award Description: Some patient advocates are true stars who continue to shine and don’t fit into just one category. The Lifetime Achievement category is for the veteran patient leaders, who after years of advocacy achievements, stand as role models for the entire online health community. Let’s recognize the advocacy leaders that inspire all of us year after year!

Patient Leader Hero

Tiffany Kairos

Jennifer Champy

Kristin Anthony

Kevin Hines

Chisa Nosamiefan

Melodie Narain-Blackwell

WEGO Health Award Description: Sometimes, a leader’s advocacy work has the ability to truly change the lives of others. The Patient Leader Hero category celebrates those who go above and beyond for their communities and whose influence has truly made an impact. Their dedication is admirable and ignites a spark for change in everyone they meet. These patient leaders don’t need a cape to prove they are heroes!

Rookie of the Year

Arushi Lohiya

Naima D.

Anisha Gangotra

Trevor Maxwell

Cassie Pigg

Carley Gordon

WEGO Health Award Description: As anyone in advocacy knows, communities aren’t built overnight! Sharing your story and impacting a community takes time and patience, so let’s encourage those who are recently empowered as patient leaders. The Rookie of the Year category celebrates the advocates who may be new to the scene, but continue to show the utmost potential. This category is typically for patient leaders with 1-3 years’ experience.

Congratulations to all finalists and all nominees!

Regardless of the outcome, we hope you are all so proud! Your nomination means you have impacted the lives of others in your community and we are endlessly grateful for your contribution. Your work and voice truly have the power to change healthcare.

9th Annual WEGO Health Awards | How it Works

The WEGO Health Awards were created to embody the mission of WEGO Health: to empower patient leaders.

Considering the WEGO Health Patient Leader Network is centered around these healthcare transformers, we knew it was up to us to celebrate their accomplishments. From this need to celebrate the leaders who make a difference, the WEGO Health Awards were born.
Since its inception in 2011, the WEGO Health Awards have proven to be one of the best ways to honor, recognize, and celebrate the work of patient advocates, influencers and healthcare collaborators who are helping others and transforming healthcare – often without any formal recognition.
With 16 different award categories, it is the only program to recognize patient leaders across all condition areas and platforms; whether running an online support group, speaking at conferences or sharing their health journey on Instagram, there is truly an award category to recognize every patient leader out there.
The program is split into four different phases:
1. Nominations | June – July
2. Endorsements | July
3. Judging | August – September
4. Celebration | October
Last year, we received over 6k nominations and over 130k endorsements. From there, our judging panels narrowed 6k nominations to 75 finalists and later to just 15 winners. In partnership with HLTH, we had our biggest WEGO Health Awards celebration ever! HLTH sponsored our 15 winners, covering admission and travel expenses, to attend the HLTH event and be honored on healthcare’s biggest stage for their advocacy achievements.
Learn more about how the WEGO Health Awards work:

Open June 9th-July 31st
Think of nominations as a way to recognize your favorite patient leaders for the work they are doing. With 16 award categories, it’s easy to show your appreciation for all the patient advocates in your life. To start nominating, simply visit click here.
🏆 Tip for Nominees: Share out your WEGO Health profile and ask your community to recognize you for the WEGO Health Awards. Don’t be afraid to post to social, reach out to foundations, and include in any email correspondence. Your work deserves to be recognized! Once you’re nominated, you’ll receive a Nominee Media Kit for easy sharing.
Who should be nominated? Who can win a WEGO Health Award?
Anyone who is an active and leading member of an online community, and making a difference in healthcare, is eligible to be nominated. He or she should provide the community with valuable information and support to make a difference for other patients and caregivers. Nominees for an individual social channel award must have a presence on that particular social channel, of course.
Think about the advocates and influencers you see leading Facebook groups, blogging about their health journey, speaking up and giving insights to healthcare companies, presenting on national stages, and running Twitter chats. Patient Leaders have started non-profits, published podcast episodes, and authored books–there is no shortage of Patient Leaders’ contributions to the world, so let’s recognize as many of them as we can for their talents, contributions, and commitment.
How did you come up with the categories? Can I only use those to nominate someone?
The WEGO Health Awards were created based on Patient Leader feedback and the same is true of the categories we use. They might change a bit each year, but they’re created with you and your community in mind. We’ll only be selecting winners for the categories listed in our nomination form, but we’re always open to suggestions.
How do I nominate someone?
Go to our WEGO Health Awards nominations page to get started. Tell us who you want to recognize, where you follow them online, and the WEGO Health Award you think they should win. Once you’re finished nominating your favorite patient leader, feel free to share that nomination with your community or send a tweet with the hashtag #WEGOHealthAwards. And be sure to nominate early and often; we want to recognize as many patient leaders as possible.
Can I nominate myself?
Of course. We hope you’ll reach out to your community and ask them to nominate their favorite members of the online health world – and that includes you! However, you’re more than welcome to nominate yourself as part of the process. Be sure to take a moment and recognize any of the great leaders that help you on a daily basis as well.
How will I know if I am nominated?
Each nominee will be notified via email and social media (as applicable) and will be given the chance to complete/update a WEGO Health profile with additional information about themselves and their advocacy. Please note, notifications can take 24-72 hours from the time of the nomination submission

Open July 1st – Jul 31st
This period provides a community-choice aspect of the program. Endorsements are a way to give nominees a visual show of support for a specific nomination, think of it like “liking” a post or photo on social media. For instance, if a nominee is nominated for Best in Show: Twitter, and you believe they deserve this recognition, your endorsement is the perfect way to show your support.
The three nominees with the most endorsements in each of the 16 categories will automatically become finalists.
🏆 Tip for Nominees: Grab Your Endorsement Badge | Once endorsements open (in July!), navigate to the ‘Awards’ tab, of your WEGO Health profile. Here you will be able to download images and badges to put on your sites to gain endorsements. We invite you to keep your badge up once endorsements are closed to proudly display your accomplishment.
What happens when I endorse a nominee? Is it the same as voting?
Endorsements were created to give network members a chance to participate in the WEGO Health Awards. Think of it as a way to give a shout-out or virtual hug to your favorite Patient Leaders.
In response to feedback from the community, the endorsement process helps select top patient leaders to move on to the finalist round. The three most endorsed nominees in each WEGO Health Award category will automatically become a finalist. There are six finalists within each category and the final award winner is selected by our panel of distinguished judges.
So, if you are nominated for an award, make sure you ask your friends, family, and community members to take a moment to endorse your efforts.
Can I endorse more than one person?
While you can only endorse a nominee once per award category they are nominated for, you can endorse as many people as you like. If you want to spread the love and endorse others, feel free to do so.
Do likes/tweets count as endorsements?
While showing your support through Facebook likes or tweets is appreciated by the nominees, we will not be counting that form of social media support towards endorsements.
Can I still become a finalist if I do not get a high number of endorsements?
Yes. While the three nominees with the highest endorsement numbers in each category will automatically become finalists, the additional three finalists will be determined by our judging panelists through numerous additional factors aside from endorsements.

August – September
We host multiple rounds of judging, after all, we receive thousands of nominations! Judges will be using the information provided in the nominee’s WEGO Health profile to review and score.
Determining Finalists
In the past, there were a total of five finalists, however, given community feedback, we will now be celebrating six finalists in each award category. To ensure the integrity of the program, half of the finalists will be determined through endorsement count and half will be selected through our judging process. Finalists are selected in two ways:
1. The top three endorsed nominees within a WEGO Health Award category automatically move on as finalists.
2. The subsequent three finalists in each category are selected by our network judging panelists. Finalists will be selected based on their relevance to that particular award and the information provided in a nominee’s profile. The finalist judging panels are comprised of past award winners, foundations, and organizations.
Once the top six finalists in each WEGO Health Award category have been selected, we’ll announce the finalists on our blog and then move into the final round of judging.
Selecting the Winners
Top industry experts and sponsors convene to review the six finalists in each category based on their use of social media, their fit for the award for which they’ve been nominated, and how effectively they engage their online community. Judges score individually, and then WEGO Health tallies these scores to identify the winners. No one knows the winners until we make the announcement at our annual WEGO Health Awards Virtual Ceremony.
Note: A nominee’s community size (number of fans, followers, readers, members, etc.) will not be considered. The nominee is judged based on their content and fit for the award category.
🏆 Tip for Nominees: Update Your Profile | Having a completed WEGO Health profile allows judges to gain a comprehensive understanding of your mission.
I want to be a judge for the WEGO Health Awards. How can I do that?
If you’re interested in participating, please email us at with the subject line ‘Be a Judge’ for additional details.
Can judges be nominees or WEGO Health Award winners?
We do allow those who were nominated to participate in the network judging process. However, if a judge is nominated for a certain award, they are not allowed to judge that category. We also give the judge the option to either remove themselves from the running or give up their judge’s spot.
How do you pick your judges?
We have many patient leaders, patients, caregivers, industry leaders, previous winners, finalists and Patient Leader Network members who connect with us throughout the year. Many of them express interest in being involved with the WEGO Health Awards. The WEGO Health team compiles a list of those enthusiasts throughout the year and connects with each before our WEGO Health Awards season. We then chat about the details, time commitment, and what is expected of the judges. Once they confirm they would like to officially participate, they are in.
How do you score the nominees? What criteria do judges use when selecting semi-finalists, finalists, and winners?
Judges score nominees on the following criteria:
• Fit for the Award | How well does this person fit the category they are nominated for? For example: if they are nominated for Rookie of the Year, have they only recently started their advocacy journey?
• Use of Social Media | How well does this Patient Leader use social media for their activism? Are they active, engaged, and responsive on their networks? Are they a power user of social media and active on multiple profiles?
• Focus on sharing of information and overall engagement | How well does this Patient Leader balance sharing of their own content with the sharing of others’ content and information?

The health of our community members is of utmost importance during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Though we’d love to celebrate in person, after much discussion and feedback from our Patient Leader Advisory board, we have decided to make the celebration strictly virtual to ensure all of our WEGO Health Award winners are safe and included.
Going virtual doesn’t mean the celebration stops though! We’re partnering with HLTH to bring patient leaders to the forefront of this industry celebration. Winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony during the HLTH event in early October 2020.
This year, winners will receive:
• $500 cash prize to be used towards advocacy efforts or travel
• Compensated WEGO Health 2021 Patient Leader Advisory Board Seat (estimated cash value $1500)
• Feature as a worlds’ top patient expert in HLTH’s patient-centered webinar series, as well as industry exposure opportunities throughout the year*
*Winners will have priority for speaking engagement and industry exposure events throughout 2021, depending on the state of COVID-19.
We are so eager for another season of celebrating patient leaders. There are so many tremendous patient advocates, influencers, and collaborators out there doing powerful work – we look forward to shining a much-deserved spotlight on them!
We encourage you to view all of the current WEGO Health Awards nominees in the nominee directory
Click here to view the nominees.

More questions? Please feel free to refer to the WEGO Health Awards FAQ Page.

Written by WEGO Health
WEGO Health is a mission-driven company connecting healthcare with the experience, skills and insights of patient leaders. We are the world’s largest network of patient leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics.