Presenting the 9th Annual WEGO Health Awards Winners

Each day, there are thousands of patients and caregivers sharing their health stories, raising awareness, and inspiring others to keep fighting for their health. Unfortunately, too often their incredible impact goes unnoticed, which is precisely why we created the WEGO Health Awards. It’s our mission to empower the patient voice, and that includes shining a light on the great work these patient leaders are doing.

Even in our 9th year of the program, we continue to be in absolute awe of the effort, hope and change these patient leaders are creating. With over 13k nominations this year, we’re honored to celebrate more patient leaders than ever before. Across all platforms, channels and health conditions – this year’s nominees were truly in a league of their own.

Our judges had the near-impossible task of narrowing down all of these the nominees! For our first few rounds of judging, members of the online health community volunteer their time to sort through the +13k nominations to just 96 finalists. From there, our industry judges score each finalists to ultimately uncover the 16 WEGO Health Awards winners.

The Celebration Continues…

We may be closing out our virtual ceremony, but the fun is just beginning!

Each winner is entitled to $500 towards their advocacy mission, a seat on our compensated Patient Leader Advisory Board and the chance for industry exposure events over the next year.

Over the next year, we’ll be showcasing the work of all our finalists and collaborating closely with the winners. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and strategies from these top patient leaders. In the meantime, help us celebrate this year’s winners – follow them on social below and give them a shout for their achievements!

Congratulations to all WEGO Health Awards nominees!
Thank you for sharing your story.

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

Gotguts08

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

SixBlindKids

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

Colourblind_Zebra

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

PodcastDX

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

Autmazing

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.

The Patient Perspective: Patient Influencers and The Impact of Authenticity

As any patient will tell you, there’s nothing like out of touch, unsolicited medical advice from companies to get them to slam the door in your face. When you’re sick and you’re trying to decide how to manage it — there’s simply nothing more infuriating than a tone-deaf portrayal of your illness in a commercial or print ad to make you feel alone, misunderstood and unseen.

Just as we demanded that women stop smiling and frolicking in fields during tampon commercials, so too do we demand a realistic representation of patients telling us how to live and cope with different diseases.

Real people, not actors has become a tagline for authenticity in healthcare. As patient consumers, we’ve become conscious of how gratifying it feels to see our stories represented as they are truly experienced. As we become veterans of our diseases, it becomes our duty to light the way for others as they have lit the way for us.

So who do patients want to get their advice from outside the exam room?

Becoming An Advocate of Influence

Like many others, I became an accidental influencer when I started sharing my story through my blog. I was writing about my highs and lows, my hospitalizations, and helplessness as I fumbled my way through a new diagnosis. I talked about the mental olympics it takes to go from being told “this is how you’re going to treat your disease” to taking an active role in planning your treatment with your doctor. I talked about leaving a place of shame and self-consciousness and asserting my voice in the exam room.

I found myself blogging about how if the patient-doctor relationship was a two-way street, we might actually end up where we wanted to go.

Across the internet, my journey was mirrored by cancer patients, autoimmune patients, chronic pain patients–and so many others. It wasn’t long after I started my blog that I was nominated for a WEGO Health Award. A company that celebrated patient leaders and their contributions to awareness, advocacy, and innovation. I found an entire network of patients like me who were utilizing their social platforms to usher in a new era of support for each other.

We were different from the influencers hawking diet supplements and fashion accessories. We were setting the bar for humanizing healthcare and by sharing our reviews, tips, and honest revelations we were creating a new breed of trendsetters: the proactive patient.

In Sickness and in Social Media

When it comes to patient influencers, it’s not the images of airbrushed and toned models showcasing glittery packaging that comes to mind. Patients who follow other patients that they respect and admire are still thinking, I want what it is that they have. It’s just not always as obvious as new kicks or flashy gadgets. How do you showcase quality of life in a 30-second video or a 120 character status?

Often it’s a patient who’s able to say, “I did find support from my doctor when I came to them with my unmanageable symptoms” or “I found the right tools to help me explain to my family and friends how my disease is making life more complicated right now.” Or simply, “I’m not coping well right now, but I’m not ashamed.”

As it turns out, social media really can be the prescriber in how to live realistically with our disease — outside the scope of what our doctors can suggest for us. And I’m not talking about recommendations of literal supplements or diets, but an example of how real diseases progress in the real world. How they touch on our school, work, relationships, sex lives — how they influence our emotions and choices.

There is a bigger story being told in the captions of our fellow patient’s feeds than we have ever seen in the tagline of a magazine ad for our meds.

Social media can give us a matrix of examples for the difficult choices ahead. These stories can help us to understand our symptoms, explore treatment options, and find our footing in a new world of unanticipated personal responsibility.

Yes, we need our medical experts, and we need support, but we also need these influencers as pivotal allies in our journey.

For years they’ve been establishing their presence across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, transcending the role of support group leaders and becoming influencers for their condition.

And now? They’re ready to open their eyes and @’s to collaborations with pharma.

More than Money, Patient Influencers Make Change

It has not been an easy transition for pharma who is often handcuffed by the restraints of highly-regulated industry advertising standards to partner with patients across social media.

Unlike conventional influencers, patient influencers aren’t going to receive coupon codes for their audiences or free samples of medications to try.

The most valuable “get” from their work with pharma?

“A seat at the table,” says WEGO Health Patient Leader Network VP, Julie Croner. “Patient influencers are trying to make the hardships that patients deal with a little easier. If they work side-by-side with pharma, they have the opportunity for their voices, concerns, and ideas to be heard — and to be paid for it.”

Patients who are chosen for influencer opportunities are often paid not only for their social posts, but for their participation in insight groups, one-on-one conversations with pharmaceutical marketing firms, and survey participation.

They bring key concerns from their disease communities to a forum where pharmaceutical companies can make real change.

In return, influencers open their feeds to conversations about new treatment options.

The goal is to give patients the information they need to become advocates for their treatment plans. Influencer campaigns will aim to inspire patient-doctor conversations that have both parties coming to the table with ideas on how to improve quality of life.

This back and forth can spark a proactive patient towards successful treatment and stops them from being prescribed a one-for-all treatment plan.

When asked what action they would take when someone they consider influential shares information from a pharmaceutical company about a specific medication, 87% of consumers said they would ask a healthcare professional about the medication.

Contrary to popular belief, most patient influencers don’t have an ax to grind with pharmaceutical companies. By the time they become the ones to look to, they understand that disease management involves a need for partnerships with prescribers and prescriptions. Medication keeps patients alive and functional, and while no one is a fan of unwanted side-effects or unsuccessful treatment plans — rarely do we fall into the right solution without flexing the muscles of personal medical experimentation.

The Bridge Between Patients and Pharma

So how do patients go from sharing their stories on social to collaborating with pharma goliaths? How do they retain authenticity in their messaging while expanding their personal brands and social audience?

If they were searching for the bridge between the world of patient advocacy and pharmaceutical might, they wouldn’t need to look much further than the community of WEGO Health, a vast network of patient experts, opinion leaders, influencers, and advocates who are given opportunities to collaborate on a professional level with healthcare.

Patients paid attention when the company started recognizing advocates for their contributions through their annual WEGO Health Awards a decade ago. Now the company has grown to support patient leaders in their careers as social influencers by offering free online education, databases of engaged patient leaders to connect and collaborate with, and a gig marketplace where patients can find relevant paid opportunities related to their disease communities.

The company has been a strong proponent for patients getting paid for their contributions to healthcare marketing and will only broker partnerships between patients and pharma companies if the patient makes a profit from their experience and time.

Now, WEGO Health has launched Pharmaceutical Grade Influencer Marketing: a chance for patient leaders to take the next step in helping their dedicated social audiences make smart treatment choices.

The WEGO Health Pharmaceutical Grade Influencer Marketing product offers services that include influencer marketing, social media management, branding, and photo and video production. The company seeks out the top patient influencers across all disease communities and gives them the expert training they need to kick off a successful partnership, including training on adverse events, comment moderation, and content pre-screened by both parties before posting.

With sponsored posts being boosted by WEGO Health’s proprietary algorithm, patients receive a significant boost in views and follows to their social networks — a benefit that will help them reach new audiences and expand their professional careers as influencers.

The Patient Journey Will Always be Real

While other types of social influencers may grapple with the loss of authenticity as they build their personal brands, this is unlikely to be the case for patient leaders. For these social stars, health concerns are chronic and unlikely to be resolved by a high follower count.

We are all brought back to our vulnerabilities when dressed in a hospital gown, when at the mercy of a pre-operative countdown, when staring down two treatment options and looking outside ourselves for support and guidance.

All we have is the roadmaps of patients who have been there before us, and in particular, those who have been brave enough to post to their feeds about how finding their voice brought them closer to the quality of life we all strive for.

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:

NOMINATIONS
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

ENDORSEMENTS
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.

JUDGING
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 awards@wegohealth.com 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?

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

Top 10 | Patient Leader Hero

The 2019 WEGO Health Awards turned out to be our biggest celebration yet! With over 6k nominations and 130k endorsements, we were able to celebrate more Patient Leaders than ever before.

The program celebrates the top 5 finalists in each of the 15 WEGO Health Awards categories, but with so many nominations, it’s nearly impossible to shine a bright light on all these deserving nominees! In hopes of recognizing even more nominees, we’ve compiled the Top 10 Patient Leaders in each category based on community endorsements.

WEGO Health Awards Patient Leader Hero Award

These are a particularly special group of Patient Leaders. Their dedication is igniting change and their impact is indisputable. They embody the spirit of a healthcare influencer and continue to go above and beyond for their communities. These Patient Leaders are truly the heroes of the online health community.


Asa Maass | Autism Patient Leader

2019 Patient Leader Hero Winner

“I’m a dad, husband, video creator, and autism advocate. I started my YouTube channel FatheringAutism almost 3 years ago. My intention was to spread awareness and acceptance while making the world a softer place to land for my nonverbal autistic daughter Abbie. Looking around the internet I found so many amazing mothers advocating for their children but not many dads sharing their story. I decided to make it a point to break the stigma that parenting responsibilities in a special needs family falls mainly on the mom. It didn’t take long to realize the videos we made as a family really helped others.”

Follow this inspiring WEGO Health Awards winner today.


Priscilla Maass | Autism Patient Leader

2019 Patient Leader Hero Finalist

“What started with a small YouTube channel has grown into a social media presence that helps hundreds of thousands of people around the world. I am personally able to form bonds with fellow autism moms and give experience and advice on navigating through things like puberty, meltdowns, bad days, and good ones. I stress the importance of not allowing a bad moment to define your day or a diagnosis to define your life. I help other moms to realize the importance of taking time for themselves and how that makes you a better caregiver.”

Click here if you want to add Priscilla’s positive voice to your feeds.


Kristal Kent | Fibromyalgia Patient Leader

2019 Patient Leader Hero Finalist

“If through my advocacy efforts, I can make 1 person with Fibromyalgia feel less alone and validated, then it gives my pain purpose!”

Learn more about Krista and follow her on social. 


Cassidy Megan | Epilepsy Patient Leader

2019 Patient Leader Hero Finalist

Cassidy Megan created the idea of Purple Day in 2008, motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy. Cassidy’s goal is to get people talking about epilepsy in an effort to dispel myths and inform those with seizures that they are not alone. The Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia came on board in 2008 to help develop Cassidy’s idea which is now known as the Purple Day for epilepsy campaign.

Follow Cassidy on social and let her advocacy educate and inspire you. 


Lara Bloom | Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Patient Leader

2019 Patient Leader Hero Finalist

Lara Bloom is the international Executive Director of the Ehlers-Danlos Society and responsible for globally raising awareness of rare and invisible diseases, specialising in the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, hypermobility spectrum disorders (HSD) and related disorders.

Want to learn more about Lara’s advocacy? Click here.


Kristin Anthony | Cancer Patient Leader

“I entered the healthcare world when I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in 2009. At that time, I was also experiencing breast health issues and my Mom had been diagnosed with her first breast cancer. I felt that something was not right, and started to research and ask questions though I was cautioned against doing that. I happened upon a rare genetic syndrome called Cowden Syndrome which results from a mutation of the PTEN Gene. I met many of the criteria and still had difficulty getting someone to listen. As it turns out, I was right and I do have a PTEN mutation. When I was diagnosed in 2011, there was little to no information or support available. I chose to change that and our foundation was born. Today, we have grown five fold plus since inception and awareness has improved greatly.”

Stay updated as Kristin continues to make a difference by following her.


Melissa Adams VanHouten | Gastroparesis Patient Leader

“After being diagnosed with gastroparesis in February of 2014, I became a passionate advocate for those in my community who feel voiceless and ignored. Currently, as the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders (AGMD) Patient Education and Advocacy Specialist, co-author of the book, “Real Life Diaries: Living with Gastroparesis,” and creator and administrator of several online patient support and advocacy groups, including “Gastroparesis: Fighting for Change,” I spend my days advancing the cause of those who struggle with the sometimes devastating and life-altering effects of gastroparesis and other chronic illnesses. It is my fondest desire to empower others to advocate for awareness, better treatments, and, ultimately, cures.”

Melissa is fired up about advocacy. Follow her on social. 


Caleigh Haber-Takayama | Cystic Fibrosis Patient Leader

“Experiencing the struggles of end-stage lung disease and fighting to breathe every day gave me a new perspective on what is most meaningful in life.” Through Fight2Breathe, she aspires to increase awareness on chronic illness, genetic disease, and organ transplantation, identify and support innovative research, and amplify and focus the community to support those in the fight.

Add Caleigh to your feeds.


Rafaela Estrougo | Epilepsy Patient Leader

“Hi! I’m Rafaela, from Brazil living in LA. Was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 1 year old. Discovered my path is to help and support, but specially spread the word out there. Join the epilepsy community and raise awareness to end stigma.”

Check out the important advocacy work Rafaela is doing. 


April Stearns | Breast Cancer Patient Leader

“Four years after my diagnosis, I launched WILDFIRE Magazine as a way to create community through personal storytelling as it pertains to young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I had no magazine publishing experience but as a writer and editor, I felt called to create a roadmap of sorts, a beautiful resource for others that also served as a break from the noise of the Internet and the medical pamphlets on breast cancer. I felt a strong need to help others heal through the reading and writing of stories.”

Learn more about April and WILDFIRE and follow on social.


Want to be a hero to your community? Following these Patient Leader superstars will give you the inspiration you need.

Top 10 | Lifetime Achievement

The 2019 WEGO Health Awards turned out to be our biggest celebration yet! With over 6k nominations and 130k endorsements, we were able to celebrate more Patient Leaders than ever before.

The program celebrates the top 5 finalists in each of the 15 WEGO Health Awards categories, but with so many nominations, it’s nearly impossible to shine a bright light on all these deserving nominees! In hopes of recognizing even more nominees, we’ve compiled the Top 10 Patient Leaders in each category based on community endorsements.

WEGO Health Awards Lifetime Achievement Award

Each year we come across Patient Leaders who continue to rock the health world. These Patient leaders are true stars who continue to shine and don’t fit into just one category. Let’s face it, they’ve done it ALL!

These Top 10 Lifetime Achievement Patient Leaders are the ultimate #PatientLeader role models:


Tom Kindlon | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Patient Leader

2019 Lifetime Achievement winner

“After being diagnosed for over a year, I realised there was a good chance I was going to be stuck being quite ill & disabled for a long period, possibly indefinitely, a prospect that wasn’t appealing. Moreover, I realised that there wasn’t a huge effort to research the illness well; it wasn’t on the radar the way many other conditions were. I have been busy for the last 23 years working away as a (voluntary) ME activist.”

Follow the WEGO Health Awards winner on social!


Kristal Kent | Fibromyalgia Patient Leader

2019 Lifetime Achievement Finalist

“I spent many years navigating the healthcare system to get an appropriate diagnosis, find knowledgeable treatment specialists, sift through misinformation about my medical condition and overcome the stigma of Fibromyalgia being a “fake disease” or it being “All In My Head.” My experiences led to frustration, and years of time wasted, With countless emergency room and hospital trips and very few treatment options. From my personal experiences I decided I could do one of two things: Wallow In Pity or Use My Experiences to be a Positive Agent of Change for the Fibromyalgia Community!”

Learn more about this positive Patient Leader and follow her social


Sharon Coyle-Saeed | IBD Patient Leader

2019 Lifetime Achievement Finalist

“Sometimes we go through things and think why? Why is this happening to me? If we think less on the where we will end up and focus on the journey, we may be open to the life lessons in the adversity.”

Find out about Sharon’s thoughtful journey by clicking here.


Cathy Chester | Multiple Sclerosis Patient Leader

2019 Lifetime Achievement Finalist

“I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 27 in 1986. There were no approved medications or internet. I was scared and angry. My doctor said go home, rest and wait for another flare to call him some steroids. Then and there I decided my life’s goal was helping others with MS feel less alone, and empower, educate, and inspire them to live a positive life. My mission to help others is my passion. When followers say I’ve made a difference in their life I am on cloud nine!”

Add Cathy to your feeds and be inspired by her passionate advocacy.


Jenni Grover | Chronic Illness Patient Leader

2019 Lifetime Achievement Finalist

“I was 25 when my world was turned upside down by fibromyalgia, anxiety, asthma, and a handful of other chronic conditions. Since 2005, I’ve used my experience to build an online community for women with chronic illness who want to feel empowered despite serious illness—and taught thousands of women how to take charge of their lives through my website, videos, and speeches around the world.”

Keep up with Jenni’s advocacy efforts.


Colleen Beener | Gastroparesis Patient Leader

“Going from having a vibrant career to being too ill to work was very difficult. By helping to develop awareness and advocacy programs for other patients, I was able to channel my professional skills into something useful.”

Learn more about the important advocacy work Colleen is doing.


Lisa Deck | Stroke & Moyamoya Disease Patient Leader

Lisa is a seasoned advocate, motivational speaker and Co-Founder of Sisters@Heart Foundation. a nonprofit whose mission is to improve the lives of those affected by heart disease and stroke. For years, Lisa has engaged as an advocate, lobbyist and volunteer with the American Heart Association and has served as a Go Red for Women National Spokesperson. With her first being 20 years ago, Lisa has survived four strokes and was finally correctly diagnosed with Moyamoya Disease after her last stroke four years ago. Lisa underwent double brain surgery to treat her rare disease far from home to restore her health. Today, Lisa speaks all over the country as a motivational survivor, patient advocate and stroke and heart health ambassador with hundreds of media engagements under her belt. She is also involved as a rare disease advocate with the Moyamoya Foundation & Rare New England.

Want to be updated on Lisa and her advocacy? Add her to your feeds!


Greta Stifel | Rare Disease Patient Leader

“I am using my personal medical experience as a catalyst for positive change and outcomes. My compassion for my fellow human to not let what happened to me ever happen anyone is one of my purposes and mission. I suffer horribly and it did not have to be this way. I am doing all that I can as quickly as I can in the most strategic ways so as to make a difference and bringing forth critical mass awareness of this cancer and educating physicians, medical community at large and the public at large in this process.”

Click here to see how to follow Greta.


Kneeshe Parkinson | HIV Patient Leader

Kneeshe Parkinson is a motivational speaker, Certified Life Coach, Trainer, Facilitator, Activist, and Founder of KneesheSpeaksSTL~2018. She is an active member of the Positive Women’s Network USA-Missouri State Lead. As an active member, she was invited by Dr. Laura Cheever Deputy Associate Administrator and the Chief Medical Officer of the HIV/AIDS Bureau at Health Resources and Services Administration “Catalyzing Success: Advancing Innovation, Leverage Data, Ending the HIV Epidemic” for people fighting against the disease of HIV. In addition, she attended a luncheon hosted by the Mind, Body, and Spirit with Saint Louis County Health Department for National HIV/AIDS Aging & Awareness Day. Kneeshe was selected to receive the HIV 50 + Scholarship to attend the United States Conference on AIDS 2018 in Orlando, Florida along with being a part of the Host Committee.

Stay updated on Kneeshe’s advocacy by adding her to your feeds.


Alicia C. Staley | Cancer Patient Leader

For more than 20 years, Alicia has been passionately making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of patient’s around the globe. Drawing from her experiences as a patient in hospitals, clinics, and cancer centers Alicia has coupled her extensive background in engineering and technology and developed a reputation as a patient advocate that can bring innovative solutions to complex problems.

Check out the advocacy work Alicia is doing and follow her.  


These Patient Leaders have accomplished a lot as advocates and show no signs of slowing down. Don’t forget to follow them!

Top 10 | Healthcare Collaborator

The 2019 WEGO Health Awards turned out to be our biggest celebration yet! With over 6k nominations and 130k endorsements, we were able to celebrate more Patient Leaders than ever before.

The program celebrates the top 5 finalists in each of the 15 WEGO Health Awards categories, but with so many nominations, it’s nearly impossible to shine a bright light on all these deserving nominees! In hopes of recognizing even more nominees, we’ve compiled the Top 10 Patient Leaders in each category based on community endorsements.

WEGO Health Awards Healthcare Collaborator Award

These Patient Leaders understand healthcare from the patient perspective, but they are also professionals with the skills and ability to help companies advance their most critical patient-facing initiatives. Speaking at conferences, consulting with healthcare companies, using their education to help make a change in the healthcare industry – these Patient Leaders are bridging the gap between industry stakeholders and healthcare consumers.


Melissa Talwar | Fibromyalgia Patient Leader

2019 Healthcare Collaborator: Patient Winner

Melissa’s advocacy work started in the early 2000’s, and she was part of the first Fibromyalgia group in Sacramento for the first Fibromyalgia Proclamation. That day ignited a passion to pursue advocacy work and find better answers for the Fibromyalgia community. She continues to bring Fibromyalgia education to patients across the country and to legislators at Capitol Hill. Be sure to connect and she’ll see you on the road!

Follow the WEGO Health Award winner on social.


AutonomicRN | Dysautonomia Patient Leader

2019 Healthcare Collaborator: Patient Finalist

“RN turned full time patient. After Dysautonomia turned my life upside down, I was forced to figure out the new normal. While each day constantly brings change and unpredictability, I’ve been able to use my experiences to give a voice to those who don’t have one. Through blogging, online advocacy, and serving on a National Leadership Team for a nonprofit as Medical, Clinical Liaison and also on their Advocacy Team, my voice now reaches individuals globally. While I loved bedside nursing, I never thought about the reach that I possibly could have on a global level. Connecting with so many patient leaders, advocates, and members of health care teams has been invaluable and has allowed me to forge new relationships that I never thought was possible.”

It’s with a heavy heart we share Kim has since passed, but please learn more about her journey and become inspired by her work.


Stacy Hurt | Cancer Patient Leader

2019 Healthcare Collaborator: Patient Finalist

“I am a passionate, outspoken health care strategist and activist. Having been a healthcare executive for 20+ years and advocating for both my disabled/special needs son and myself as a stage IV colorectal cancer survivor, I understand the need for connection and collaboration between health care professionals and patients. Empathy and communication are greatly lacking, and I am the authentic voice to bridge that gap. I am particularly interested in survivorship, invisible disabilities, patient centricity, and #doingawareness (as opposed to just “raising” awareness).”

Add Stacy to your feeds to stay updated on her advocacy.


Brianna Cardenas | Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Patient Leader

2019 Healthcare Collaborator: Patient Finalist

“As a Physician Assistant with EDS and a CSF leak, my goal is to raise awareness about these conditions both online and amongst my colleagues in the medical field. I now work as a professor in a PA program and teach my students about EDS, CSF leaks, and other chronic illnesses and how they impact patients. I am grateful for my perspective from both sides of the stethoscope and will continue to advocate for better healthcare for all of us!”

Learn more about the important work Brianna is doing and follow her on social. 


Liz Kennerley | Rare Disease Patient Leader

2019 Healthcare Collaborator: Patient Finalist

“I’m a mitochondrial disease patient and volunteer federal health policy lobbyist. My primary focus will always be rare disease legislation. However, in order to completely advocate for the 1 in 10 Americans with a rare condition other areas of health policy had to become a priority. While the legislative priorities are to help patients like all of us, the angle, legislation, and discussion are different each time. On the Hill, I have advocated alongside pharmaceutical CEOs, scientists, doctors, and patients.”

Check out Liz’s advocacy on Capitol Hil and beyond. 


Amanda Greene | Lupus Patient Leader

“As a Patient Leader, Amanda encourages other people to become your own best advocate and start by sharing their story to impact and inspire healthcare organizations to collaborate with patient communities. Amanda is known for sharing her personal healthcare experience wherever she is – whether on stage (as a keynote speaker or panelist), writing a guest post for a national healthcare organization or online.”

Follow Amanda on social.


Paolo Maccallini | ME/CFS Patient Leader

“A lot of patients have asked me why I use my little energies to study my disease, instead of just waiting for science to conquer it.There are many reasons, the first one being that I am desperate because of the cognitive disability that is worse than death. I am not concerned about the physical limitations, at all, even though I have been mostly housebound for the last 20 years. Another reason is that I like computational biology, and I started studying engineering before getting sick with the idea of switching to bioengineering after graduating. So, this is my job.”

Stay updated about Paolo’s advocacy work.


Barby Ingle | Chronic Pain Patient Leader

Cheerleader of HOPE – Barby Ingle, BSc, is an Amazon bestselling author, reality television personality, and president of International Pain Foundation (iPain) sharing her powerful story about life-changing events that forced life reflection, purpose, and her journey from wheels to heals. Barby has a degree in Social Psychology from George Mason University and more than 20 years of living with chronic pain and 30 years of motivational speaking experience.

Want to learn more about Barby? Click here to follow her on social. 


Tom Kindlon | ME Patient Leader

“After being diagnosed for over a year, I realised there was a good chance I was going to be stuck being quite ill & disabled for a long period, possibly indefinitely, a prospect that wasn’t appealing. Moreover, I realised that there wasn’t a huge effort to research the illness well; it wasn’t on the radar the way many other conditions were. I have been busy for the last 23 years working away as a (voluntary) ME activist. Much of what I concentrated on in the early years was raising awareness & understanding in Ireland with the Irish ME/CFS Association. I have done around 50 media interviews & have been featured in most of the national newspapers in Ireland. I have written dozens of press releases & have helped arrange for around 130 Irish families affected with ME to tell their story over the years in over 400 interviews. A lot more people are diagnosed here now & attitudes have improved.”

Follow Tom to be educated and inspired.


Brooke Schnittman | ADHD Patient Leader

Brooke Schnittman, MA, ACC, BCC, has been nominated for multiple awards including “Best In Show Community” and”Advocating For Another.” She is the creator of What’s Next and ADHDEdCamp. When working with clients, it is Brooke’s mission to empower them to achieve their personal goals and break through the obstacles that seem to be holding them back in life.

Add some inspiration to your feeds by following Brooke.


Top 10 | Hilarious Patient Leader

The 2019 WEGO Health Awards turned out to be our biggest celebration yet! With over 6k nominations and 130k endorsements, we were able to celebrate more Patient Leaders than ever before.

The program celebrates the top 5 finalists in each of the 15 WEGO Health Awards categories, but with so many nominations, it’s nearly impossible to shine a bright light on all these deserving nominees! In hopes of recognizing even more nominees, we’ve compiled the Top 10 Patient Leaders in each category based on community endorsements.

WEGO Health Awards Hilarious Patient Leader Award

Advocacy doesn’t have to be all business and raising awareness doesn’t have to be all work. The truly funny Patient Leaders among us bring a lightness to the online health community. They address serious subjects with humor – and we love them for it. They may be witty, sharp, dry, or just have a way to tell a story that is truly funny.

Whether you’re looking for a dose of daily laughter or hoping to connect with new Patient Leaders in the space, take a moment to meet and follow the Top 10 Hilarious Patient Leaders of the online health community.


Double Baggin’ It | IBD Patient Leaders

2019 Hilarious Patient Leader Award Winner

Danielle Gulden and Joe Teeters are IBD warriors and permanent ileostomates. They’re comedians, speakers, advocates and Two Best Friends without Buttholes! Joe and Danielle met through an ostomy support group and realized that they not only had a similar health journey, but also shared the same sense of humor and positive outlook on life. They became best friends, and soon after, Double Baggin’ It was born! DBI is their vehicle to spread awareness and advocate for patients living with inflammatory bowel diseases and ostomies. Danielle and Joe use their humor, wisdom, and stories to connect with and support other people living with ostomies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease! They believe in the power of humor, advocacy and awareness!

Learn more about Double Baggin’ It and follow the WEGO Health Awards winners now.


Myisha Malone | Crohn’s Disease Patient Leader

2019 Hilarious Patient Leader Award Finalist

“I became an advocate after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and than diagnosed with crohn’s disease in 2016 I almost lost my life twice due to this horrible disease I believe that everyone needs someone they can count on to help them through this tough tile being newly diagnosed or a professional patient accurate information is key with my support group on facebook @gmaeofcrohnsandchronicillness my goal is to raise awareness as much as possible so no one feel as alone as i felt when i was first diagnosed i love being an advocate for others”

Stay up to date with Myisha and her advocacy.


Kimberly Elayyne | Ankylosing Spondilitis Patient Leader

2019 Hilarious Patient Leader Award Finalist

“I knew that I couldn’t be the only one experiencing this so I decided to make a change the best I could. I began being an advocate in 2016 when life hit me hard. The only thing I knew how to do that saved me from the pain, was to encourage others. I want to leave this world and people better than I found it.”

Follow Kimberly on social.


Naunie Harris | Chronic Pain Patient Leader

2019 Hilarious Patient Leader Award Finalist

“I’m a 19 year old nursing student and worship leader! I have been diagnosed with multiple chronic illness’s since I was 11 and have had 12+ procedures. I have a feeding tube so I guess you could say i’m a “cheap date”! I’m currently in nursing school online as well as writing a book to be released in 2020. I share my journey through social media with humor and how being sick has changed my view on life!”

Add Naunie’s hilarious voice to your feeds.


Psoriatic Pstandup | Psoriasis Patient Leader

2019 Hilarious Patient Leader Award Finalist

“Psoriasis is a serious disease, but that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves too seriously!
My name is Chris, and my wife and I founded Psoriatic Pstandup in 2016. I use humor to relate to others with psoriatic disease.”

You don’t want to miss out on this funny approach to advocacy!


Nicole Sigur | Cystic Fibrosis Patient Leader

“Hey there! Nicole, otherwise known as @cystic4real or “gross she’s coughing a lot”. Cystic Fibrosis patient and advocate. Double lung transplant recipient 6/14/19. 5 foot with male lungs; sorry gentlemen, I’m taken. Married 6/1/19 to best IT guy ever (if you had any question that I’m a multitasker). Mixed raced mamas girl; Ravenclaw; Capricorn. Self proclaimed comedian.”

Find out more about Nicole and add her to your feeds.


Bev ‘YumaBev’ Ribaudo | Parkinson’s Disease Patient Leader

“I have had Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (PD) for 20+ years and use laughter and humor to treat myself and educate others about PD. I write a blog called Parkinson’s Humor and also authored a book with the same title (available on Amazon.) I write and perform PD song parodies, even though I know I can’t sing!”

Join YumaBev in laughing at Parkinson’s.


Ken Taylor | Chronic Pain Patient Leader

Ken Taylor is a caregiver for his wife who lives with multiple chronic pain conditions. Ken is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and vice-president of the International Pain Foundation. He is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics, graphic designer, and reality personality.

This funny caregiver is someone you’ll want to add to your feeds!


Keeya Steel – Hell’s Bells and Mast Cells | Chronic Illness Patient Leader

“When you become allergic to chocolate, alcohol, and sunshine, you absolutely learn to cope through humor. Hell’s Bells and Mast Cells is a blog and collection of memes raising awareness about chronic illness, disability, and mast cell disease. Sometimes my humor is as dry as my eyeballs after three Zyrtec. I also am diagnosed with EDS and POTS, but I don’t want to come across as a show off.”

Click here to follow this hilarious advocate.


@TheCancerPatient | Cancer Patient Leader

While cancer is no joke, @Thecancerpatient uses social media provides a funny and therapeutic way to look at the cancer journey. His content is relatable to cancer patients and survivors of all types and stages as well as caregivers and medical providers. This satirical look at life as a cancer patient offers necessary moments of laughter along the cancer journey.

Add some laughter to your feed by connecting with @TheCancerPatient.

 

Top 10 | Rookie of the Year

The 2019 WEGO Health Awards turned out to be our biggest celebration yet! With over 6k nominations and 130k endorsements, we were able to celebrate more Patient Leaders than ever before.

The program celebrates the top 5 finalists in each of the 15 WEGO Health Awards categories, but with so many nominations, it’s nearly impossible to shine a bright light on all these deserving nominees! In hopes of recognizing even more nominees, we’ve compiled the Top 10 Patient Leaders in each category based on community endorsements.

WEGO Health Awards Rookie of the Year Award

Every year, more and more health bloggers are excited by empowerment, raising awareness, and helping others. This particular group of Patient Leaders just started their blog, site, or community work this year and are already making a huge impact. Though they’re new to the scene, they show a ton of promise and are, without a doubt, going to do amazing things in the future.

Help us welcome these Top 10 Rookies of the Year to the online health community:


Emily Garnett | Breast Cancer Patient Leader

2019 Rookie of the Year Winner

“I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 32, the same week my son turned two and my husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. (Big week for our family). After my diagnosis, I began blogging about my diagnosis, treatment, and thoughts about all of it. I found that there needed to be further conversations about the nuances of life with/around cancer, and started my podcast, The Intersection of Cancer and Life, in 2018. Since my diagnosis, I have been a corporate speaker, program organizer, advocate, and collaborator for a number of research and community groups relating to metastatic breast cancer. While I was busy with all of that, my cancer was also quite busy, and spread from my bones to my lung, liver, and brain. Despite being composed of mostly tumor at this point, I continue to blog, podcast, and talk everyone’s ear off about the need for research, advocacy, and better understanding of metastatic cancer.”

It’s with deep sadness we share Emily passed away in early 2020, read more about her legacy here.


PodcastDX | Rare Disease Patient Leader

2019 Rookie of the Year Finalist

“Many Americans turn to friends and family for support and advice when they have a health problem. Since people’s networks are expanding to include online peers, particularly in the crucible of rare disease, we decided to implement a podcast series to interview and discuss various diagnoses with actual patients. Health professionals remain the central source of information for most Americans, but “peer-to-peer healthcare” is a significant supplement. We are just entering our second year, but the impact we are making shows with our ever growing listener base. Our numbers are fast approaching 10,000, and we are picked up in dozens of countries! We hope to continue this growth as we add a new arm to our company, bringing mental health into clearer focus.”

Add PodcastDX to your feeds to stay on top of their advocacy.


The Living Tree | Fibromyalgia Patient Leader

2019 Rookie of the Year Finalist

“Helping others is something I have always been passionate about so when I started accumulating all this knowledge and tips and tricks, I knew I had to share it with others. Just like that, my YouTube channel The Living Tree was born! I love being able to share everything that I’ve learned so far and sharing my experiences with others who may need that information the most. My goal is to continue to better myself, to keep growing and learning, to continue to share my truths about life with Fibromyalgia through the good days and bad days, and to always be there for my fellow spoonies.”

Brighten up your feeds by following this passionate fresh voice.


Mia Gaudenzi | Cystic Fibrosis Patient Leader

2019 Rookie of the Year Finalist

“My story begins the day I was born although no one knew it yet, I was incredibly ill. At 3 years old I began getting frequent pneumonia’s and doctors couldn’t figure out why I was so unlucky. Mom and I would make regular trips to the ER for answers and receive the same answer over and over “your daughter is fine, she’s just caught a virus, don’t worry too much” so after many google searches and symptom checkers my mom had unofficially diagnosed me with life threatening, terminal Cystic Fibrosis. Later on genetic testing would confirm that diagnosis and my life changed forever!”

Learn more about this young leader and her advocacy.


Fab Fertility with Blair Nelson | Infertility Patient Leader

2019 Rookie of the Year Finalist

“My husband and I began trying to grow our family when we got married two years ago. Being the impatient woman I am, after 6 months of BFNs (big fat negative tests), I had to be proactive. After very basic and preliminary testing we found ourselves with a challenging infertility diagnosis and in a Reproductive Endocrinologist’s office with IVF as our only option to start a family. Marital bliss was slapped in the face with infertility reality. After our first round of IVF we were able to make 4 viable embryos to transfer. Our first attempt and our second ended in miscarriage. The miscarriage was what finally shook me to my core. My heart was broken, I was lonely and confused. I had no where to turn. So I did what anyone in this day and age would do… turned to the internet! I started Fab Fertility to find community and cope. That quickly turned into a passion to help educate and encourage others so they never felt how I did. I’m still in the middle of my journey but I feel a sense of purpose from it all and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to advocate for others trying to make their dreams of a family come true.”

Find education and encouragement by following this inspirational leader.


Rafaela Estrougo | Epilepsy Patient Leader

“Hi! I’m Rafaela, from Brazil living in LA. I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 1 year old. Discovered my path is to help and support, but especially spread the word out there. Join the epilepsy community and raise awareness to end stigma. Epilepsy doesn’t define me. And it doesn’t define you either!”

Learn and grow along with Rafaela by adding her to your feeds.


Myisha Malone | Crohn’s Disease Patient Leader

“I am dedicated to helping raise awareness for Crohn’s disease and all chronic illnesses and I run a support group on facebook called @gameofcrohnsandchronicillness. My goal is to raise awareness as much as possible so no one feel as alone as I felt when I was first diagnosed. I love being an advocate for others.”

Love to be educated and inspired? Click here to follow Myisha.


Ellen Bookman | Parkinson’s Disease Patient Leader

“It took a Parkinson’s diagnosis to realize I have a gift. The other day, John, one of my boxer friends, said to me ‘thanks for being my friend and making my situation easier.’ To anyone who will listen, here’s my message — Get up. Get up now, and don’t wait for a diagnosis to change your life. And, if you happen to get a life changing diagnosis, my advice is to LIVE. JUST LIVE!!!!”

Check out Ellen and her positive advocacy.


Jamie Teachey-Pyle | Chronic Illness and Mental Health Patient Leader

“Before I became disabled I was a teacher. I will teach forever. I will teach people to advocate. I will teach people to KNOW THEIR patient rights. I will be an unpaid patient advocate. It took 30 years for me to get a diagnosis. I will teach people to advocate so this does not happen to them.”

Stay updated on Jamie’s incredible advocacy by following her.


Fabulous and Fatigued – Sara Naveed | Fibromyalgia Patient Leader

“It’s difficult having an invisible illness – being in a place where nobody can ever tell how it impacts you on a daily basis, yet it affects every single decision you make in your life. I’ve come to realize that I consider it to be a blessing, and a curse at the same time.”

Click here to learn more about Sara and to add her to your feeds.


These rookies are ready for the big leagues. Don’t forget to follow them!