ImproveCareNow Pac_co-chairs


It feels like we've really come full circle

Something that I don’t think a lot of people know is that I recruited Catalina Berenblum (Cat) to join the Patient Advisory Council (PAC), years ago. And now that she’s on-boarded me as the PAC's new Co-Chair, it feels like we’ve really come full circle. If I had known then, what I know now, it would have been an interesting sight to see: a high school freshman leading an orientation call to onboard a future PAC Co-Chair and eventual med student. Obviously, I didn’t know that Cat would become either of those things when I first picked up the phone, but I did expect great things from her right away. From our first conversation, I was sure Cat was going to do something amazing: she became an instant role model to me. That awe I felt was well-founded.


IGNITE – It starts with us.

Christian is co-chair of the Patient Advisory Council and a young black man living with Crohn's disease. He delivered a powerful #IgniteTalk at our Fall 2020 Live Online Community Conference. Read a written version of Christian’s Ignite Talk below:


IGNITE - This community has shaped me deeply.

From her home office, Catalina spoke clearly and with great conviction, delivering her narrative directly to…her computer screen. Many of us have become accustomed to hearing Ignite Talks delivered to a packed plenary room at our in-person Community Conferences – and the effect these personal stories have is often palpable. Though it was not the original plan, Cat’s words flowed from her location in North Carolina across hundreds and even thousands of miles, reaching ImproveCareNow community members as they joined our first-ever Live Online Community Conference from their homes and offices. While the distance between was indeed great – Cat’s words drew us in close and (as Ignite Talks tend to do) reignited the passion we all feel for the work of ImproveCareNow - of improving health and care for kids with IBD. And from across the miles, the effect of Cat's words were still palpable:

“Incredible Cat!! Words do not do justice to what you are conveying to all of us - the village of ICN!”

“Inspiring for us all! Makes you want to try even harder!”

“You are incredible Cat!!! Your strength and advocacy is inspiring!!! THANK YOU!!!”

“I'M CRYING”

“You remind us why it is so worth it to keep fighting and working. Thank you!”

“Cat gives me chills.”

*stands up and claps*

“Really beautiful. As a caregiver, I feel your passion and share your sense of purpose. Very well done.”

Experience Cat’s Ignite Talk:


The PAC wants to connect with you and have some fun together

Hi, it’s Christian – co-chair of the PAC! I’m really excited to let you know that the PAC is once again offering ICN gear in our online shop. This year, we’ve added some new hoodies and sweaters in gray, black and white. And you’ll find some other fan favorites: t-shirts, coffee mugs, pillows, and more! To get your ICN gear, please visit: https://teespring.com/stores/2020-icn-store


Navigating Empathy and Emotional Labor with Patient Advocates

My name is Catalina - I’m a current co-chair of the ICN Patient Advisory Council, a social/clinical research assistant at the University of North Carolina and will be starting medical school soon. I recently gave a presentation at the Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence about emotional labor, empathy and how to navigate these concepts when working with patient advocates. I wanted to share some of my talking points with you here.


PAC 2018 Year in Review

It’s been a busy year for the Patient Advisory Council (PAC). Twenty-eighteen has seen the PAC evolve to be more dynamic and engaged than ever before. The progress and developments made in our group of 50+ patient members include substantial leadership changes and more toolkits than I can even remember. 


Personal experience with nutritional interventions

On June 5, 2017, my single, overweight suitcase and I boarded a plane flying from Miami to London Heathrow. Over the course of the next six months, I shadowed and worked with the IBD Team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, a tertiary children’s hospital in the center of London. As a Political Science major who intends to go into medicine, the opportunity to study how IBD patients were being cared for under the UK’s health system was too enticing.


Being involved is empowering!

When I joined ImproveCareNow about 1.5 years ago, research was one of the primary ways I wanted to be involved. I’ve lived with Crohn’s disease for almost 11 years, and for much of that time research felt like something that happened behind the scenes and was entirely out of my realm of influence. Often research is done to or about patients and families, but very rarely is it done with them. Engaging patients and families in research can not only enhance the research itself, but it can also help patients and families feel as though they have a stake in the discovery of new knowledge about IBD.


Slow Down & Smell the Roses

When parents watch their first child head off to their first job - out of state - understandably there will be hugs, tears, and teachable moments. The night before I left home and traveled 477 miles away to start a job in Atlanta was Christmas. As my girlfriend, Emma, and I were saying goodbye to each other - there were definitely tears. And it was during this emotional moment that my Dad came over and wrapped both of us up in a hug and said, “it’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be okay.” Just another of life’s hard moments, made a little better with the sharing of a little parental wisdom.


PAC 2017 Year in Review

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As the Patient Advisory Council says hello to 2018, we want to take time to reflect on all we accomplished in 2017. From new members to new toolkits, retreats to a redesigned logo – we have so much to celebrate!


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