LCA Family Conference: The Role of the Patient Voice

 In Blog

Sofia Sees Hope is holding its first LCA Family Conference on Saturday in Groton, CT. This event is the culmination of our first five years of work and fulfills our mission to connect LCA patients and families
to researchers, industry experts and others who are keenly interested in LCA and and rare inherited retinal diseases.

The goal of this conference is to provide updates about advances in research, deepen understanding of the roles various organizations play in developing treatments, and provide insight into how an active patient community can support and accelerate treatment.

We are pleased to welcome Jamie Ring, Head of Patient Advocacy, Spark Therapeutics; Jill Dolgin,
Head of Patient Advocacy, AGTC; Kristen Angell, Associate Director, Advocacy, National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) to our panel, “The Role of the Patient Voice in Developing Treatments for Rare Disease.”

Kristen Angell took a few minutes recently to chat with us about her work.

Kristen Angell, NORD

Angell’s devotion and exuberance in her work with people with rare disease is literally in her DNA. A graphic designer by trade, life carried her in a different direction when she began volunteering for local non-profits. Shortly after, when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Angell “dove in feet first.”
Then her father was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Her cousin, who is her best friend, has cystic fibrosis, and later her sister was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer.

“Rare disease has always been common in my family,” she said. “Rare diseases in general don’t have a lot of research and funding, so I ran with that and began networking and started learning about rare diseases. I decided I wanted to do more in the community. I had a passion for patient advocacy.”

Before joining the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), Angell got her first taste of volunteer advocacy when she worked on federal legislation resulting in the 2012 Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act requiring the National Cancer Institute to develop scientific framework for pancreatic and other deadly cancers.

Angell, NORD’s Associate Director of Advocacy since 2014, works with rare disease patients, families, industry leaders, medical professionals and legislators spanning the 50 states on public policy and advocacy initiatives to improve the lives of those affected by rare disease.

Angell runs NORD’s Rare Action Network that has 5,000 members nationally and ambassadors in 31 states. NORD, a voice for the 30 million Americans with rare diseases, is the official U.S. sponsor of Rare Disease Day, which takes place the last day of February each year.

She works to empower patient advocates, making sure they have the tools and resources to educate the community and to join the Rare Action Network. She helps advocates set up meetings with elected officials and overcome their fear of talking to policy makers.

She said it warms her heart that she can help her family and others who live with rare disease.
“I literally say I am one of the luckiest people,” she said. “I have the best job and I look forward to going into work each day.”