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Nathan’s journey began in childhood. Just two months old when he was diagnosed with eczema, his symptoms were severe. “I don’t remember thinking about it as a problem when I was very young, I had no other expectations for how things should be,” he said. “But when I was five or six years old, and school started, that was when I began to realize I had some unique challenges.”
Nathan’s severe eczema symptoms persisted throughout his school years. It wasn’t until college that he began to get his eczema under control. today, Nathan’s symptoms are well managed, and he is a third year medical student at the university of Illinois who has served as president of the dermatology interest group for his student body, lead free clinic days, helped launch a national eczema association (NEA) support group, and currently serves on the NEA Board.
Nathan first learned about NEA through Dr. Peter Lio, a member of NEA’s Scientific Advisory Committee. With encouragement and support from Dr. Lio, Nathan teamed up with nurse Erika Czopkiewicz, and launched the NEA Chicago Eczema Support group in 2013. one of NEA’s most active support groups, they meet throughout the year to share information, resources, and experiences with people facing the same challenges.
“One of the most powerful aspects of the support group is when people start to tell their stories and you can see on their faces that they realize they’re not alone,” says Nathan. “The importance of that became apparent at a recent meeting, when a family brought their child and someone asked him why he wanted to come to the group,” he told us, “I wanted to know if there was anyone else like me.’ and then he climbed into the lap of one of the attendees and stayed there.”
Building a community of empowered patients and physicians is a key focus of Nathan’s. “much of what motivates me,” said Nathan, “is going through a tough experience and discovering how much of a difference really good care makes.” a member of NEA’s Coalition for Better Eczema Care, Nathan is also helping develop medical curriculum with a patient focus and promoting a patient-centered approach to care. thanks to Nathan’s leadership, commitment and support, excellent eczema care will become a reality and help improve the health and quality of life for individuals with eczema.
First published in The National Eczema Association 2015 Annual Report