2018 Top 10 Rookies of the Year

There are thousands of Patient Leaders working day in and day out to educate, raise awareness and support their patient community. The WEGO Health Awards give us the chance to recognize Patient Leaders across all condition areas and platforms, to ultimately find the top Patient Leaders in each space.

To recognize the Patient Leaders community members endorsed, we’ve compiled the Top 10 Patient Leaders in each category.

WEGO Health Rookie of the Year Award: Every year, more and more health bloggers are excited by empowerment, raising awareness, and helping others. This particular Patient Leader 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:



Effie Koliopoulos 

RA Patient Leader

Facebook | TwitterInstagram

“Hi! I’m a writer, blogger, YouTuber and awareness-raising advocate. I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis 14 years ago. I created my website and blog, https://risingabovera.com to share my journey, patient stories, medical and general information, advice, inspiration, and more. I’m featured on The Mighty, Yahoo Lifestyle, Health Monitor’s Guide to RA, among others. In May 2018, I launched a 3-day awareness challenge on social media called, ‘I Am Keeping It Real With.’ It’s now ongoing and can be found on Instagram by the same name. You can also find me on YouTube at, RA & Myself. “RA may limit what I can do at times, but it won’t stop me from being myself.” Connect with the 2018 WEGO Health Awards Rookie of the Year winner.



Moniqua Demetrious

UC Patient Leader


I was diagnosed with UC in 2010. It was a year after my father died, it was 2 huge life-changing events. Life was hard. My autoimmune disease took a toll on me, especially in the first year. After a year, I was in remission for 5 years. The best 5 years. I moved to California where I went to fashion school to pursue my dreams. With my disease I conquered grieving, getting my BSW, moving to LA, getting my fashion degree, & starting my relationship with my now husband. Life was good thank God. I had the best support team, my family & friends. Fast forward to 2014 I married my best friend. Than life shifted again, my UC in 2016 came back & my journey started again. I now advocate for my journey.” Click to learn more about Moniqua.




Samantha Smith

Rare Disease Patient Leader

Facebook | Twitter 

“My hope is to bring awareness to rare diseases, and how I’ve learned to live with them! I want my story to help anyone who may be struggling, and remind them they aren’t alone. I may not have chosen this life, but I am determined to make something amazing out of it. This year, I started volunteering with G-PACT, a non-profit for those who suffer from digestive tract paralysis diseases. It’s given me another opportunity to give back, advocate, and bring awareness to rare diseases.” Connect with Samantha.


Jamie Teachey-Pylle

Mental Health Patient Leader


“I wrote and delivered my college commencement address. Little did I know that I would be telling people to reach for the stars and a few years later I would be scared to reach for my doorknob. I have Agoraphobia, panic disorder, PTSD, hyperadrenic POTs, Fibromyalgia, and Sjorgens Syndrome ( to name just a few ). But, I’m not my diagnoses. I am a person. I realized that people openly post pictures when they are sick or injured on social media. However, few talk about mental health or a “broken brain.“ I knew I had to do something. I created an online support group for people with Agoraphobia and other mental health issues. I also openly advocate on Instagram and YouTube.” Click to welcome Jamie to the community.




Jason Schutz

Chronic Illness Patient Leader

Facebook Twitter | Instagram

“I am a chronic pain/illness warrior who currently has multiple diagnoses and is also working on trying to live healthier. I recently have had to adjust my life and make changes due to pharmaceutical side effects that make the benefit no longer worth it. I advocate for numerous diagnosis and volunteer with the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association, US Pain Foundation, American Chronic Pain Association, MS Society and a few others. I coordinate a local in person and online support group, as well as an international online group and several other social media platforms. I believe we as patients need to be the advocates to make an impact on the world and bring our issues to life.” Learn more about Jason.




Ginny Silvestro

PCOS Patient Leader

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Ginny has been an active advocate for women with both Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Anxiety over the past 2 years primarily through social media, published articles and support groups, to become a voice for those who are afraid to speak about it. She blogs about her struggles with both PCOS and Anxiety with authenticity and realism. She began an Instagram account for all women with PCOS, called My_PCOS_Body, in order to share, discuss and/or celebrate the good, the bad, and the ugly of living with this illness. She also chronicles about her own journey to better health on her private account so that others can see how difficult it can be, but with effort it is possible. Follow Ginny. 




Kelly Knauf

Chronic Illness Patient Leader


“Hello! My name is Kelly. Here are 3 fun facts about me: 1. I’m in my 20s, but at times (well, most of time), I look like I’m about 16. 2. I love blueberries. 3. I’m an avid Downton Abbey fan (hence, Lady Kelly). I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), and other chronic conditions brought on by MCAS. Although I wouldn’t consider living with chronic illness to be the most fun, chronic illness has taught me how to be a decent human being. Healthcare and advocacy are two of my passions. This year, I started my blog, ladykelly.org, and my Instagram account, @chronicallyladykelly, in order to spread chronic illness awareness. Through sharing my experiences, I hope to help others.” Learn more about Lady Kelly.



Adriana Ford

Breast Cancer Patient Leader

Facebook | Twitter

“I’m the founder of the Breast Cancer Art Project, an online platform for those affected by breast cancer to express themselves through the power of art (www.breastcancerartproject.com). Experiencing any critical illness is extremely difficult and sometimes isolating, but through art I hope the project can help in some small way with emotional healing. I was diagnosed in 2016 with stage 3 breast cancer at 34, and I launched the project last year, a week after my reconstructive surgery. I don’t consider myself an artist, and this project is open to all skill level & art forms. We already have more than 100 pieces of art from women across the world, forming a supportive, expressive community.” Connect with Adriana.




Abby- Owning My Story


Rare Disease Patient Leader

“I believe in the power of storytelling as a means to advocate for rare diseases, chronic illness, and disability. The moments I have dared to be vulnerable with others about my rare disease journey are the times I’ve made the most impact, and I strive to use my story to connect universally with other chronic illness warriors. I’ve also helped others write and share their story through my ongoing “Rare Stories” series, and use my blog as a platform of advocacy. This year I began advocating locally with the Rare Action Network, and have personally testified at government hearings regarding the creation of a Rare Disease Advisory Council at the State Government level in Minnesota.” Click to learn more about Abby’s mission.




Kristin Mini2z

Chronic Illness Patient Leader

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“Hi, I’m Kristin and I go by mini2z (two-zee) online. I’m new to advocacy but I’m advocating for Lupus, Diabetes, Migraines, Chronic Pain, and Mental Health. My Chronic Pain journey started with my first migraine in 1991 In 1994 I developed Hashimoto’s as my first autoimmune disease. I’ve been battling Diabetes T1.5 since 2012 and Lupus started around the same time but I wasn’t diagnosed until 2014. I’ve lost a lot due to my illnesses including my coveted career. I’ve started a facebook group for Lupus support in the Windsor-Essex area with the intent to get a true support group in our area. I couldn’t do anything without my family, my pupalups and even more so my online friends.” Connect with Kristin. 



Help us welcome these rookies to the online healthy community! Be sure to scroll up and follow all 10 Rookies of the Year and see where their journey takes them in 2019!

Are you part of our community? Make sure you’re part of the WEGO Health Patient Leader Network for all the latest opportunities! Sign up here.

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