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Last week, the Peggy Lillis Foundation hosted a historic convening of C. diff advocates and other stakeholders in Washington, D.C. Starting on April 8, PLF brought together 30 members of our Advocates Council from 14 states for three days of education, networking and advocacy. All 30 members either had C. diff themselves or seen a family member suffer or perish from this largely preventable disease. One advocate, Christina Fuhrman, not only survived C. diff herself but battled this superbug again four years later when her 2-year-old daughter became infected. The ground-breaking event made history as the largest single gathering of C. diff advocates in the United States.

Advocates Post-Summit
Advocates Post-Summit

On Monday, April 9, the advocates were joined at the Milken Institute School of Public Health by another 40 stakeholders for PLF’s 3rd Annual C. diff Summit. Participants attended learning sessions headed by leading experts in the fields of medicine, healthcare policy, aging, epidemiology and grassroots organizing. The morning presentations included:

  • The new C. diff clinical and practice guidelines from the Infectious Disease Society of America and the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists of America;
  • An overview of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s healthcare associated infection surveillance and reporting systems;
  • A preview of the Alliance for Aging Research’s forthcoming report on HAIs in nursing homes, and;

    ED Christian with Dr. Michael Mansour
  • An introduction to PLF’s new campaign, Make C. diff Count.

Following the morning presentations, participants enjoyed lunch and the opportunity to network. The afternoon featured three panel discussions:

  • The Future of C. diff Prevention & Treatment;
  • Influencing the Federal Government to Fight C. diff; and
  • Advocating to Win with Authentic Stories

Throughout the Summit, advocates spent time with others who understand the pain and suffering they had experienced. Because less than a third of Americans are aware of C. diff, and the primary symptom of diarrhea is considered taboo, the opportunity to share their stories was powerful. Advocate Bill Beerman, who lost his mother to C. diff, said, “It was one of the more memorable experiences of my long life.”

Panelists Lynn Batshon, Christina Fuhrman and Jeanne Otersen with moderator Hans Johnson (second from right)

On Tuesday, April 10, PLF facilitated the first-ever C. diff Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. Twenty-five C. diff advocates met with 42 legislative offices in a single day. Advocates shared their personal experiences with C. diff as well as facts about and the reality of the disease with an array of senators, representatives and staff members. The advocates also urged action on Senator Sherrod Brown’s STAAR Act and asked for a commitment to maintain or increase funding for the agencies that work to combat C. diff and other HAIs.

Most of the advocates had never met with their representatives before. Despite a few initial nerves, they all took to it quickly and built their confidence up throughout the day. Reliving the pain and suffering that C. diff causes is never easy, but in reflecting on the experience, advocates found comfort in community and shared action:

“Through our pain and losses we have become a family on a mission. I am honored to be part of this mission and

Advocate Rich Dexter with Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen

family.” – Lucy Mead

“For me, the word of the day was ‘empowering.’ You really got to feel like you were doing something concrete. Can’t wait to do it again next year.” – Helen Beigel, PLF Board member

“The visits to Capitol Hill left me with a sense of accomplishment. I know some good was done, by me and everyone else.” – Bill Beerman

“I cannot tell you how impressed I was by the courage of those around me. Some of the attendees were dealing with current health issues – a healing broken heel, GI distress – and yet these beautiful people felt so empowered that they navigated Capitol Hill for the first time. We all went from a bit nervous to further driven, and the platform that PLF provided fueled a fire that will never go out. So, thank you.” – Christina Fuhrman

“I am in awe of the work, the people involved, and the impact that the Peggy Lillis Foundation is having specific to

Teri Hulett speaks with a legislative aide

increasing awareness of C. diff and its effects, changing the landscape in terms of making it not just acceptable but absolutely necessary to discuss in public, and improving outcomes as appropriate antibiotic use is advocated.” – Teri Hulett

The Summit and Lobby Day were a huge step forward in growing the movement to fight C. diff. We now have 45 advocates in 23 states, increasingly engaging in a range of activities to build a world where C. diff is rare, treatable and survivable.

You can find more information about the Advocates Council on our website. You can also check out more photos from the 2018 C. diff Summit and our first-ever Lobby Day.

We are grateful to all the presenters and speakers as well as the Milken Institute for hosting us. We are also thankful to our friends at 2U for providing the live stream of the Summit.

Again, our thanks to everyone who made the Summit and Lobby Day such a success.

Thank You to Our Summit Sponsors!

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  Thank You to Our Summit Speakers and Panelists!

Dr. Mini Kamboj, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center/SHEA

Dr. L. Cliff McDonald, Centers for Disease Control

Missy Jenkins, Alliance for Aging Research

Dr. Michael Mansour, Massachusetts General Hospital

Lynne Batshon, Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America

Bill Franco, Antimicrobials Working Group

Elizabeth Battaglia, TOMI Environmental Services

Christina Fuhrman, C. diff Advocate

Josh Grehan, Finch Therapeutics

Dr. David Hyun, Pew Charitable Trusts

Amanda Jezek, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Hans Johnson, Progressive Victory

Kyle Kinner, Pew Charitable Trusts

Kathy Leith, Rebiotix

Dr. John F. Kokai-Kun, Synthetic Biologics

Catia Matos Ferreira, Pfizer

Jeanne Otersen, American Federation of Teachers

Barbara McGovern, Seres Therapeutics

Rachael Sparks, Xenex

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