Meeting a Grim Diagnosis Head On—and Helping Others
During the third year of her doctorate work, April Moreno faced a sudden and very alarming situation. She had developed an autoimmune disorder.
Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s defenses attack healthy tissues by mistake; the term refers to a wide range of conditions, ranging from psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis to lupus, multiple sclerosis, and more.
Though her diagnosis didn’t force her to put her academic goals aside, it did change April’s life—and the direction she has taken in her career.
Despite considerable physical challenges (at one point, even temporarily losing her eyesight), April persevered and earned her doctorate on time. Adding to her accomplishment, she is the first interfield graduate in two of Claremont Graduate University’s divisions, the School of Community and Global Health and the Center for Information Systems and Technology.
Inspired by her ordeal and the lessons she learned, April founded the Autoimmune Community Institute, a nonprofit research, advocacy, and support organization for autoimmune health equity.
“An autoimmune diagnosis can come with a lot of stigma behind it,” she says. In the early months of her diagnosis, she remembered struggling as much to find good patient information as she did with fatigue, numbness, and other symptoms.
The institute, she hopes, will help others avoid that experience.
The institute, she says, “answers a real need that people with chronic illness have. Whether we’re in a pandemic or not, people with autoimmune conditions need guidance to keep everything in check. I hope this institute will provide the right kind of help.”
Like others who have dealt with life-altering challenges by meeting them head-on, April’s advocacy work also extends to her weekly podcast for women with autoimmune disorders called The Sisterhood of Limitless Living.
Five years ago, April wasn’t certain that she would survive her condition but dedicated herself to completing her degree and making every day count.
Today, she is drawing on those experiences as well as her degree in Health Promotion Sciences/Information Systems & Technology to find meaningful ways to help people navigate their disabilities and come to terms with chronic illness.
“I think there’s an emerging need in terms of autoimmune awareness,” she says, “and making sure that the voices and experiences of people with diverse diagnoses are being heard—and have a platform.”