I spent the weekend in Washington D.C. at the inaugural Advanced Advocacy Academy (A3) presented by the Global Liver Institute (GLI). I cannot stress enough how much D.C. and its denizens love abbreviations and acronyms. While much of my time was spent stuffing my brain with information about liver health and how to advocate for a cause I am pretty passionate about, I also took the opportunity to do a little sight seeing, and I’ve got the photos to prove it, which you’ll see below.
I discovered GLI on twitter, like you do, and also found out about A3 after seeing a tweet inviting people to apply for the academy. First, a little background on GLI. The Global Liver Institute was founded by Donna R. Cryer, JD, who received a life saving liver transplant over 20 years ago to treat her PSC while she was working towards her Juris Doctorate from Georgetown Law School. If that alone isn’t impressive, you should click on her name to see her other accomplishments. The mission of the organization is: “To improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by liver disease through promoting innovation, encouraging collaboration, and scaling optimal approaches to help eradicate liver diseases.”
I went into this adventure a little unsure of what to expect, but was cautiously optimistic. Within minutes of the meeting kick-off I was suddenly aware that the “Advanced” part of the title of the conference was no joke. After a heart-felt and emotional speech from Donna, my classmates and I introduced ourselves. I was one of the only people in the room who wasn’t already running a foundation or a 501(c)(3) devoted to liver health, but as Donna said to me at one point, it took her 10 years to envision what she wanted her advocacy to look like, and she assured me there’s not a tried and true timeline for this sort of thing.
In a room of about 25 attendees, there were 3 PSC caregivers (including myself) and one PSC patient (Donna), which is amazing considering it’s a rare disease. Other students were liver cancer patients, hepatitis C patients, a Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC, a disease similar to PSC but that disproportionally affects women) patient, two mothers of children with biliary atresia, one who donated part of her liver to her daughter who ultimately died waiting for a second transplant, and another whose daughter is doing great today. There were also NASH and AFLD patients and hemochromatosis patients.
To say I learned a lot over the course of two days is a gross understatement. Donna managed to put together a line-up of speakers that were experts in their field and were able to present complex information in a wholly digestible way. Plus, 98% of the speakers were women and I think I will never accept anything less. The only reason any of these women exceeded their allotted speaking time was because the audience was overflowing with follow-up questions that were graciously answered.
I need time to process and absorb all the information I received during this whirlwind weekend, but in the meantime, here are some photos from my adventures in the city.