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In March 2017, Kerri Nelson ’09g, ’17g won the Grassroots Student Ambassador Prize at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Student Policy Summit. Since then, Nelson has used the award to continue her advocacy work for awareness of rare diseases and disorders. She took on the role of South Carolina’s State Ambassador in Advocacy through the Rare Action Network to raise awareness and help lead visits to the state capital to discuss House Bill 3323, which would allow payment of insurance premiums and other cost sharing by third parties on behalf of individuals insured by qualified health plans.

“My goal as a Student Grassroots Ambassador is to bring patients and families in South Carolina together to advocate for rare disorder health policy issues we are faced with,” said Nelson, whose son was born with mosaic trisomy 22, a rare chromosomal disorder.

Nelson also created a Facebook page to serve as a platform for the South Carolina rare disorder community to share information on health care issues and events. “The page encourages people to join the Rare Action Network, which provides great resources for advocates and keeps us connected with the click of a button,” said Nelson.

Nelson will also continue her involvement in Rare Disease Day in February by helping to spread awareness of current issues and advocacy efforts.

“We have already made great strides, and I look forward to continuing to be a voice for this underserved population,” she said.

The final report on Nelson’s project was published by the AACN in August. A spring 2017 graduate of Penn State’s doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, she devoted her studies to a systems improvement project to facilitate awareness of and access to resources offered by the National Organization for Rare Disorders. She also holds a master of science degree in nursing from Penn State.