About the author: Derek Schmitz is a disability advocate, accessibility consultant, author, and high school student based in Alabama. Derek served as our Outreach Coordinator from October 2021 to November 2022.
November 7th, 2022 was my last day at the Autoimmune Community Institute after 13 months of amazing work with the most dedicated team of hardworking volunteers I have ever met. I was Outreach Coordinator. I wish I didn’t have to leave, I love my position, but I needed to prioritize my energy and refocus on my mental health by getting something off of my place, and ACI was, unfortunately, the position that hit the chopping block.
I remember when I first met our founder, Dr. April Moreno, on October 28, 2021, after communicating over email after she hosted a Fireside Chat at the Inaugural Autoimmune Summit. We instantly clicked and shared so many of the same philosophies when it came to research inclusion and the autoimmune community. I was so eager to start wherever she wanted me that I was introduced to Daniel and Jaideep, the other members of the marketing committee that same day. I started as the social media intern handling Twitter, with my primary goal and responsibility being sharing 1 tweet per day on @ACICommunity from a bank of quotes Daniel developed to improve awareness of autoimmune conditions. My first tweet went up on November 5 and there has been at least 1 tweet/day up on @ACICommunity pretty much every day for the past 368 days.
In Feburary this year, as my role expanded to include outreach with other organizations, developing press releases, volunteer recruitment, and work with our sister organization, my title was updated from Marketing and Research Committee Member to Outreach Coordinator.
In the last 271 days, I have:
- written for our blog twice (check out Crash Course in “Crash Prep” and Vocational Rehabilitation Centers are Useful, Hidden Gems in Disability Support)
- continued putting up 1 tweet per day
- answered Twitter DMs
- facilitated volunteer recruitment and mixing
- assisted with research development
- helped throw together the Autoimmune Health Equity Summit with limited time after technical difficulties almost rendered the event impossible
- put out 6 press releases
- made ACI a partner with CreakyJoints for a #CreakyChats session
- cohosted the LGBTQ Community Awareness for Public Health event with April through the Public Health Podcast and Media Network, and
- done so much other behind-the-scenes work with our amazing team—April, Alanna, Daniel, Jaideep, and Jen—that I’m beyond grateful for.
It’s so bittersweet to be closing this chapter, but I have hope that the amazing team I’ve had the honor to have worked alongside for the last 13 months will continue to thrive and continue our mission of improving health equity in autoimmune research, advocacy, and support.
The work continues, and I can’t wait to see where ACI goes and what happens with this amazing organization even in my absence.
Donate to the Autoimmune Community Institute here.