It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. This past weekend the executive teams of the nation’s leading celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity organizations (CDF, CSA, GIG, NFCA, ACDA) met in Chicago to define a collaborative effort to support our shared missions of education, awareness, and advocacy. Collaborative members met with Dr. Stefano Guandalini and Carol Shilson of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, host of the 2013 International Celiac Disease Symposium (ICDS), to discuss support organization participation. Dr. Guandalini also spoke of the mission of the recently formed North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease (NASSCD) to raise funds to support fellowships in celiac disease. The NASSCD seeks to recruit young investigators in celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity to augment its maturing physician base.

Understanding that there is strength in unity, Collaborative members began preparing for this momentous meeting with twice monthly phone calls and the engagement of Executive Service Corps (ESC) Chicago to provide strategic planning support. Under the guidance of ESC Chicago, Collaborative members created a strategic plan with a draft mission to jointly support efforts that advance the interests of those with gluten-related disorders. The draft vision is to be recognized as the principal resource for the gluten-related disorders community. Goals include a unified presence at the (ICDS) with jointly sponsored events, distribution of uniform literature regarding dietary and gluten-free lifestyle guidelines, and development of a fundraising program to support fellowships. Collaborative members will continue to meet twice monthly, and in person at the beginning of 2013 and at the September 2013 ICDS.

Our journey of a thousand miles has begun. Whether you are a current member or wish to become one, we need your support. Become a part of this growing collaboration to unite the celiac community. Help us be a stronger force than ever to make life better for those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and those that still need to be diagnosed. Are You The One to take that single step? We want to hear what you think – please write and let me know.

To Our Health,
Marilyn G. Geller