Advocate | Writer | Consultant
Hello, I’m a right-brained creative type who has made a habit out of making lemonade out of lemons. I’m a nonprofit founder, a published writer, and a designer as well as a veteran patient advocate. I’ve been a chronic illness patient since 2006, seven surgeries and two diagnoses later, I’m focused on using my experiences to make positive change. I have a vast knowledge of patients, healthcare, and nonprofit organizations. When those are partnered with my digital marketing and branding skills I have the ability to create incredibly targeted materials for specific audiences.
In my young twenties I was handed two chronic illness diagnoses that shook my whole world.
I was alone in my illnesses and did what any good millennial would do and took to the internet for education and support. What I found was not only a community that was endlessly supportive but I also found my voice.
I started blogging in 2006 about my life with chronic illness and my path to advocacy began the first time I hit “publish”. Since then I’ve met thousands of other patients, learned their stories, amplified their voices and done my best to make the world a kinder place to those with disabilities.
I had the privilege of leading the women of Girls With Guts, a nonprofit that I founded to support women living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and each year hosting a weekend retreat to bring them together to foster connections and build support networks. Together we changed the conversation about IBD and ostomies among women and children all over the world.
From the moment I was diagnosed I found myself in the role of “connector”; I wanted to help people find the right resources to ease their journey, whether that be people, websites and platforms to share their story. After connecting with thousands of patients and managing a community of chronically ill people, I’ve learned that together we can accomplish great things when we share our stories and listen to each other.
Everything you need to know to talk yourself into or out of starting a nonprofit
HealtheVoices Conference, Dallas, TX | 2019
Leading Perspectives on Disabilities Reception
Bloomberg, New York, NY | 2017
Advances in IBD Conference
Des Moines, IA | 2016
- HealtheVoices Conference 2019
- HealtheVoices Conference 2018
- Connected Health Conference 2018
- IBD Day on the Hill 2017
- Leading IBD Charities & Organizations | Dec 2018
- A2A Spotlight: Jackie Zimmerman | Jan 2018
- Patient Activation Network: Jackie Zimmerman | Sept 2017
- 4 Reasons UC Causes Fatigue and 5 Ways to Fix It | Sept 2017
- Girls With Guts founder on choosing her health over her nonprofit | Sept 2017
- Girls With Guts Is Paving The Way For Women With IBD And Ostomies | April 2017
- Voices for Change – “Jackie Zimmerman” | Jan 2017
- A Girl with Guts | Aug 2016
- Girls With Guts Turns Niagara Falls Purple | May 2016
- LI Episode #1: #2 (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) | April 2016
- Jackie Zimmerman is Changing Lives With Girls With Guts | Jan 2016
- Girls With Guts founder grows nonprofit into full-time job | Jan 2016
- Girls With Guts creates following, gains traction | April 2014
- Michigan-Based “Girls With Guts” Non Profit to Host Retreat for Women With Inflammatory Bowel Disease | June 2013
- WSU grad co-founds IBD social platform Girls With Guts | April 2013
- Website promotes self-esteem for women with IBD | May 2012
Click each toggle to learn more about me
Girls With Guts
Founder and former Executive Director
In 2012, I founded an organization called Girls With Guts that has a mission to support and empower women living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis) and ostomies. Each year GWG hosts a live weekend-long event where they bring together women from around the nation (and even Canada!) to connect, share their stories and to learn from some of the top medical professionals in the GI and mental health fields. While I am no longer the Executive Director of Girls With Guts, founding this organization was one of my most proud accomplishments and I continue to be inspired by the clientele they serve. I planned and executed five weekend retreats in a new state every year and each time we opened the doors there were so many new faces looking at us with hope and hesitancy but by the end of the weekend, almost every face left with a smile, a support network and people they’d call sisters for life. Over the course of the 5 years I was directing our retreats, we saw over 200 women walk through our “doors”.
The Girls With Guts 2017 Five Year Celebration
Ann Arbor Roller Derby
Sponsorship Chair and President
I have been playing roller derby since 2014 and in my time as an athlete in this league I have not only proven to myself that my body could still accomplish amazing things, but I also was given the ability to learn so much more about participating in and leading groups of women. I began my time on the Board as the Sponsorship Chair and then migrated into my role as President. Working with Ann Arbor Roller Derby was such a different experience than I had with Girls With Guts, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn how different organizations run.
That me, #442 in black, making a jammer very sad.
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation
Camp Oasis Counselor
One of the most life-altering experiencing I’ve ever had was being a counselor at Camp Oasis, a camp designed for children living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I spent one week for four summers in Michigan and one in Wisconsin learning from children who are wiser than most adults I know. Camp Oasis saved my life at a time I didn’t know it needed saving and it inspired me to push forward and eventually to create Girls With Guts in an effort to recreate this experience for adults. Summer camps save lives. I didn’t have IBD as a child, but I felt the same isolation, fear and shame that the kids did. I met people for the first time who understood. I met other ostomates. I met others with j-pouches. I was 25 and will forever be indebted to the children I met. Those incredibly brave and wonderful children changed my life and gave me hope when it felt very hopeless. The counselors that I met, who are dear friends now, continue to inspire and encourage me to keep living my best version of my life.
One of my favorite groups at Camp Oasis
After my first diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, I felt very alone, much like many other chronic illness patients. I felt like there weren’t any resources for me and where I was in my life at that time, so I wanted to create one and it was that moment that my passion for advocacy was born. It was intensified later in 2009 after my ulcerative colitis diagnosis. I’ve had the joy and pleasure of being a patient advocate and have been able to travel across the nation for this purpose. I’ve lobbied on The Hill, attended the HealtheVoices Conference for patient advocates, been on various advisory boards or focus groups and have given a handful of keynote speeches about the patient experience.
Taking my advocacy to Washington!
I am a formally trained graphic designer and have been working as a designer since 2006. Over the years the medium has changed but the principles stay the same. I always try to create timeless design that evokes emotion. I have worked as a brand manager, a digital communications specialist, a social media consultant, and a digital email marketing manager. I have worn many hats in the digital space but they always circle back to making designs with a purpose.
Once I started blogging, I discovered that I really enjoyed creating websites. I have learned the ins and outs of using WordPress to create great sites that are easy to maintain and won’t cost an arm and a leg.
In 2019, I launched a new business, Queen of GSD, which is Getting Shit Done. I help women who want to grow their business elevate their online presence through marketing strategy and implementation.
Recently another one of those 10-year challenge things was floating around Facebook and when I started thinking about what I was doing at this time 10 years ago my heart sank.
We live in a wonderful time where most people have access to endless amounts of information and support. However, if you live in a rural area, you may struggle to find local resources. Here is a list for you! I have compiled resources designed for people with limited...
[dvlabel]In the last few months, I've been writing a letter series for HealthCentral, and my article for this month was a letter to the spouse of someone living with UC. It just so happens this past week I had the immense honor of marrying my best friend, Adam. I...
My Professional Skills
In addition to trying to change the world through advocacy, I also run a business called The Queen of GSD (Getting Shit Done). My focus is on women in service based businesses and supporting them with all of their digital marketing needs.
I also have a background in patient recruiting for partnerships with healthcare companies. I’ve worked with various healthcare companies to help them create materials that are more patient-focused by bringing in the patient voice to their processes.
- Marketing Strategy & Implementation
- Design Services
- Content Strategy
- Website design & maintenance
- Email marketing
- Content Repurposing
- Brand development
- Brand refresh
- Custom branded materials
- Blog content planning & strategy
- Repurposing content
- Developing other platforms for greater visibility