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Crohn's Ignited Chelsea's Creative Spark

by Jessica December 7 2017 08:47
meet chelsea 180 medical scholarship 2017

Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. All of this year's recipients are so inspiring, and we're excited to let you know more about these bright students and their career goals.

Previously, we've introduced you to Megha and Frank, two of our seven recipients. Today, meet Chelsea! 

chelsea fisk quote 180 medical scholarship recipient

Crohn's Disease Changed Everything

Crohn's disease, a form of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), is currently considered incurable, and it can often be so severe that it drastically reduces the quality of life for those afflicted. You can learn more about Crohn's disease and its symptoms with our recent blog post about Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week.

Before Chelsea started to get sick, her goal was to be a surgeon who would work on patients with cancer and other disorders. In fact, as she first started out in college, she chose to continue to work toward that goal. Soon, however, she realized that her illness was so severe that she would likely not be able to keep up with such a demanding career. "Coming to terms with losing that dream was incredibly difficult for me," Chelsea says.

There would be more challenges before she would see the light ahead. During finals in her sophomore year of college, she had a major relapse with Crohn's disease, and the situation became so severe that she and her doctors came to the conclusion that medication was not going to be enough of a treatment plan for her. So Chelsea underwent a procedure to remove her colon and have an ileostomy created. 

A Turning Point After Ostomy Surgery

As Chelsea recovered and adapted to the new changes, she spent time thinking about what else she could do in the future. During that time, she went back to her childhood hobbies of reading, drawing, painting, and creating other types of art. 

"I began to realize that I should be pursuing the things I had loved as a child, what I had wanted to do before I even knew what biochemistry was," Chelsea says. With that in mind, Chelsea returned to school, enrolled in new coursework, and changed her major to graphic design. 

chelsea art school

Using Art to Increase Representation of the Disabled

As she continued to adjust to life with an ostomy, Chelsea found that there wasn't much information out there about ostomies specifically targeted to children, teens, and young adults. 

"I've experienced firsthand how the lack of representation for disabled kids and teens can negatively affect one's life," Chelsea says. "In an aim to fill this representational void, I create art and media (animation and comics, but mostly illustrated children's books) to help them make sense of their situation. I also use characters with traits and personalities that extend beyond their disabilities."

Chelsea wants those living with disabilities and chronic illnesses to know that they don't have to be defined solely by their condition, and she hopes that her work will help increase representation with them as well as other underrepresented communities of people.

Upon hearing that she was a recipient of this year's 180 Medical College Scholarship, Chelsea honored us with an absolutely beautiful drawing of a bird called a swift, surrounded by laurels with the following message:

"Swifts are notoriously strong and fast birds, small and often underestimated but very powerful. It, along with the laurel, represents the strength and power of my fellow scholarship recipients and all disabled youth. Our strength may be underestimated at times, but we will always persevere despite our hardships and come out on top, wearing laurels of our own."

chelsea fisk art swift and laurels

Truly, we feel so humbled to receive such an inspiring and lovely gift along with such an incredible message. Chelsea, we're sure you're going to go far in life, and we can't wait to see how your art positively impacts the world!

About the 180 Medical Scholarship

College isn't always easy to afford, and we know there are often additional financial burdens on aspiring students who live with medical conditions like spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, ostomies (ileostomy, urostomy, and/or colostomy), transverse myelitis, and neurogenic bladder. That's why 180 Medical created our scholarship program, and we're honored to offer this annually.

Find out more details at our Scholarship page, and watch for coming announcements about the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship soon.

180 medical scholarship program for ostomy sci spina bifida

About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.