AbbVie IBD Scholarship recipients empower Canadians living with Crohn's and colitis

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Ten winners embody national movement to take Crohn's and colitis out of the shadows

Toronto, ON - August 9, 2016 - After a demanding selection process, Crohn's and Colitis Canada have awarded 10 students from across the country with AbbVie IBD Scholarships. Each student has strived to sustain a high level of wellness during his or her studies and advocates that others do the same.

"We were inspired by each application and privileged to hear heartfelt stories of courage and determination from across the country," said Mina Mawani, President and CEO, Crohn's and Colitis Canada. "During the selection process it became clear that many young people are actively engaged in their communities supporting others and raising awareness. Their stories reaffirm that our mission to take Crohn's and colitis out of the shadows is succeeding."

Canada has one of the highest rates in the world of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - otherwise known as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis - with 1 in 150 Canadians affected. The conditions cause inflammation of the intestinal tract and bowel, resulting in ulceration, severe pain, internal bleeding and, particularly when the condition is in a flare-up, an unpredictable and urgent need to go to the washroom. Canadians are most often diagnosed between ages 15 and 30.

"This is a critical time in the development of young people and dealing with the everyday stress of school is challenging enough. When you factor in the pain and the stigma that many people living with Crohn's and colitis feel, it can be overwhelming," says Stéphane Lassignardie, General Manager of AbbVie Canada. "The AbbVie IBD Scholarship is designed to assist students navigating post-secondary education and encourage them to pursue their studies while living with these chronic diseases."

Everyone living with Crohn's and colitis has a unique perspective. These diseases often come with complex challenges and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The 2016 AbbVie IBD Scholarship recipients represent an array of experiences as well as challenges that they have overcome. To continue to inspire others, each recipient is sharing their story and journey in their communities and online this summer.

AbbVie IBD Scholarship Recipient Bios

Antoine Lapointe - Université du Québec à Montréal, QC - From a young age Antoine struggled to keep up in school, but he never gave up. He became the first person in his family to be accepted into university. At the age of 21 he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn's disease while studying and working full time. He decided to concentrate solely on school and allow his body to heal. Now that Antoine has regained his health, he continues to focus on his studies in Urban Planning. He believes that sustainable development will help engage future generations.

Azalech Boyana - Ryerson University, ON - Azalech experienced her first life-changing journey when she came to Canada as a refugee from Ethiopia. Azalech was able to become a permanent resident of Canada, secure a job in her field, and was able to volunteer with newcomers who were also struggling to settle in Canada. Azalech experienced her second life-changing journey when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Now, as a student at Ryerson University in the Early Childhood Studies MA program, Azalech hopes to build on her experience and education so she can continue to mentor, empower, and support children.

Caroline Evans - Dalhousie University, NB campus - Caroline Evans, a third year medical student, uses her experience living with Crohn's disease to better relate to patients. Diagnosed at 14, Caroline empathizes with different aspects of living with a chronic disease such as daily symptoms, disease complications, insurance and drug coverage issues, and scheduling required appointments and tests. Although it has been a bumpy road since her diagnosis, Caroline believes that she lives a good life with Crohn's disease.

Darrah Horobetz - University of Winnipeg, MB - Darrah began her journey with Crohn's disease when she was just 13 years old. Since her diagnosis, Darrah has gone on to attend the University of Winnipeg. As a full time student, she also finds the time to work 30-40 hours per week and gives back to the community by volunteering with Crohn's and Colitis Canada. As a fundraising and volunteer coordinator, Darrah successfully organized the Bud, Spud, and Steak event in Winnipeg which raised over $4000.

Jack Kerr - Queen's University, ON - Jack faced several challenges after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 17. Now studying Life Science at Queen's University, Jack aspires to be a gastroenterologist so he can help others facing similar challenges and obstacles. Ultimately, he wants to be an ulcerative colitis success story and inspire others. Jack is also the co-chair of the Queen's Crohn's and Colitis Committee for the upcoming year and raised almost $2,000 for Gutsy Walk. He is also involved with the Kingston Crohn's and Colitis Canada community while at school and the Saint John community when back home in New Brunswick.

Lacy Brandt - Pacific Rim College, BC - Lacy Brandt has to juggle lots of things: from being a full time Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine student, to working part time, to volunteering and maintaining extracurricular activities. After being diagnosed with Crohn's disease and having major surgery, she began volunteering with Crohn's and Colitis Canada. Lacy has been involved with the Calgary and Victoria Crohn's and colitis communities, participated in the Gutsy Walk and in a video presented at the Calgary Gala where she spoke about her experience living with Crohn's disease. Through volunteering, she also received valuable peer support, which provided her with the confidence to reach out and help others.

Luke Knock - Nova Scotia Community College, NS - Diagnosed in the sixth grade, Luke, along with his family, have experienced many health challenges. His brother was diagnosed with Crohn's shortly before him, and his mother and uncle both battled cancer. Luke has had to endure a lot. Despite these challenges, Luke was determined to stay focused on his school work and has been able to give back to his community. He and his family take part in the annual Gutsy Walk and encourage other members in his community to contribute.

Michaelis Hurst - University of Victoria at Aurora College, NT - Michaelis was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 19, but says her experience has made her a stronger person. While living in Winnipeg, MB, Michaelis became involved with the Crohn's and Colitis Canada community by attending meetings, and volunteering at the M&M BBQ and yearly gala. Michaelis was able to find the support she needed and even became her local support group president when she returned to her hometown. Now living in Yellowknife, NT, Michaelis works with local gastroenterologists, nurses, dieticians, doctors, and other members of her community to increase the support in her area.

Rachel Chisholm - University of Guelph, ON - Despite being diagnosed with Crohn's disease over 10 years ago, Rachel made a promise to herself that her disease would not hold her back. Since then Rachel has gone on to complete her undergraduate degree, a graduate certificate, travelled to three continents, advanced in her career, moved twice, and is now finishing up her master's degree. Rachel has also found the time to give back to her community as a member of the Crohn's and Colitis Canada Sudbury Chapter. She hosted the "Let's Do Brunch" program in Toronto, served as the Media Captain for Sudbury's Gutsy Walk (as well as being a Top Pledge Earner!), and spoke at the launch of PACE at Mount Sinai in Toronto, ON.

Shantz Bennett - Memorial University of Newfoundland, NL - When Shantz was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 14 he chose to fight! Through the help of his family, friends, teachers and physicians, Shantz was able to focus on his health and was still able to do the things he once loved. Shantz went on to become a lifeguard, performed with his school's drama group, joined the navy cadets, and was even able to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. By choosing to fight, Shantz has been able to accomplish so much and give back to his community. Shantz believes that his experience with Crohn's has given him new purpose and a positive outlook.

About the AbbVie IBD Scholarship

In its fifth year, the annual AbbVie IBD Scholarship Program recognizes 10 individuals across Canada who are living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Each winner is awarded an educational grant of up to $5,000 CAD. The scholarship is available to students of any age who are enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary educational institution in 2016. Visit for more information.

About Crohn's and Colitis Canada

Crohn's and Colitis Canada is the only national, volunteer-based charity focused on finding the cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and improving the lives of children and adults affected by these diseases. We are one of the top two health charity funders of Crohn's and colitis research in the world, investing over $94 million in research to date. We are transforming the lives of people affected by Crohn's and colitis (the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease) through research, patient programs, advocacy, and awareness. Our Crohn's & Colitis - Make it stop. For life. Campaign will raise $100 million by 2020 to advance our mission. Visit for more information.

About AbbVie

AbbVie is a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories. The company's mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to develop and market advanced therapies that address some of the world's most complex and serious diseases. Together with its wholly-owned subsidiary, Pharmacyclics, AbbVie employs more than 28,000 people worldwide and markets medicines in more than 170 countries. Visit and follow us at @abbviecanada.


For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Adam Bornstein
Smithcom Ltd.

Rasheed Clarke
Crohn's and Colitis Canada
416.920.5035 x. 215

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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