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Maddie Huwe is an advocate for others suffering with gastrointestinal issues

A local student was recently awarded a $10,000 Salix Gastrointestinal Health Scholars Award, a scholarship she plans to use at George Fox University to pursue a career in nursing.COURTESY PHOTO: MADDIE HUWE - Maddie Huwe of Sherwood was one of 10 recipients nationwide to receive a $10,000 scholarship as part of the Salix Gastrointestinal Health Scholars Program.

Maddie Huwe was one of 10 recipients — among a pool of 150 — who had applied for the national scholarships given out by Salix Gastrointestinal Health Scholars Program.

Huwe, who lives in unincorporated Sherwood, said she was pleased to have received the scholarship, hearing about it through some of the patient communities she works with.

"I have Crohn's disease and a couple of my friends who also have inflammatory bowel disease had mentioned, 'hey, you should apply,'" she said. "I'm just thrilled."

Huwe, 19, attended Newberg High School as a junior before attending Baker Charter Schools College Options where she attended college-level classes at Portland Community College. She just finished up her freshman year of college and now will attend George Fox University.

"My hope is to get my bachelors of science in nursing from George Fox University and from there … the world is so big and so wide and I'd love to eventually get my masters or my doctorate in nursing," she said.

Growing up in the Newberg community, she said she's always known George Fox University as a welcoming and wonderful place to learn.

"I've kind of always seen myself going there," she said. "Of course, I explored other options as well but when it came time to really look into higher education, I was really impressed with the George Fox nursing curriculum."

As a patient with Crohn's disease, she's observed a lot about how healthcare works and hopes to "be able to use those experiences to provide more compassionate care to other people, and also improve the system."

"I've seen both the good and the bad about healthcare and I think that both of those types of experiences can inspire me to do good work," she said.

Huwe, who completed some of her nursing school prerequisites through PCC, has worked as a patient advocate for an organization called Improved Care Now, which is a quality improvement network. She serves as a co-chairperson of the patient advisory council.

"I work on projects. I lead patient groups and there's a lot of mentoring activities that happen," she said. "It's both a place of advocacy so we do patient led projects but it's also a patient community."

As part of her application for the Salix Gastrointestinal Health Scholars, Huwe had to write an essay with a prompt asking her to describe her GI condition and the significance her GI provider has had on her care.

"I described my journey with Crohn's disease -- I was diagnosed at 13 years old -- and both how that has been a difficult experience but also brought along a lot of amazing learning opportunities," she said.

One of those opportunities, she said, was meeting her GI doctor, Dr. David Suskind of Seattle Children's Hospital, who she came in contact with when she was first diagnosed with the disease.

"The second part of my essay I described my relationship with Dr. Suskind and how his role-modeling of compassionate, empathic care has inspired me to go into healthcare as a nurse," she said. "I mean he's just a wonderful human being, but also fantastic clinician. I really do feel that he really encouraged me to use my voice as a patient, and I just became more confident in who I was as both just a normal human being but also as a person with a chronic condition."

Huwe said her battle with Crohn's is different from day to day, going through periods where the disease flares up and causes pain, fatigue and other symptoms as well as periods of remission where the disease is stable and her inflammation is down and she can participate in the activities all her friends are participating in. She deals with it all by taking her medications and managing her lifestyle choices in efforts to avoid flareups.

Robert Spurr, president of Salix Pharmaceuticals, said the scholarship program was created to help students suffering with GI conditions to reach their higher education goals.

"We were moved by the stories this year's recipients shared with us about how they have uniquely had to manage their GI conditions but refused to let the get in the way of their education, and we are honored to help support them," Spurr said in a news release.

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