Stephen Keat was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) just before the 2003 Iraq War. A longtime Foreign Service officer, he had spent a great deal of time overseas, often for months and even years at a stretch. With PsA as his new if unwanted companion, long stints in Asia, Africa or the Middle East would no longer be possible. “The State Department’s goal was to send as many people as possible to Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says. “My PsA made me ineligible for these assignments.”
Keat can easily track the history of his disease by recounting the succession of countries where his career took him starting in 1983, the year he joined the Foreign Service. His first symptoms appeared in Somalia, and he was soon diagnosed with psoriasis.
“At the time, I viewed my skin plaques as a mild annoyance, one that improved when I used the creams and shampoos my doctor prescribed. Then, in Kenya, I developed PsA symptoms, although it wasn’t diagnosed as such until much later. During my stint in the Philippines under the first President Bush, I sought treatment from the embassy doctor for an inflamed finger that had become alarmingly painful and swollen. He promptly administered a shot of hydrocortisone to the joint, and that was that.”
But Keat’s symptoms got much worse after a scuba-diving trip in 2001. He experienced severe back pain for months after his return home. Surely, the uncomfortable beds at the resort were to blame, he thought. But, as it turns out, the beds had nothing to do with it. In 2003, he finally saw a rheumatologist and got his PsA diagnosis.
Keat retired in 2012. Although he may still look back with fondness to his experiences as a State Department economist and diplomat, he now prefers to look forward. And with NPF in his corner, he feels he has a lot to look forward to. For one, he has been using his skills and savvy to influence health care policy, not in far-flung lands but right here at home.
As a volunteer advocate for NPF, Keat has been working overtime to help reform step therapy, a policy that allows insurers to require patients to try – and fail – one treatment before approving their doctor’s original prescription. Keat, who lives in Fairfax County, Virginia, helped persuade his state senator and delegate to pledge to work on this critically important issue. Additionally, he attended NPF’s Capitol Hill Day this past March and is lobbying at the federal level for step therapy reform.
Keat also enjoys being a mentor for NPF’s Psoriasis One to One program. “It’s an intimate form of support, and I’m honored to be on the giving end, having received so much support from NPF over the past 25 years,” he says.
Keat is also delighted to support NPF through an annual donation of appreciated stock. “By donating appreciated stock, I get a deduction, and there’s no tax on the capital gains. Doing it this way also allows me to be more generous,” he explains.
As for why he gives, Keat says NPF is a useful resource for people with psoriasis or PsA. And then there’s the promise of research and its impact on the health of future generations. While none of his children have been diagnosed with psoriatic disease, he says that could change any day. “Just knowing that my support may help children, including my children and their children, motivates me to keep giving and keep going.”
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Photo: Volunteer advocate Stephen Keat (left) with NPF's Senior Vice President of Research & Clinical Affairs Michael Siegel, Ph.D., at Capitol Hill Day 2018
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.