Michael Wood claims he has no plans to run for political office in his home state of Texas. But this 16-year-old Eagle Scout, who has had psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis since he was seven, is already an old hand at talking to politicians and testifying before committees.
In February 2017, Michael was part of a small army of patients, health care providers and NPF staff and board members who went to the state capitol in Austin for Texas Step Therapy Lobby Day. Their goal was to educate state legislators on the negative effects of step therapy and “fail first” insurance policies, and to persuade them to endorse our 2017 step therapy legislation.
For Michael, a big part of the day’s activities was a one-on-one discussion with Speaker of the House Joe Straus. “It helped that he lives near us, and I see him sometimes,” Michael said.
Michael returned a month later and gave a four-minute speech to the Texas state Senate Business & Commerce Committee. “I was a little nervous,” he admitted, but “I just tried to give them my story.” That story includes the impact psoriasis has had on his life and the struggles he has faced in securing the appropriate treatments prescribed by his doctors.
“He has been through a lot dealing with his illness and it has made him more mature than most 16-year-olds, I think,” said his mother, Jodi Wood. “The positive thing is that he knows he can use that experience to help others, which is what we always try to focus on.”
Meet NPF’s new National Youth Ambassador
Michael has been raising awareness and funds and speaking in public in his role as NPF’s regional Youth Ambassador in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The entire Wood family – his father, also named Michael, his mother, Jodi, and his 13-year-old sister, Payton – turned out for the Team NPF Walk in Austin in February 2017. Michael couldn’t walk the entire 5K Walk route because of his psoriatic arthritis, but he rejoined his family before they reached the finish line. They raised $7,000.
In recognition of his efforts, NPF has named Michael the 2017 NPF National Youth Ambassador. The Youth Ambassador program, sponsored by LEO Pharma Inc., gives people between the ages of 12 and 20 the chance to make friends and engage with others who have psoriatic disease. Youth Ambassadors serve as leaders in the community, act as role models to help peers manage and take control of their disease, and inspire others with psoriatic disease to lead confident, healthy and fulfilling lives.
In the coming year, as the new National Youth Ambassador, Michael will get to be a Team NPF team captain, share his experiences with the media and on social media, connect with his fellow Youth Ambassadors, and take part in NPF events such as Be Joint Smart, More Than Skin Deep and our Commit to Cure Galas.
Currently, Michael has been busy distributing flyers to doctors’ offices promoting Team NPF at the Rock ’n’ Roll Series–San Antonio Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K in December 2017.
Michael is a determined young man—who also battles celiac disease, which he’s fought by maintaining a gluten-free diet for seven years and counting. He hasn’t let this or psoriatic disease prevent him from going hunting or fishing or learning to play golf. (His handicap? “I’m working on it!”) He’s sure to bring that determination to his responsibilities as a National Youth Ambassador.
“I’m proud to represent NPF,” Michael said. “I plan to continue to raise awareness for such an amazing organization that does so much to help people with psoriatic disease.”
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.