Jessica Grossman is the public face of the Uncover Ostomy awareness campaign.
The campaign began in October 2009 with the goals to spark a positive discussion about ostomy surgery, raise awareness of ostomy surgery as quality of life enhancing and eliminate the social stigma attached to the surgery in general.
The campaign is a partnership between the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS), a North America based non-profit organization and Jessica Grossman. The campaign also allows the United Ostomy Associations of America to use its resources to raise awareness amongst its membership.
Jessica Grossman is a university-aged model, actor and media studies student. She’s passionate about eliminating the stigma surrounding the ostomy and works tirelessly through Social Media channels to engage in the online ostomy discussion. Blessed with a natural ability in front of cameras, Jess has leveraged her modeling skills and openness about her illness to ‘shock’ people into a positive discussion about life with an ostomy.
“Most of my friends and family are using Facebook and other social networking sites to communicate with one another these days. We decided to give them something really unique to discuss,” Jessica explains. “We took some barely dressed photos with my bag completely visible. When people see these images they’re going to be really surprised. I don’t know if anyone has ever shown the ostomy in this kind of light before. A lot of people think of ostomy as an old person’s problem. It’s not.”
“Most people have no idea what an ostomy is. Or if they do, their perception is rooted in misconceptions conveyed to them somewhere along the way. By “uncovering” her ostomy, Jess challenges the misconceptions and stigmas—and leads awareness” said Robert Hill, Executive Director of IDEAS. “For the non-ostomate, this campaign is about “uncovering” the stigma that goes along with having an ostomy. Sexy or not, the campaign is certainly accomplishing its goal—to create meaningful discussion about ostomies. And that’s a good thing.”
The campaign experienced explosive growth in the few short weeks after it went live back in October 2009. Facebook fan growth quickly surpassed 1500, making it the highest subscribed ostomy-related Facebook page in under a month. As of August 2011, fan numbers are over 3150, and the page is a hotbed of active discussion about ostomy related issues for users from around the world.
Jess tells her story on her blog at UncoverOstomy.com. She shares insights into college-life with an ostomy; how she dresses; being at the beach or the pool with her ostomy; and how she handles personal relationships and her ostomy. A confident person by nature, Jessica’s insights into young-adult-life with an ostomy have served to spark positive discussion on her blog and on the Facebook fan page. Her blog has averaged over 5000 unique readers each month and has helped Jessica attract numerous feature stories in magazines and newspapers.
“When I originally started thinking about exposing my ostomy to a large audience, I thought if I showed my ostomy in a thought provoking way, the campaign would get a lot of attention naturally,” explained Jess. “It turned out to be a lot tougher than that. IDEAS helped me get the campaign online, using social media websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, so we could drive our message without having to rely on editors at newspapers and magazines to connect us to their audiences. Because we were able to spark a great deal of online discussion, the mainstream media is now more willing to feature the campaign and my story, which is really helping out with our goal to eliminate stigma outside of the ostomy community.”
Jessica is moving from Toronto, Canada to New York City in September 2011, to begin post-graduate studies in media management. She’ll continue to write blog posts, give presentations and drive the Uncover Ostomy campaign “as long as there’s an appetite for positive discussion about the ostomy.”