April Moreno

Founder of the Autoimmune Community Institute

Dr. April Moreno is an entrepreneur and nonprofit founder with a PhD in public health and informatics. She works as a business consultant in strategic planning, implementation and health IT patient/user experience. She the founder and CEO of the Autoimmune Community Institute, dedicated to autoimmune health equity in research, advocacy, and support, hosts the podcast, the Sisterhood of Limitless Living and is based in San Diego, CA. She consults in health IT, strategy, and usability research through www.aprilmorenoconsulting.com The nonprofit organization is at www.acicommunity.org and her podcast is at www.sisterhoodoflimitlessliving.com. Dr. April is on twitter @apmoreno2011.

Where did the idea for Autoimmune Community Institute come from?

The idea for the organization came from personal experiences of being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition during my PhD and the difficulties in navigating the new diagnosis and this new field of chronic illness that we rarely spoke about in public health. We usually researched type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but I knew almost nothing about autoimmune diseases. Finding out that collectively, all autoimmune diseases outnumber the prevalence of cancer in the United States, I realized that we were at the beginnings of discussing this side of chronic illnesses that tremendously impact quality of life. In the field of public health, health equity has become an emerging focus, as we look at health disparities and populations left behind in healthcare. I saw these same gaps in the autoimmune community and in meeting others, found that people of color were missing from many discussions, clinical trials, and online patient communities. Now that this became personal, I saw this need in a new way while combining my research background. I founded the Autoimmune Community Institute to build the infrastructure for diverse patient voices to be included in the larger autoimmune conversations in online patient research networks, new health IT apps, and inclusion in research. As our board of directors includes diverse public health professionals, we are dedicated to building community based participatory research in our organization model.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I like the fact that each day is different. I like variability in my schedule and meeting new people. I also enjoy checking in with my committee members to hear about their lives, their ideas, and news updates. As an entrepreneur I stay focused on the tasks for the day and can see progress daily in this way. Without listing my tasks and progress, it is difficult to see why I am tired at the end of the day without knowing what has been accomplished.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by asking questions that I wonder about. What if the medications and technologies do not meet the needs of the underserved and underrepresented? How can we ensure that diverse patients are part of usability studies, clinical trials, and patient needs conversations? Being an organization that is by, for, and about autoimmune diversity and inclusion, we are perhaps in a unique situation as researchers to be able to ask these questions and to guide the inclusion of diverse patients in these discussions. I enjoy working on topics that are exciting to me. Building community programs, outreach, and finding ways to stay connected to the people we serve.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I am glad to see racial justice as an emerging discussion this year and there has been some progress, but there is still such a long way to go. I am excited that my work and the Autoimmune Community Institute exist for a time like this.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Making time for nature, rest, and breaks.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Always trust your feelings, be open to seeking help whenever, wherever you can find it, and never give up.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Autoimmune disease did not steal my life away but brought me a new perspective. It gave me the gift of appreciating life and what I can do each day. It connected me to new communities and I have met amazing people who are living with focus, joy, and motivation, despite health challenges.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

As an entrepreneur I stay focused on the tasks for the day and can see progress daily in this way. Without listing my tasks and progress, it is difficult to see why I am tired at the end of the day without knowing what has been accomplished.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Stay focused, keep moving forward each day with even the smallest step.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I think that failure is a normal part of anyone’s life when they are seeking progress. It is just one of the falling down moments. There is a lesson in each failure and it’s important to keep standing back up and then walk, then run.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

It is about leadership and humility. The research out there is pretty solid that humility is the greatest leadership skill to have. Being able to learn from others and make space for them to carry forth the shared vision in their own way will build a strong business culture.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The first batch of supplies for the Autoimmune Community Institute to distribute COVID care packages. As part of the autoimmune community, many of us are immunocompromised and are at higher risk during the pandemic. We received some great 2.5PM filtering masks donated to us by WAYRE and are purchasing some of the other supplies that we are sending out to help reduce the risk of infection in our autoimmune communities.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Zoom is the one piece of software that I need to be productive. It seems obvious for online meeting purposes, like everyone else is doing right now during the pandemic, but it is an important tool for video recording, interviews, and for my podcast. It is something I use each day.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

One of my favorite books is Vishen Lakhiani’s Code of the Extraordinary Mind that reminds me to continue to think outside of the box if I want to live a life of meaning and meeting goals.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s about healthy eating. When I am hungry and forget how to follow a healthy diet, I remember Michael Pollan’s simple quote: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Key Learnings:

  • Never give up
  • Stay focused
  • Challenges can be seen as a gift and learning lesson