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Laurie Keefer standing


Laurie Keefer, PhD

You’re a lot more resilient than you think.

From New York, NY
Years of experience: 14

Licensed Doctor

What motivated you to specialize
in gastroenterology?

I was inspired by the potential brain-gut connection early on in my training as a psychologist, and, as I
worked with patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, I wanted to be able to be involved in a
research field where there are more questions than answers.

What is the greatest challenge many
of your patients with UC face?

The emotional impacts of UC can be profound and have not been at the forefront of care. Many
patients are offered psychosocial support too late in the game. We need to provide early, effective
care to help people living with IBD.

Number of countries visited:



In treating patients with UC,
what is your biggest challenge?

People living with UC can develop an amazing resilience and mental fortitude. But that doesn’t
necessarily mean that they should “power through” and settle for a new reality or accept ongoing
symptoms that are still making them suffer. Patients with UC need to move past feeling “good
enough” toward better symptom control and remission.

My Personal Motto:

You can’t change the direction
of the wind, but you can
always adjust your sails.


What advice would you give
a person living with UC?

It is important for you to share your emotional status with your healthcare providers so they can
understand the full picture of how you are managing the disease. For example, you may experience
anxiety because you don’t know how the disease is going to progress or what is going to happen
next. This is normal. The best thing you can do is ask your primary care provider and GI questions.
Sometimes, an answer can help reduce fear and give you a sense of control, which is so helpful given
how unpredictable UC can be. Additionally, it takes a little extra effort, but I recommend people living
with UC seek out social support. It is okay to ask for help, and I recommend you do so early in your
diagnosis, especially if you are feeling okay. You’ll learn new skills and strategies, such as how to
best advocate for yourself as a patient. Psychological treatment can provide skills that you are going
to need for the long term, not just the immediate future.

Bucket List:



Beyond a cure, what is your number
one wish for the UC community?

Ulcerative colitis can have an impact on everyday life. From being chained to the toilet to feeling
fatigued and unable to feel like themselves, there is an emotional burden associated with ulcerative
colitis. This is a high priority for people living with UC and the providers treating them, but currently,
there are gaps in treatment plans. My hope is that the community treating people living with UC can
develop strategies to really address some of the most common emotional health issues that patients
face, such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, and sexual function. Additionally, I hope that addressing
emotional well-being can be seamlessly incorporated into routine care for digestive disorders.

Keep the conversation going

Check out helpful articles, videos,
and tips about living with UC.

Meet our Talking UC board members

Creating an educational resource for the UC community, by the UC community.



Since her UC diagnosis in 2013, Laura
has been involved in various advocacy
efforts for the UC community.



Michele is an advanced practice nurse
specializing in inflammatory bowel
disease and has been working with the
UC community for 40 years.



Dr. Dubinsky is the chief of pediatric
gastroenterology and hepatology at
Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
She is also a professor at Icahn
School of Medicine.



Laurie is an academic and a health
psychologist specializing in the care
of patients with chronic digestive
diseases. She has been researching
and working with the UC
community for 14 years.

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