At the age of two, Natalie Boehm was diagnosed with epilepsy due to a traumatic brain injury. Natalie has been battling epilepsy for more than 40 years now, and despite all her accomplishments in life, she still faces a lot of discrimination for having a neurological disorder. So, Natalie founded, The Defeating Epilepsy Foundation to provide advocacy and educational resources to the epilepsy community and society.
The Defeating Epilepsy Foundation mostly focuses on two target audiences. The first audience is individuals who are already battling epilepsy. The foundation wants people with epilepsy to witness that they can set reasonable goals to make the best of their lives and not allow epilepsy to control them. The organization offers resources such as scholarships for higher education as well as grants for service dogs to help them.
Natalie and her team’s second target audience are small businesses and corporations. Natalie wants them to see that by investing in, The Defeating Epilepsy Foundation’s programs and bringing awareness to epilepsy, they can help to remove the fear, and companies can see people with epilepsy as potential employees and not a liability. Natalie is an advocate for DEI programs in corporations that include people with disabilities and differences. Many people with disabilities have higher IQs, enjoy repetitive work, have better critical thinking skills, and can help companies grow.
Setting a Positive Example
Natalie feels her greatest accomplishment has been achieving higher education and setting a positive example for her children and community. A former neurologist tried to pressure Natalie to drop out of college and go on disability. However, she made it very much clear that she would not comply with what he wanted. He dropped Natalie as a patient, and it was the best thing he ever did for her. Natalie went ahead and completed her MBA a couple of years ago and she continues to take part in certifications and other educational programs. Her long-term goal is to get her DBA with a focus on organizational leadership.
From the very beginning, Natalie understood what she had to be. Before acknowledging publicly that she had epilepsy, Natalie was considered hard-working, had a great work ethic, and dependable. Afterward, she became a liability. Natalie knew while taking on this journey, she was going to lose a lot of opportunities career-wise.
However, she also knew, that by taking this step, she would become her boss and must establish herself as a leader to survive.
Tring to Create a Positive Culture
Natalie feels, when it comes to leadership, not only do you want to have a good culture in your company, but a positive climate as well. She says, “You do not want to micromanage your team or make them feel you think you are above them. You are part of the team, and you are here to support them, help them reach their goals, and grow the company together.”
She always suggests encouraging your employees to continue their education and help them set realistic personal and professional goals. If you value your employees and listen to them, you will have a lower turnover rate and more loyal employees. Prevent toxicity from entering your business because it won’t take long for them to see the job as just a pay check and you will not see your business grow.
She also advises being selective in establishing a leadership team. You want to diversify, yet you also want to bring in qualified people who are ready to carry out your mission and vision. When people review your company, they are going to look at who helps to lead your organization and if they truly represent what you are working towards.
Success and Failures
Success for Natalie is strategically planning short and long-term goals and working to carry them out. She advises to not expect to see what you want overnight and be prepared to fail at things along the way. She says, “When you do, do not run, face it, and learn from it. If you truly believe in your mission and vision and are passionate, you will find the way to achieve your goals and succeed.”
Natalie has the habit of being a perfectionist, and when the firm was launched, she was doing everything. Natalie had to learn to trust others and give them responsibilities.
The foundation’s goal is to not only provide services but to offer educational certifications, and workshops to help, it in carrying out its mission, and vision. The foundation’s main goal in doing this is to, help create more opportunities for people and to get small businesses and companies to see the economic benefit they will have in hiring people with disabilities and differences. One in twenty-six people battle epilepsy and so many people know someone who has epilepsy. Yet epilepsy is not understood in society, and it is why epilepsy continues to face the stigma it has.