Arthritis Diagnosis Leads to a Career in Caring

As a young adult, Clare Peckenpaugh is putting her own battle with arthritis to work to help future generations.

By Anthony Williams | Aug. 9, 2023

In 2017, at 23 years old, Clare Peckenpaugh’s life took an unexpected turn. That’s when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, after years of enduring pain and physical limitations at a young age.

Clare remembers feeling so alone and misunderstood back then, which spiraled her into depression. Soon after her diagnosis, however, she found the Arthritis Foundation. Today, she is doing pediatric rheumatology research at a children’s hospital in Salt Lake City. She’s also pursuing her bachelor's degree in nursing at the University of Utah. “I’m thankful that I have found a career and specialty that is near and dear to me,” Clare says.

Arthritis Foundation Opens New Doors

Getting involved with the Arthritis Foundation opened doors Clare didn’t know existed. In her first volunteer work with the Foundation locally, she served as a counselor at Camp KODA (Kids Out to Defeat Arthritis), a nearby Arthritis Foundation-run juvenile arthritis (JA) camp. That led her to become JA camp director.

“I have worked closely with several adult and pediatric rheumatologists to host informational sessions like teen transition, new diagnosis and a teen support group,” Clare says. “This work has been incredibly rewarding. I’m grateful to give back to my community. I intend to work in some capacity with the Arthritis Foundation from here on out.”

Clare says her battle with arthritis hasn’t always been easy, but it has always had its bright spots. “The Arthritis Foundation has so many wonderful programs and creates an inclusive environment. I have learned countless things over the years, such as advocating for myself with doctors, keeping a positive attitude and asking for help.”

Arthritis Champions Scholarship Recipient

Recently, Clare received a $5,000 Arthritis Champions Scholarship from the Arthritis Foundation to support her ongoing education. In addition, the essay Clare submitted — covering her involvement with the arthritis community and the impact she has helped make — earned her the Ann Palmer Award, a special designation honoring the Arthritis Foundation’s former president and CEO, who served from 2013 until her retirement in 2022.

This year, a total of 20 Arthritis Champions Scholarships were awarded, each for $5,000. The scholarships are distributed annually to deserving students with arthritis or a related rheumatic condition. The 2023-24 program was generously funded by the Walter J. and Kathryn M. Winterhoff Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Dr. Smriti Bardhan College Scholarship Fund.
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