University of Chicago names new director for Celiac Disease Program

March 14, 2007

The University of Chicago Medical Center has named Carol McCarthy Shilson as program director of the university's Celiac Disease Program. Shilson, former director of public relations for Chicago magazine and a deputy press secretary for Illinois's first female lieutenant governor, will direct outreach and marketing for the program, one of the most comprehensive programs in the nation.

Along with 15 years of business and marketing-communications experience, Shilson, who most recently served as senior vice president and general manager of Imagination Publishing, also brings personal experience with the disease to her new job.

"My passion for expanding the program is bolstered by the fact that I have been living with celiac disease myself for nearly three years," Shilson said. "There's no question that awareness of the disease is growing, but there is still far too much confusion and misinformation around the disease."

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease of the small intestine. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, the individual's immune system responds by attacking the small intestine and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients. Left untreated, the disease can lead to diabetes, osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions and cancer.

Research shows that at least one in 133 Americans suffer from the disease, yet only one in 4,700 have been diagnosed. "It is our mission to raise awareness and diagnosis rates in this country," said pediatrician Stefano Guandalini, MD, medical director of the Celiac Disease Program and an internationally respected expert in the field.

"The University of Chicago Medical Center is at the forefront of celiac disease research, patient care, advocacy, and education,” he said. “We are committed to increasing the distribution of our expertise, programs and services to benefit the more than 2 million Americans with the disease.”

Leonard A. Gail, chairman of the board for University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program; his wife, Robin Steans; and Guandalini established the Celiac Disease Program six years ago. Said Gail, "I am thrilled that Carol will be heading up our efforts. With a solid foundation, she will propel the program to new heights."

For more information about the Celiac Disease Program, go to: www.celiacdisease.net.

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