New group of leaders bring lived experience into health and social care partnerships

Building the complex care field Community & consumer engagement Convening Education & training Policy & advocacy Quality improvement

August 21, 2023

Lisa Miller, Director of Communications and Content Development
[email protected]


CAMDEN, NJ — The Camden Coalition announces the 14 individuals selected to make up the 2023/2024 National Consumer Scholar cohort as part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to facilitate partnerships between organizations across the country and individuals with lived experience.

To ensure that health and social care programs understand, respond to, and meet the needs of their communities, people with lived experiences must be equal partners in the work. The Camden Coalition works to build authentic, impactful, and mutually beneficial partnerships with people with lived experiences and to support our partners in the field to do the same. This commitment to community engagement spans our work across Camden, New Jersey, and nationally.

“It is vital that the experiences of people with complex health and social needs and their caregivers inform the work of the Camden Coalition and the direction of the complex care field,” says Victor Murray, Senior Director of Community Engagement and Capacity Building at the Camden Coalition.

Since 2016, the Camden Coalition has purposefully engaged people with lived experience and community leaders from across the country as Consumer Scholars. Consumer Scholars have first-hand experience living with or caring for someone with complex health and social needs, as well as experience partnering with organizations in roles including consumer/patient/family advisors, community advocates, and lived experience experts. These individuals come from an array of backgrounds and bring many different types of lived and professional experiences.

In April 2023, the Camden Coalition released a call for applications to join the new cohort. Internal reviewers narrowed the list down to 14 individuals from across the United States to form the new cohort of National Consumer Scholars.

“We are thrilled to have this new cohort of devoted leaders,” says Evelyne Kane, Senior Program Manager of Community Engagement and Capacity Building at the Camden Coalition. “It’s always exciting to see what insights and innovative ideas they bring to not only our work but to the complex care field.”

This year’s Consumer Scholars cohort consists of Angela James from Oakland, CA; Aurea Garvin from Urbana, IL; Carl Boyd from Camden, NJ; Deon Allen from Philadelphia, PA; Dionne Stalling from St. Lous, MO; Emily Cowen from Fairfield, CT; Evelis Burdett from Camden, NJ; Jenn Oakley from Oakland, CA; Kristina Sawyckyj from Shoreline, WA; LaVonia Abavana from Camden, NJ; Lawrence Lincoln from Berkeley, CA; Nohora Gutierrez from Hallandale Beach, FL; Pamela Corcoran from Belfast, ME; and Shannon O’Hara Wiora from Virginia Beach, VA.

Referring organizations include Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, Camden Coalition, Center for Family Services, Center for Health Care Strategies, Dempsey Centers for Quality Cancer Care, Expecting Health, Focus on Rights, Lifelong Medical Care, Philadelphia FIGHT, Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, Through the Looking Glass, the University of Chicago Division of Specialized Care for Children, and Youth as Self Advocates.

“I’m excited to participate in the Consumer Scholars program so I can be a part of building stronger and healthier communities,” says new scholar, Evelis Burdett. “I hope to gain more insight about the lived experiences of the other Consumer Scholars that can be used to improve care for myself and for people like me in my community.”

These individuals will partner with Camden Coalition staff on a variety of projects and participate in skill development activities over the course of their engagement. Most Consumer Scholar alumni then go on to join Amplify, the Camden Coalition’s consumer voice bureau where they continue to leverage their lived experience in partnership work with health and social care organizations.

The projects and influence produced as a result of each National Consumers Scholars cohort help the Camden Coalition and our partners in the complex care field to strengthen our impact, improve health outcomes, and advance priorities for achieving health equity across the U.S.

To learn more about this year’s cohort, previous year’s achievements, and Amplify: A consumer speakers bureau, visit




 About the Camden Coalition

We are a multidisciplinary nonprofit working to improve care for people with complex health and social needs in Camden, NJ, and across the country. The Camden Coalition works to advance the field of complex care by implementing person-centered programs and piloting new models that address chronic illness and social barriers to health and well-being. Supported by a robust data infrastructure, cross-sector convening, and shared learning, our community-based programs deliver better care to the most vulnerable individuals in Camden and regionally.

Through our National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs (National Center), an initiative of the Camden Coalition, we connect complex care practitioners with each other and support the field with tools and resources that move complex care forward. 

More about the National Consumer Scholars