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From Your No. 1 Health Advocate

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that "the characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency." No one dreams of being a "health hero," because it means having to face and overcome a difficult challenge to start with -- a challenge one does not ask for but must endure. For the fourth consecutive year, WebMD honors a handful of Americans who did persist.

Let me introduce this year's WebMD Health Heroes:

  • With all of Washington, D.C., talking about healthcare reform, Zane Gates, MD, returned to his hometown in Pennsylvania and did something about it. Starting out by driving around neighborhoods in a van offering free medical help, Gates took charge and never looked back.
  • Orphan medical conditions are tough because someone has to adopt them or they get lost in the shuffle. That is exactly what Mark Hyman, MD, did in the case of tuberous sclerosis, a rare genetic condition that one of his children has. He asked a patient, comedian Patricia Heaton (of Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle fame) to star in the Comedy for a Cure show that is now a fixture on Los-Angeles' event calendar.
  • At age 14, Sabrina Cohen of Miami Beach, Fla., was in a car accident that confined her to a wheelchair. She made the difficult adjustment to her new life, got through school, and began a career. But hearing a lecture about stem cells changed everything. She started the Sabrina Cohen Foundation for Stem Cell Research and made her first grant award this year.
  • Acutely aware of the number of people in America who are hungry every day, Stan Curtis of Louisville, Ky., had a brainstorm: What if leftover food could be given to those who wanted it? He launched USA Harvest to do just that, and followed up a few years later with a program for kids, Blessings in a Backpack, which happens to be one of the favorite charities of our cover star, Scarlett Johansson, who is also a WebMD Health Hero this year.

One word sums up all these people: persistence. As you transition from 2009 to 2010, close your eyes, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, and feel the strength of your own persistence. You can do it! Let us know how we can help at WebMD.com. Join the largest health information exchange and get help and give help right now.

Happy holidays from WebMD.

Nan-Kirsen Forte

Nan-Kirsten Forte, MS
Editor in Chief, WebMD the Magazine

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