Shalom Life | March 02, 2014

Top 20 Under 40: Jessica Grossman

Jessica is the founder and spokesperson for Uncover Ostomy, an online awareness campaign seeking to eliminate negative ostomy stigma

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: February 19th, 2014 in Culture » Society » Interviews

Shalom Life is proud to present our 4th annual Top 20 Under 40 list. Over the next 20 days, we will showcase 20 individuals of diverse talents and backgrounds that have made a significant contribution to their field both locally and globally. From entrepreneurs to philanthropists, entertainers to doctors, this list places a spotlight on a small sampling of the spectacular, innovative, and passionate Jews that call Toronto home.

Top 20 Under 40 – Jessica Grossman

Age: 24

Toronto-born, Jessica Grossman “grew up as a normal girl, loving the arts like acting, singing and dancing, and participating in after school sports and science clubs.”

However, unlike many children, Jessica’s life turned upside down at only 9 years old when she began experiencing horrendous stomach pains, was unable to eat, and began to drastically lose weight. After visiting a number of doctors and specialists, it was determined that she had Crohn’s disease. The next few years of her young life comprised of pain, extended hospital stays, lethargy, and absence from her previously vibrant social life and schooling.

Finally, at the age of 13, she was presented with an ultimatum: have ostomy surgery or die. She obviously chose the former, and that single decision set the course for the rest of her life, both personally and professionally.

Jessica is the Founder and Spokesperson for Uncover Ostomy, an online awareness campaign dedicated to breaking the negative ostomy stigma, encouraging a positive conversation with shared stories and thought-provoking images.

For those of you unfamiliar with ostomy, it’s defined as “a surgically created opening from an internal organ such as the intestines or uterus to an external point on the body, usually in the abdomen, so that diseased or damaged portions of the patients’ organ can be removed or treated for disease,” according to Uncover Ostomy’s official website. The three most common types of ostomy are colonostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy.

Jessica was inspired to launch Uncover Ostomy after completing a grade 12 media class assignment that asked her to develop a campaign that would spread awareness of a topic of choice. Without a second thought, she chose ostomy because it was a unique topic that very few people were cognizant of and, of course, was close to her heart.

Her assignment was extremely well-received by her classmates, but Jessica knew her message could positively influence a much larger audience. She contacted Rob Hill, founder of IDEAS, and together, with the help of John O’Shaunessy, they created what is now Uncover Ostomy.

In addition to launching Uncover Ostomy in 2009, Jessica received a B.A from the University of Western Ontario and a Masters from New York University.

“I ended up working in media because of the grade 12 media class I was in. I really enjoyed it, and found that I was actually pretty good at it. When it came to applying to universities, I found a school that had a program I was interested in, in that space. After 3 years of studying media in school, I realized I needed more of a business focused education, and moved to NYC. While I was there, I ended up at a conference and met a guy who insisted on hiring me. He worked for a tech startup in Manhattan, and I loved it. Somehow, I just kept working for startups, and that's how I am where I am,” she shared in an email interview.

Jessica currently works in the digital world in downtown Toronto, but definitely considers Uncover Ostomy her greatest accomplishment to date.

“No doubt, Uncover Ostomy. The response I've seen in the past 4 years is more than I ever expected.”

As for the future? Jessica prefers to take things one day at a time, dedicating each moment to her passions and interests.

“Honestly, I never really like answering this question. I find that I am more the type of person who takes opportunities as they come, no matter what they might be. I just hope that whatever those opportunities are, that I'm healthy and happy. In 20 years, I do hope, however, to have a family and have traveled a bit more,” she shared.

Jessica believes that her Jewish heritage not only allowed for her to receive a good education, but also instilled family values and an understanding of the importance of philanthropic work.

When she’s not working (which isn’t often between her day job and Uncover Ostomy), Jessica does charity work, plays video games, hangs out at the Ontario Science Center, and loves Toronto’s summer festivals, patios, and theatre.

When asked how she wants to be remembered, she simply replies “as someone who made an impact.”

Well, Jessica… you’ve already made a greater impact than you know. The tens of thousands of Uncover Ostomy participants around the globe would also agree.

Follow Jessica and Uncover Ostomy on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Also visit http://jessgrossman.com or http://uncoverostomy.org


Tune in tomorrow as we continue with Shalom Life's Top 20 Under 40.

Top 20 Under 40 - Hannah Alper Trending
 

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