Help make a difference in the lives of those with autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks the body’s own healthy cells. There are over 80 known autoimmune diseases and counting, affecting more than 14 million Americans.
Find national and international organizations focused on specific autoimmune diseases, from alopecia areata to vitiligo.
Information, health-related articles, and resources to help you navigate living well with autoimmune disease.
TIPS FOR STAYING WELL
Managing Mental Health with Autoimmune Disease
Living with chronic illness takes a toll emotionally and socially. How can we take care of our mental health?
Browse our resource lists and information via the links below.
Find Medical Institutions Focused on Your Autoimmune Disease
An extensive list of centers, clinics, and hospitals across the United States that specialize in diagnosing and treating various autoimmune diseases.
We support autoimmune disease education and research by funding grants for scientific investigations, holding live talks with experts, and partnering with the Celiac Disease Program to create educational resources.
Comprehensive Educational Resources for Those Living with Celiac Disease
Our celiac-focused resources are a product of GAI’s partnership with the Celiac Disease Program at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Visit our Celiac Education page to find information on Gluten Free Education Day, expert celiac talks, podcasts, a gluten-free diet app, and cooking and nutrition videos.
Join Us for Our Next Autoimmune Support Group, July 31st, 10-11:30am PT
Our aim is to help each other live well and feel heard, while not letting disease define us. We encourage members to come as they are, with an open mind and the willingness to nurture a positive atmosphere.
The Global Autoimmune Institute is empowering solutions in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune disease (AD) through research, education, and community, while supporting multidisciplinary approaches to wellness.
GAI Featured in Nature Outlook, July Issue
Learn more about the Global Autoimmune Institute as we explain our work, autoimmune risk factors, and research advances in our Nature sponsor feature!
Home » About Us » Our Story
The Global Autoimmune Institute is empowering solutions in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune disease through research, education, and community, while supporting multidisciplinary approaches to wellness.
We empower patients and caregivers and improve physician/patient relationships by providing easily-accessible, credible resources for identifying autoimmune indicators and supporting disease management, as well as the latest research and therapies.
We create collaborative partnerships to deepen our understanding of autoimmunity by funding innovative medical research through grants and awards.
We compassionately raise awareness of autoimmune disease, locally and globally, through open, informed dialogue and outreach.
The Global Autoimmune Institute had its origins in the mid 1960’s as a research institute for public health, founded by Dr. Walter E. Boek along with a Board of Directors drawn from distinguished community leaders. Their mission soon transformed, leading to the founding of a graduate school dedicated to the teaching of science, technology and sociology using an interdisciplinary approach.
Dr. Boek previously had enjoyed a distinguished career in the public health field, serving as an assistant to the Commissioner of Health of New York State during the 1950’s. He expanded and administered what was considered at the time to be the most productive and influential social science research program in the world. His wife Dr. Jean K. Boek, ran a number of important public health research studies. Among her many discoveries were the demonstration for the first time of the association between cigarette smoking and heart disease, and that seatbelt use saved lives. Drs. Walter and Jean Boek co-authored the seminal book, Society and Health, and published numerous academic papers, both individually and together.
Their contributions were invaluable in developing our understanding of the importance of social issues in public health. This field became known as medical sociology.
Dr. Walter Boek would go on to work for the Health Information Foundation, seeking to develop effective communication among American physicians. In addition, both Drs. Boek served as full time and visiting professors at various colleges and universities. They will long be remembered for their warm and caring devotion to their students.
After Dr. Walter Boek’s death, the organization’s Board of Directors hired Sandra Boek Werness, the eldest daughter of Walter and Jean Boek, as its new President and CEO, and now Executive Director. They knew that her leadership would bring the organization into a new era of growth and accomplishment.
Sandy was concerned with the widespread incidence of autoimmune diseases, as well as the failure to identify and diagnose them
Her prior work experience on Capitol Hill – years as a practicing attorney and then managing a medical practice – would benefit the organization in many important ways. Sandy left her ten-year-long position as Vice President of Northern Virginia Pathology, and began her new job.
In 2013, after extensive consideration, the Board concluded that a new mission was in order.
Sandy was particularly concerned with the widespread incidence of autoimmune disease, as well as the failure to identify and diagnose many of these conditions.
She had experienced common difficulties in advocating for one of her daughters, who was not well-served by the medical community. The lack of understanding they encountered in schools and the community underscored a swelling information gap in healthcare and support for patients with chronic illness.
Autoimmune diseases and associated neurological disorders were seen by Sandy and the Board as representative of a serious public health problem. A growing number of people in an often medically underserved population were continuing to be affected, requiring increased education, scientific research, and general public awareness.
The Board therefore concluded that the resources of the organization would best be dedicated to improving the lives of those suffering from autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders. Due in large part to Sandy’s knowledge, drive, experience, and community ties, she was in a unique position to make a significant difference. The assets of the organization were marshaled, and The Global Autoimmune Institute was born.