Remembering Lynn Grefe: Friend, Colleague, Advocate

Lynn Grefe first called me some 13 years ago. She wanted to “pick my brain,” to “get the lay of the land.”

Lynn had just signed on as president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and wanted to meet me, an academic psychiatrist in New York City who specialized in eating disorders.

Lynn told me about her background – she was an advocate, a lobbyist, a manager, a New Yorker, a mother, a networker.  And she asked for my partnership in what she knew would be a long road to increase awareness, decrease stigma, improve treatment options and find a cure for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

I was quite taken with Lynn. She was smart, funny, committed and seemed to know everyone under the sun. She convinced me that the patients and the families needed our joint efforts. She had me at smart. I was in.

In the years that followed, I shared many projects with Lynn:

We went to Albany together to advocate for specialty programs.

We spoke with the media.

We met with insurers.

We walked for the cause.

We spoke for the cause.

We brought along families – those whose loved ones had been touched by eating disorders.

And we brought along patients – lots of patients. Both of us had carloads of patients who wanted to join the visits, the walks, the programs, the conferences, to let others know that these illnesses are serious and that those who are affected by them need teams of tireless supporters.

Lynn died this week, after a heroic battle with a cancer that took her from us too soon. I was fortunate to have partnered with Lynn as a colleague, enjoyed her as a friend, and learned from her at every turn. She will be sorely missed, but I and countless others will pick up where she left off, working tirelessly on eating disorder advocacy.

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Evelyn Attia, MD

I am a psychiatrist at Columbia and Weill Cornell Medical Centers and have spent the last 30+ years working to improve our understanding of eating disorders and develop effective treatments.

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