As I read this issue of Burn Support Magazine, I’m struck by the power and wisdom of our community’s young leaders.
Michelle Lauren Anderson and Alexi Pyles illustrate the impact of microaggressions for burn survivors while Huyen “Kiki” Vo draws on her experience as a wellness coach in an article about reclaiming your power. Samuel Moore-Sobel introduces his new book, Can You See My Scars?, and Mary Garner Oden designed the beautiful Donate Life infographic.
Past Phoenix Fellows, Peer Mentors, Phoenix World Burn Congress attendees, and burn camp participants—these survivors have come of age in the burn community and are finding ways to give back. As I explore their work in this issue, I can’t help reflecting on my own journey of engagement and eventual leadership.
I attended my first Phoenix World Burn Congress at the age of 25. I was a new burn nurse, seven years out from my own burn injury. I was energetic, motivated, and eager to make a difference. I returned to my unit brimming with ideas, excited to share new knowledge and resources I learned from this community with my burn care team.
A decade later, I took the scariest leap of my life and accepted the role of Executive Director at Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. It was leadership, responsibility, and learning like I’d never experienced before. Fortunately, I was not alone. I had an incredible group of mentors, people like Barbara Quayle, Frank McGonagle, George Pessotti, Andrew McGuire, Janet Harman, Alan Breslau, and countless others.
They are the early visionaries who led the first wave of our movement, trailblazers who developed resources, support, and advocacy where there hadn’t been any before. They were the first to say our voice is important, that emotional and social recovery was just as important as the physical.
I was young and inexperienced, but they made space for me and my voice. They stepped back so I could step up. We didn’t always agree, but we learned from each other and worked toward a shared goal to unite survivors. No one should be alone on this journey. Together, we worked to move Phoenix Society and the burn community into the next phase of growth.
Twenty years later, a new generation of leaders and change-makers are making their voices heard. Their experiences are different, shaped in part by the work of those who came before. With new perspectives and fresh energy, they are already driving our movement forward.
As a new survivor, burn nurse, or a veteran CEO, the focus is the same: seek diverse viewpoints, listen with humility, and remember—a movement is greater than one person. Every one of us must learn from the past, embrace the future, and work together to ensure no one recovers from a burn injury alone.
It has been a long, hard winter—but spring is here. It’s time to shed our protective layers, emerge from hibernation, and reconnect with the world and each other.
Hope is greater than despair.
Amy Acton, RN, BSN