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Ann Jesse’s Hep C Connection changed the disease’s trajectory

Ann Jesse didn’t just talk about change. She made it happen. Along the way, she enhanced many lives nationwide.

She founded multiple organizations. Hep C Connection is the one I knew best. A brochure summarizes the organization’s focus, which ultimately became their most extraordinary customer service contribution: “When donors test HBV/HCV positive, give them more than bad news. Give them Hepatitis He!p Line. A support service from Hep C Connection…established in Denver in October 1995 to assist Hep C-challenged individuals and their families. Founder Ann Jesse and the Hep C staff—many hepatitis C patients themselves—are dedicated to unraveling the mysteries and misinformation surround this epidemic. Hep C Connection helps those testing positive for HBV/HCV to access appropriate medical care, educational resources, and emotional support.”

In the brochure, an avid fan notes, “Thank God there was a HOT LINE number in the notice. When I called, the counselor was very helpful…I don’t know what I would have done if I had to wait for my doctor’s appointment to answer my questions.”

The bottom line for many organizations is profits. For Hep C Connection, the bottom line was its own extinction. Notes a May 2000 ColoradoBiz Magazine article: “What club with more than 4 million members nationwide considers its own extinction its ultimate goal?…Denver-based Hep C Connection, the nation’s leading hepatitis C support network.”

“Customers” helped by Hep C Connection weren’t just patients. The organization freed up donor relations staff to perform other duties. The organization also helped physicians, employers, and health insurers by serving as a patient advocate. According to the brochure, Hep C Connection “…Takes the time that neither blood bank staff or physicians have to talk through the issues—both physical and emotional—with patients.”

Customer service with families can’t be over-stated. These brochure comments underscore its importance:

“My oldest son was going to have a surgery. I wanted to make sure that he didn’t catch anything from donated blood. I asked his surgeon if they could use mine instead of a stranger’s…Monday the hospital called and said my blood has hepatitis C…Hepatitis Help Line was able to give me important information. Not only for myself, but how to prevent my son from being infected through household contact.”

“[My dad] couldn’t get in to see [a specialist] for two months. We called the Hepatitis Help Line number in the letter. They are a great resource. Not only did they give us the information, but also they gave us the number of a support group. That is just what dad needed.”

Clearly, Ann Jesse’s advocacy and tireless efforts exemplify the crème de la crème of customer service.

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My longtime friend, Ann Jesse, recently died. Ann didn’t just practice stellar customer service, she created it. When diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the nineties, she started a national Hep C support organization to provide the help and answers she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. The Hep C Connection grew to one of the nation’s largest and most influential support organizations in this realm. Ann’s efforts helped people across the country manage, and ultimately recover, from this devastating disease. This series of posts is dedicated to Ann Jesse’s customer service efforts on behalf of so many.

Mark Lusky

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Mark Lusky
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.

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