January 2023 Volunteer Spotlight: Monica Grandovic

For our January 2023 Volunteer Spotlight, we are recognizing Monica Grandovic (pictured right) from Noblesville, Indiana.

Monica has been a volunteer with NPAF for 10 years. She has leveraged her lived experiences as both a patient and an accountant to advocate for multiple sclerosis patients and advance patient-centered outcomes research, most recently serving as a patient partner on Patient Advocate Foundation’s (PAF) project “Paving a Pathway to Engage in Underserved Populations in Research.”

Describe the advocacy work that you’re doing in your community and what motivated you to start.

I was motivated to become an advocate because I got fired. It was 2008, and I was working as an accountant and got sick. 

I created an entire department and improved inter-departmental communications when I came into the company. Overtime, my cognitive functioning started to decline. It got to a point where I could no longer get up and speak to a room of people and I was working from home more often. After some time working with my then manager, the company’s HR representative, and having my neurologist help fill out my disability papers, it was the pilling medical debt that ultimately got me fired. Would you want to hire an accountant that couldn’t manage their own books? I became unemployable. 

Although I was an accountant for over 15 years, I knew I didn’t want to be one early on. After completing undergrad, I went on to earn my MBA; I always wanted to pursue something in the medical field. 

Jason, my then fiancé partner, said, “Thank God, now you can do what you want to do.” What an odd, yet encouraging response. While my accounting career ended over something I did not choose; he was right, I could start over. We got married that same day and was added to I went on his insurance plan. 

What advice would you give to other volunteers who would like to do something similar?

Follow your passion. Why did you become an advocate? That’s why you’re here and why you need to tell your story. 

Don’t embellish your story, the more times you tell it, there’s more of a chance you’ll make a difference. You may change a legislator’s opinion, help your cause or encourage others to advocate alongside you.

Since you’ve been a volunteer with NPAF, what advocacy actions are you most proud of?

When I first started with NPAF in 2014, it was really cancer focused and I raised the issue of expanding support services to other chronic conditions, and eventually, we got there. 

I am most proud of a particular Patient Congress trip where we were advocating on the Hill, for the then “Medical Debt Act” bill. We were one senator short of the support we needed and I was making rounds to different offices with another midwestern volunteer.

The two of us enter the office and sit with a senator I am not a constituent of. Without fear, I asked if he knew anyone with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He openly shared that he has a family member with MS and has a general understanding of it. 

I then said that I got fired because of my diagnosis.

My husband and I bought a house under the premise we could afford it on two high incomes. I got pregnant, received my MS diagnosis and My diagnosis and the crushing medical debt ruined our income security and my credit. 

With one diagnosis, I became unemployable. I still am. 

I then created a scenario for him – I asked, him – “If I were to look for a job in accounting, and you were hiring and pulled my poor credit history, as the boss, would you hire me?  All we’re asking is to shorten the length of time medical debt stays on your credit reports, from seven years to 45 days.” 

That senator signed on to be a cosponsor. That was a pretty important moment for me. I saw how my story could impact public policy.