Leaders are defined by their actions while advocates are construing by their work. Judith Mills have the characteristics of both. She has the strength, Inspiration, and indestructibility of a leader and the courage, hope and resilient of an advocate. Born in Ghana, West Africa, she came to the United States at age 10. As a youth, she was full of life and took advantage of any opportunity that came her way. In school, she was a track & field runner, a dancer and even a state finalist in the Miss Teen New Jersey 1999 pageant. You can say she is a “Jill-of-all-trades”. She has a promising future with no limits. Her reach in life was as far as her imagination can reach, but we all know that there are obstacles in life that one must overcome. In 1999, Judith Mills was faced with a life-changing obstacle. Doctors diagnose her with Lupus (SLE). Lupus is a disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues. Living with Lupus became the obstacle that she had to overcome. The effects of living with this illness are severe joint pains, fatigue and other painful symptoms. Although the disease does not have a cure, it can be treated with medication. The cause of Lupus is unknown, but statistics show that it affects more women of African descent than any other demographic. Despite the interruption of the disease, Judith showed signs of a leader and advocate: Resilient and Strength. Determined to live her life to the fullest, she decided to become a voice in the fight against Lupus.
In her ordeal, she managed to graduate top 10 of her high school senior class a recipient of 2 Scholarships Comcast Leaders of Tomorrow and East Orange Fire fighter’s Benevolent Award by the former Mayor of East Orange Robert Bowser. After high school, she went on to earn her Bachelors in Biology at Montclair State University. In 2003, she organized a team of walkers naming them Team MSU at Montclair State University, for a walk in efforts to educate the public about lupus with the Lupus Foundation for America (NJ) chapter which she gained recognition in the Herald News and The Record for her fight against Lupus. Her vision was not only to help fight Lupus in America but also overseas. She furthered her education to become a Biomedical Scientist concentrating in Pharmacology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey program; Mills is an Adjunct Professor of Biology & College Success Seminar, A patient Advocate and a Speaker. Mills has been recognized as a key volunteer for Lupus Research Alliance as a committee member, multi-cultural task force and Speaker. The Lupus Foundation of America (New Jersey Chapter) featured her in the Herald News and the Record. Mills has been featured online platforms such as Blackman Can, Rizzar, Scoop it, and others. Mills is the receipt of 2012 Black Street “Black Celebration” Award winner for Non-Profit. K-hitz & affiliates for recognizing me for my selfless dedication & contributions to the betterment of Ghanaians & immigrants in the USA award. Uptown honors nomination and 2017 3rd Annual AEUSA winner of Best Community Award of the Year.
Mills created Butterfly Walkers, Inc., as a comprehensive 501c3 nonprofit team that has been dedicated to raising funds for lupus awareness in 2011. In 2012, it became a concern of Judith to help others in Ghana suffering from lupus during her visit. Mills was heartbroken by the growing number of Ghanaians suffering from lupus and made it her mission to bring awareness. Mills took matters into her own hands and set up an NGO Alliance of Hope for Lupus (AHL) She noticed that very little progress was being made towards awareness in Africa in general. AHL is an organization which helps raise lupus awareness and patient advocacy in Ghana. Alliance of Hope for Lupus (AHL) in Ghana which is a sub-organization of Butterfly Walkers, Inc. in efforts to educate Ghanaians after several contacts from people in Ghana. The mission of the (AHL) will be dedicated to demographic research and focus on improving the quality of life for patients and their families.
When she was asked what were her reasons for raising awareness in Ghana? She said “In America, I am privileged to be able to afford treatment even though we have come a long way to go for a cure. Those treatments and patient education were not available in Ghana so I wanted to change that'”. Lupus in Ghana and around Africa is not looked at as a disease, but instead, it is considered as witchcraft. Lupus is an urgent health matter in Ghana and all over Africa. She visited several hospitals such as Korle Bu, Police Hospital, SNITT, and 37 Military Hospital. She met with the doctors and administration which gave her a chance to address her concerns about lupus and how it is being treated. With help of media, she able to educate the public about lupus through with a marathon, TV and radio stations (TV3, Joy News, Multi-TV, GTV, Obonu 96.5 FM, etc.) to raise lupus awareness. As a voice for lupus, she wanted to pass on her knowledge of the disease to as many people as she can, especially in places like Africa where little is known about Lupus. Mills hopes lupus awareness can save lives in countries where there is a high death rate of lupus due to lack of knowledge on how to diagnose or treat the illness.
In 2014, faculty member Gerald Holloway, creator of the Fashion Entertainment Board held his annual fashion show and dedicated it to lupus awareness in the month of May at Essex County College. The proceeds helped fund the AHL’s first Annual UNITED WE WALK” TO FIGHT AGAINST LUPUS in Ghana with the sub-organization of Accra International Marathon as a charity partner at the Labadi Beach Hotel. The purpose of the marathon was to raise lupus awareness. Her activities in September of that same year also included a speaking engagement with Rheusolute support group created by Dr. Dzifa Dey a rheumatologist at Korle Bu followed by radio and TV appearance to educate the public about Lupus. She also, donated over $7,000 of drugs was given to lupus patients to help relieve the cost of lupus drugs which are extremely expensive.
Due to her mother’s prognosis with breast cancer that took a turn for the worst, she became a full-time caregiver putting her advocacy and career on hold. That role changed her perspective on a mothers love and sacrifice. She quickly realized and respected and appreciated what her mother went through being a caregiver for her all those years battling lupus. She learned Caregivers deserve more appreciation because after the doctors and nurses are gone. It takes strength and patients that can make you crumble under pressure. After Mills Mother died of Metastatic Stage 4 Breast Cancer she returned to Ghana to continue her work.
In 2017 Mills took a bold step, calling for a meeting with the US Ambassador to Ghana Robert P. Jackson and USAID to ask for aid for the Lupus patients in Ghana pleading with him. Mills asked for Professor Edmund Delle a dermatologist and Dr. Dzifa Dey a Rheumatologist to voice their concerns and challenges of treating lupus patients. Ghana hasn’t recognized the growing number of lupus diagnoses. The Ghana Health insurance Scheme doesn’t have lupus on the list of illnesses that affect Ghanaians so it doesn’t cover their medications or doctor visits. In 2018 Mills was invited to the funeral of Former Secretary General of UN Kofi Annan where she met many world leaders that came down to Ghana to say their goodbye to Kofi Annan. After the funeral CCP vice invited her to have a conversation with His Excellency John Kufuor to talk about health in Ghana and how she can help. She drafted a letter to Ghana health Services director-general requesting for statistics for lupus patients in Ghana which was sent to hospitals and clinic. In 2018 Mills was chosen as a speaker for TEDx Osu to talk about patient rights advocacy by the lupus research alliance to advocate for lupus patients in DC Capitol Hill in request for lupus funding for National Institute (NIH) and Department of Defense (DOD) and they got the bills signed and it’s in process. In 2019 the mayor of East Orange recognized her amazing work and gave her a proclamation for raising awareness for lupus. Currently, she is working with Councilwomen of Dr. Renee Baskerville and James Harris of NAACP to raise awareness in the town of Montclair and has been invited to join the housing board.