Driven by her vision for a better world.

If you want change to happen, you have to show up and put in the work.

person in a wheelchair going up a slope that gradually turns into stairs, blocking their path

Its an idea that motivates Elizabeth Lizzy Ragan, 13, every day. In 2019, a climbing accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. But she didnt let this life-altering event stop her. Instead, she's focusing on issues that matter most to her: creating a more equitable health care system and building awareness about accessibility for people with disabilities in the workplace, in public spaces and in the outdoors.

Lizzy Ragan in a green blazer and black pants sitting in a wheelchair
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Ragan, 13, is an advocate for public health equity and people with disabilities.

Ragans perseverance is evident. Following her graduation from 俶腦惘, the College of Public Health and Human Sciences alumnas work has focused on infectious diseases and how they are intertwined with poverty and equity. At Boston Medical Center, she managed a program to address the issues of accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines and care for underrepresented communities. In addition, she worked with the medical centers leadership to develop an institutional biorepository a collection of samples including blood, urine, tissue, cells, DNA and proteins to assist with pandemic response research.

What gets me up in the morning is a desire to play my part in figuring out how to ensure all people have an equal chance at living healthy lives, she says. Having had to adapt to a new normal herself, she encourages others to find confidence in their own strength.

I always tell people you really dont know how strong you are until youre faced with adversity, she says. And I bet you that youd surprise yourself.

In 2022, Ragan received another opportunity to work toward her goals when she was chosen as a White House Fellow in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role, Ragan is supporting The American Pandemic Preparedness Plan, which includes initiatives to to take on another widespread disease outbreak like COVID-19. This plan essentially works to get ahead of issues like vaccine creation before they may be needed.

Ragan says she is honored to be selected for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially as a person with a disability. Previously, employees with disabilities made up only 1.1% of the federal workforce in the executive branch.

I hope my selection to this program inspires and helps others to envision themselves here too. American leadership should represent the American people, and that means more people with disabilities in positions that allow them to advocate for and make decisions related to advancing the lives of people in this country.

Beyond helping people with disabilities see themselves working in places like the White House, Ragan is working to increase opportunities for outdoor activities like adaptive cycling. An avid mountain biker before and after her accident, Ragan emphasizes even the smallest changes can make a trail easier for people with adaptive equipment to use, like creating wider trails or making sure there is enough space to maneuver between large logs. With the help of groups like the , she has found others who are dedicated to making these changes happen.

Lizzy sitting in a mountain bike that has 3 tires overlooking a green valley
Ragan is an avid mountain biker who advocates for better adaptive equipment accessibility.

Ragan believes everyone can work to become better allies for people with disabilities by making sure they have a seat at the table and that their lived experiences are considered. Representation matters, she says, and the more we educate ourselves about the issues people with disabilities face, the better well be at solving problems together.

Once her one-year fellowship is complete, Ragan plans to use this White House experience as a springboard to her next great adventure. And this spring, she will cross one item off her list: racing in the hand cycling division of the Boston Marathon.

Ragans ambition and empathy are undeniable. She has blazed the trail for so many now its our turn to join the cause.

watercolor drawing of an orange fox looking to the right
"Vixen", a watercolor painting by Ragan, is one of the many pieces inspired by Pacific Northwest nature.

Sharing her love for the Pacific Northwest through art

Besides being a health policy and disability advocate, Lizzy Ragan is an artist. She shares her love of art, the outdoors and the Pacific Northwest through of mountains, wildflowers and landscapes. She says the paintings serve as their own medicine and have provided a great deal of healing. To see more, follow on Instagram.

The views expressed in this story do not represent those of the White House or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.