Episode 401: Lyme Empowerment – an interview with Jennifer Russel


Join us for a compelling episode of the Tick Boot Camp Podcast featuring Jennifer Russell, CEO and founder of the Illinois Lyme Association. Co-hosted by Jenny Buttaccio, this episode explores Jennifer’s journey from rural living to becoming a major force in the fight against Lyme disease.


  • Welcoming Jennifer Russell and her influential role in the Lyme disease community.
  • Introduction of special co-host Jenny Buttaccio.

Jennifer’s Early Life and First Encounter with Lyme

  • Jennifer discusses her upbringing in Alo, Illinois.
  • Early experiences with ticks and the initial lack of Lyme disease awareness.

The Onset of Lyme Disease in Jennifer’s Family

  • The story of Jennifer’s daughter’s mysterious symptoms and the struggle for a diagnosis.
  • How Lyme disease became a pivotal part of Jennifer’s life.

Advocacy and Legislative Efforts

  • Jennifer’s proactive approach to raising Lyme disease awareness.
  • The challenges and triumphs in the legislative process for Lyme disease recognition.

Founding the Illinois Lyme Association

  • The inception and goals of the Illinois Lyme Association.
  • Jennifer’s role in community building and education.


  • Lauryn Russell Lyme Disease Prevention and Protection Law: Grants doctors immunity to treat Lyme disease outside CDC guidelines without risking their license.
  • Insurance Coverage Law (2019): Ensured coverage for Lyme disease in state-regulated insurance plans and Medicaid.
  • Lyme Task Force: appointed to Illinois Department of Public Health’s Lyme Disease Task Force.

Future Aspirations for Lyme Disease Advocacy

  • Jennifer’s vision for the growth and impact of the Illinois Lyme Association.
  • Plans for expanding Lyme disease awareness through hiring writers and volunteers.


  • Key insights and takeaways from Jennifer’s journey.
  • The importance of advocacy, community support, and perseverance in combating Lyme disease.