Principal Sheilah Gauch Is Named a 2021 Commonwealth Heroine

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) has selected Dearborn Academy Principal Sheilah Gauch of Melrose as a member of the Commonwealth Heroine Class of 2021. Sheilah, nominated for the honor by Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose), is the chair of her local SEPAC and cofounder of the Mass Coalition for PANS/PANDAS Legislation. In the latter capacity, she led and won the fight for the passage of S.2984, legislation for an insurance mandate to support the most critically ill PANS/PANDAS children. The efforts of the broad coalition that she and her fellow mom-advocates built also created the PANS/PANDAS Advisory Council.


According to MCSW, Commonwealth Heroines are women who “don’t make the news, but make the difference” in their community and in the state. As a Heroine, Sheilah joins a distinguished group of women who “make our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and towns better places to live,” using “their time, talent, spirit and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others.”


Tireless Work and Innovation

Heralded as an innovator, Sheilah has used her time to protect incredibly sick children suffering from Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Syndrome/Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep, or PANS/PANDAS. PANS is an umbrella term for a host of triggers (viral/infectious/environmental) that create inflammation in the brain, leading to behavioral changes from OCD to food restriction to mood lability.


PANDAS is a subset of PANS that is triggered by a strep infection. Just one dose of the life-saving treatment intravenous immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG) for the syndromes can cost as much $30,000. Thanks to S.2984, there is now insurance coverage of this important treatment of PANS/PANDAS.


Sheilah is also recognized for her tireless leadership with the Melrose Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC). She has worked hard to build a collaborative relationship between the SEPAC and the school administration. With her team of volunteers, she has supported the organization in developing a strong presence within the community in advocating for students with special needs. 

Watch the Facebook livestream of the 18th annual Commonwealth Heroines celebration. Congratulations, Sheilah, for a well-deserved honor.