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Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, was named Diabetes Educator of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).
The AADE award, sponsored by LifeScan, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, is given annually to an individual who has made a special contribution to diabetes education through dedication and innovation in the daily practice of patient care.
What does a CDE have to do to be recognized by the AADE with such an honor as the one just bestowed upon you?
I believe many CDEs are everyday heroes in fighting this epidemic and could be the Diabetes Educator of the Year if their virtues were known.
I speculate that my approach to promoting diabetes education through cartooning is unique and innovative. Using humor to enhance learning may have helped me to get recognized with the diabetes education cartoon book I authored and illustrated, “DiabeTease: A Lighter Look at the Serious Subject of Diabetes,” from which I donate half of my profits to diabetes research. Plus, being able to juggle the plastic food models and having colleagues write eloquent nomination letters probably helped.
How would you describe your niche as a diabetes educator?
To do what it takes to connect with a person first before attempting to cover the scientific standards of care. I like to think that I put the “art” in the art and science of diabetes education. Then we laugh and learn.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The process of interacting with people while figuring out the right combination of approaches to successfully control one’s diabetes. It is very intellectually stimulating.
What does it take to be a good diabetes educator?
The commitment and passion to partner with the diabetes community. Jane Goodall said it nicely: “All I can say is never give up, never give up! Never give up!”
What is your impression of diabetes care today?Impressive and underutilized. The researchers are amazing in their discoveries, which we can then apply to clinical practice. Yet, less than half of people with diabetes ever get education about diabetes from a certified diabetes educator. And less than 3 percent of people with diabetes see an endocrinologist or diabetes specialist. We have a lot of work to do to get the word out to the people: Go see an expert. We are fighting an uphill battle.
What do you learn about diabetes from your patients with diabetes?
A lot! That diabetes affects no two people alike; that we must consider the individual in their path of life—not just a person with a disease; that diabetes management has its ups and downs. And many patients teach me things not related to diabetes, which strengthens me as a clinician.
In addition, I enjoy learning about people’s sense of humor and how they apply it to their life with diabetes.
How does diabetes education need to change in this era of the obesity and type 2 epidemics?
Focus more on prevention and access to care. Get out of the clinics and into the schools. We need to improve our education about healthy eating. We need programs that encourage us to exercise regularly. In this day and age, we need incentives to make us motivated. This is a complex problem that will need a well-coordinated plan of attack if we are to succeed with these epidemics.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.