Diabetes Educators are Champions

A champion is an ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person; someone who fights for a cause.

We are all champions in the diabetes community. Take a moment every day in November, Diabetes Awareness Month, to tell yourself what a great job you’re doing and to encourage yourself to make the changes you want to see in the world.

| Nov 10, 2008

Diabetes care creates its own culture. There is a passion that surrounds the caretakers of the diabetes community. It is the small successes that spark us to keep on until the next one. Diabetes care creates champions out of all of us. I'd like to mention just a few of the hundreds of diabetes educators I have met. 

For many years, "Andy," a nurse from Santa Rosa, California, has taken two weeks of her vacation time to travel to the Ukraine. She teaches a diabetes class in the local language and brings insulin and supplies she's collected from around Northern California. The insulin is stored in a World War I bunker at 56 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure its freshness over the next year. 

Parents bring their children by train from as far away as Moscow to obtain the life-giving hormone that will allow their children to continue growing. There is no intensive management or titration, just life and death. Each child is weighed and his or her insulin needs for the upcoming year are determined. This amount of insulin is then carefully issued to the parents for use over the next 12 months. Pregnant women arrive, anxious to learn how to safely deliver a healthy child. Glucagon is handed out to the families with the most fragile children who live on rural farms. These children would die if their seizures could not be abated. 

Andy is a diabetes champion.

Peggy Huang is a graduate of the Presbyterian School of Nursing in Philadelphia and is a certified diabetes educator, par excellence! Peggy developed the award-winning Diabetes Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) many years before ADA certification. She co-founded the Diabetes Teaching Center at UCSF in 1977. Although retired as program coordinator, she continues to serve as a program consultant and sees patients for individual counseling. 

Peggy was part of the original team to implement the concepts of intensive diabetes self-management in Northern California in 1974. She helped establish several other teaching programs and is a mentor to nurse educators in countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan, as well as those in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 1978 to 1992, she was the coordinator and principal instructor for the Diabetes Teaching Center. 

Peggy is also an active advocate for educating Asian Americans with diabetes in the Bay Area. She is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. After retiring, she continued volunteering and set up a free diabetes clinic for the elderly. The San Francisco Chinese community now has facilities and services that would not have existed without Peggy's passion and commitment. 

Peggy is a diabetes champion.

Jeanie Hickey, RN, CDE, currently puts her passion into the Dogs for Diabetes program. She has donated time, energy, and her own hard work to train the dogs to alert on the scent of a person with diabetes becoming hypoglycemic. Jeanie fosters dogs in training, promotes their benefits to individuals at risk for severe hypoglycemia, participates in identifying recipients of a dog, and helps coordinate training and graduation. She even collects food, buys stuffed dogs to use as fundraisers, and visits any group interested in learning about these amazing dogs. 

Jeanie also donates her summer to work at Bearskin Meadows, a diabetes camp in Northern California. The camp understands that diabetes is a condition that affects the entire family of a child with diabetes, including siblings and parents. Bearskin Meadow gives families a uniquely supportive community of peers and adults who truly understand the day-to-day challenges of living with diabetes.

Jeannie is a diabetes champion.

Molly Keane is one of our fallen diabetes heroes. Molly exemplified what a typical diabetes educator is: devoted to helping patients obtain the best control they can.  She often took phone calls from patients at night and on weekends.  If a patient needed extra care due to illness or pregnancy, she proactively called them and spoke to them daily or even more often if that was necessary.  In addition to her patient care, she took on the mentoring of new educators as an important role. She knew this would help even more patients.  She did this with compassion, wit, adaptability, and dedication.

Molly died in a tragic accident off the Sonoma coast last February when she tried to save her elderly dog from a rogue wave. Throughout her short life, she touched so many of us. Educators all over the western United States remember how Molly paid such close attention and how she made herself available to so many. She was full of caring and charisma. We are responsible for carrying Molly's work forward. She inspires all of us. 

Molly was one of us, an everyday diabetes champion.

We are all champions in the diabetes community. We are passionate. We are there for all the important moments in our patients' lives. Take a moment every day in November, Diabetes Awareness Month to tell yourself what a great job you're doing and to encourage yourself to make the changes you want to see in the world.

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Posted by Margaret on 11 November 2008

Right on, Kim
You are also one of our diabetes champians

Posted by Anonymous on 11 November 2008

Thank you for mentioning Molly Keane, definitely a true Hero and Champion! She is missed, and truly blessed our lives. We miss you Molly!
jennifer dorn - aDorn Designs

Posted by Anonymous on 11 November 2008

While diabetes health professionals are an excellent resource for those of us managing our diabetes, the word "caretaker" comes across as demeaning and condescending.
care·tak·er (kârtkr)
1. One that is employed to look after or take charge of goods, property, or a person; a custodian.

As a diabetic, I don't need anyone to look after me or take charge of me. This attitude, which is prevalent in diabetes circles assumes that those with diabetes can't take care of themselves and therefore need a "caretaker". In fact we diabetics are quite capable of taking care of ourselves given the information and education necessary. The goal should not be to create a dependence but an inedpendence. As long as diabetics are viewed with praternalism and a professional presciousness of the superiority of the professional, those with diabetes will not assume responsibility for their own care but defer to the "expert" and simply take orders like a subordinate.

Its about time the professional diabetic community recognizes that people are quite capable of self care and monitoring and that careful oversight and caretaking is an inappropriate model.

Posted by jimmysdevoted on 11 November 2008

What I am finding locally is that no two diabetes educators can agree on protocol. Its very helter skelter at best. As a DE and a CAM practitioner I ifnd it hard to get a position as a DE with clinical proven methods and information. I ahve attended classes where some Rn DEs have gone on to say if you are a type 2 you need only test once or twice a week and as long as you stay away form bread, cake and sugar your diabetes can be cured.
Another says that tpe 2 for everyone can be cured and most are diabetic because they are fat. An yet another CDE said ADA guidelines ofr exchange is not accurate and only The INDEX is the way to go. When I brought up that beans that are supposed ot be go for you sends me to above 400 and keeps me there she just poopooed it. They are also very confused abotu type 1 as being the BAD diabeets and TYpe 2 as not being so serious.
Julia Sherman DN

Posted by seashore on 12 November 2008

Almost all diabetic educators follow the guidance of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which insists that diabetics eat a low-fat diet, which in turn requires a high carb diet. The more carbs one eats, the more glucose is fed into the blood, and the more difficult it is to control diabetes. With the high-carb dietary recommendations of the ADA and most diabetes educators, diabetes usually gets steadily worse.

I was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes over five years ago, and went onto a low-carb diet four months later. I startd on 10 mg/day of Glyburide, and now usually take 1.25 mg/day with very tight blood sugar control. Who says that type-2 diabetes cannot be cured?

Posted by Anonymous on 12 November 2008

More then 10 years ago I was introduced to a CDE who I refer to as a Godsend. I have now lived with Juvenile/Type 1 Diabetes for over 50 years. My CDE's name is Gary Scheiner, he himself is also a Type 1. I am thankful to have come this far and am able to take advantage of the newest medical technology that has helped to extend my life.

Posted by Anonymous on 12 November 2008

I have investigated Dogs for Diabetics, so I am very interested in the Jeanie Hickey, RN, CDE experience. To my knowlegde I cannot get a dog in San Antonio, Texas. I would love to get more information. Joanne, Type 1 32 years, pump, CGM.

Posted by RDMelinda on 6 January 2009

I am very saddened to find out here about Molly Keane's death. She was the most amazing person...kind, fun, extraordinarily intelligent, a great teacher...the best of the best. Somehow I didn't hear about this great loss to all of us. I hope her family knows how much she was admired and adored, and how grateful many of us are to have known her in her amazing life.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 January 2009

To the person insulted by the word "caretaker", maybe you have misunderstood. The word "care" is part of this term, and that's what CDE's do: we care about the health and lives of those who come to see us in our professional capacity. Trust me, this isn't a well-paid position for many of us, so we don't work for money. We go to work because we have a desire to help people, to somehow touch someone's life and maybe in some small way make it better. I don't know if you've heard, but the entire diabetes professional community changed what we call what we do: it's officially termed "Diabetes Self-Management Training". My goal is to make myself obsolete. If I can point a person in the right direction, give them information they didn't have before, act as a co-problem solver or just another pair of eyes to help identify potential issues, then I'm doing my job. Trust me, we want the people who are our patients to be able to manage on their own. You may be quite able to research on the Internet, buy books for yourself and learn from your own experiences - good for you. Many of my patients don't have computers, don't have enough money to buy books because they have to spend their money on food and rent, and have no idea what diabetes self-care means. They are told myths by their family members and well-meaning friends. I am the person who "cares" that they get the information they need, answers their questions, and follows along with them to help when they need it, to give them new information and to be there so they know that somebody "cares" about what happens to them. The people mentioned above are heroes because they have gone out of their way and have made personal sacrifices to help others. How you can argue with that, I have no idea.

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