On Friday night, my husband and I drove down to the city to have dinner with Manny Hernandez, who is the President of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, which runs the amazing TuDiabetes social networking site among other things. Basically, he’s a Very Big Deal. As we caught up on life, we chatted a little about my new back-to-school life and future career as a diabetes educator. After I explained the excruciatingly long process, Manny asked what prompted this change in course for my life.
I have thought about becoming a diabetes educator for many year, but this most recent revelation really happened at this year’s American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions. The Scientific Sessions is the largest conference on diabetes, and it’s where most of the diabetes research, new technology, and theories in management are presented. Most of it is over my head, but there was one thing that I was undeniably clued in on: the diabetes management of young adults (what the scientific community calls “emerging adults”) is really, really bad.
I’m only 27 years old, which may or may not be considered an emerging adult. I’m married, have a retirement account, and haven’t lived with my parents in five years. But psychologically, sometimes I feel like I’m still trying to figure out this whole Life thing. In any case, as I listened to the stories from presenters about the difficulty in managing diabetes in teens and as I read the poster presentations of research on emerging adults (of which there was a lot!), I realized that young adults with diabetes need more help than they’re getting. They need targeted, focused attention on their specific life issues. They might be at an adult clinic, but 25-year-olds are not the same as 45-year-olds, who are not the same as 65-year-olds.
Overall, I feel like diabetes education is not really where it should be for most of the country, although I know a lot are well-intentioned. I also know a lot of talented CDEs. I’ve always been taught, and have always believed, that you have to be the change you want to see in the world. (Thanks Ghandi!) And I think for me, it was no longer good enough to just point out the things that need to be changed. I have to get in there and try to help too!
As I explained to Manny about my revelation at ADA, I told him about my dream career once I am a certified diabetes educator. He asked me if I planned to share any of this, and I told him I hadn’t, because it’s so far in the future that it didn’t seem like it made sense. Manny encouraged me to write about what I hope to do, to have a written record of my goals to see how they change and grow over the next ten or so years. I’m not really one of those people who believes that if you put it out there, the Universe will give it to you. There are plenty of things I have put out there that the Universe has not given me (like a cure!). But I think there is an element of accountability that is very important when you disclose your intentions to people, and so I’m hoping that by writing it here, it will help remind me and keep me focused on why I’m doing what I’m doing, especially when it comes to studying for my first big scary Anatomy & Physiology exam.
My career goal is to own my own diabetes education practice. I attended a session on being a CDE entrepreneur at the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference, where I listened to Gary Scheiner (who was my own CDE for many years) and how he launched his business. I think it’s brilliant how he is able to educate remotely and not be limited by insurance or location. My own dream, however, is slightly different. While Gary serves anyone who is on insulin, my goal is to serve anyone who is an emerging adult. Essentially that adolescents and teenagers through early adulthood, regardless of their type of diabetes. Patients normally have to jump from pediatric to adulthood, but I’d like to think of my practice as more of a bridge between the two life stages.
Although I don’t have type 2 diabetes and I know type 2 PWDs get a lot of flack for their condition (you’re fat! you’re lazy!), the truth is that the body is complicated and it’s not as easy to just tell someone who has type 2 diabetes that they need to lose weight.
I mean, come on. Have you ever tried to lose weight? It’s fucking hard!
I would love to work with young adults who are struggling to manage their diabetes while also struggling to manage their life. It’s not easy having diabetes and it’s not easy being a grown-up. Sometimes you only have the mental capacity for one or the other, but unfortunately, life waits for no diabetic. You don’t get to take a mental health day from diabetes.
Working with remote clients is very important to me as well. I personally think you should have the freedom to see any medical professional you want, and I don’t want to be limited with contracts and that sort of thing. Of course, I have no idea what the state of health care and health insurance will look like in ten years, but that’s what I’m envisioning right now.
I’d also love to have a team working with me that could focus on areas that I’m not as strong in. If I could, I’d love to hire or work with a nutritionist, an exercise physiologist and a psychologist, either virtually or in a brick-and-mortar office. Diabetes is complicated and I don’t think that people are given access to the people that they need, when they need them. Usually it’s “go find your own!” and that can be really overwhelming when you’re not sure what to look for.
So that’s my big dream goal! I don’t know if many people plan things out as much as this, and I’m willing to concede that it probably won’t look 100% like this when all is said and done. I don’t know how things will change over the years, or who I’ll come in contact with. For all I know, I could score a really sweet gig at a diabetes clinic at a hospital where I’m given the opportunity to work with a lot of emerging adults, in which case, owning my own clinic won’t be as important.
But for now, this is what I’d like to do once all the exams are passed and hours are accumulated.
Do you have any big dream goals for your career?