As Gene announced last month, I’ve recently stepped into the new position of Director of Advocacy at Diabetes Hands Foundation. I am beyond excited to be a part of the DHF family, the diabetes community, and to be working in an area I’m extremely passionate about. I would like to use this space to introduce myself, share a bit of our vision for Diabetes Advocates, and invite you participate in the future we’re building!
Q: How did your passion for diabetes and advocacy ignite?
A: I was a senior at UC Berkeley, when I had my first experience as an “e-patient”, researching my symptoms on the internet, booking an appointment with a physician, and getting sent to the hospital with my diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. Over the next few years, I intensely felt the gaps in the healthcare system, weeded through misinformation, filed appeals for an insulin pump, experienced the waves in anxiety, and barely kept up with the multitude of difficult decisions I needed to make. We patients must become our own caretakers, healthcare advocates, insurance specialists, and technology consumers… not to mention anxiety reduction specialists. It’s a lot!
My dad is a handyman that can fix just about anything; from a stool in the garage at a young age, he taught me to see a problem, encounter roadblocks, and keep going until we found a solution that worked. As I went through my own diabetes experience, I used that to contemplate the macro-level problems, and kept asking “how do we better articulate the patient experience, change policies and standards, leverage the power of our community network, and create innovative solutions to make life with diabetes better?” And down the rabbit hole we go!
Q: Who has influenced your philosophy on healthcare advocacy?
A: Joyce Lee was one of the first thought leaders I found on Twitter that connected me to new frameworks of thinking. She is a healthcare provider that emphasizes the need for the healthcare system to look towards our patient communities for information, feedback, ideas, and innovation. She envisions a future that includes patient participation in medical decisions, the use of the internet and social media to link patients and providers, and patients as a crucial force for innovation.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as the new Director of Advocacy?
A: I want Diabetes Advocates to empower as many people as possible to become advocates for positive change in the diabetes space. Advocacy can happen at any age, in any geography, in any language, and in any form. Advocacy can be lobbying at the federal level, self-advocacy at the doctor’s office, sharing our story on Facebook, starting a local initiative, getting involved in international policy change, etc. etc. I want to help the community identify the causes that speak to us, equip ourselves with effective tools, learn from other disciplines, and collectively create positive change for ourselves, for our local communities, or even internationally.
If you’d like to read more about the issues and what is guiding our advocacy work, check out this intro: What We Support. Exciting things are planned to load DiabetesAdvocates.org with information, invite new advocates to join us, announce even bigger opportunities through MasterLab, and provide more chances to amplify the patient voice… so stay tuned, follow us on Twitter, connect with me anytime if you’d like to talk advocacy, and join us in shaping the future of diabetes! I can’t wait to connect and grow together.