Diabetes Career help

Hi Everyone,

I apologise for my long absence.

So, I’ve been thinking… After 30+ year of living with T1, most of my biggest breakthroughs with management have come from a mix of information from others with D and self experimentation. Most of my experience with healthcare has been positive, but not that helpful. I feel that my non D healthcare professionals have more of a general familiarity with the intricacies of diabetes, rather than any sort of in deep knowledge or experience with it. At this point I’m fine with that.

Is there any reasonable career path for someone with D to learn about and help others?

My first thought was to study for a MS in nutrition, complete residency, practice as a dietician for 2 years and become a CDE.

I have a 20 year old undergrad art degree, so would still need to fulfill a to of prerequisites before I could even start. I can’t imagine having the time of resources to do something like this.

Has anyone done anyhing similar? Any thoughts or advice on how one would proceed?

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Interesting question. For my first 20 years with T1 I never had a chance to talk with anyone else who had the disease, let alone a specialist, just GPs who were basically working from Cliff’s Notes when it came to T1. Finally getting connected to one other T1 through a chance meeting at a party was how I learned about Lantus/Novolog MDI: I’d been on R/NPH for 20 years up to that point and none of my GPs had ever mentioned there might be a better way of doing things. And I’ve learned far more about everything to do with the disease, from diet to technology, from talking with other patients on this site than I ever have learned even from endo specialists, even though the ones I’ve had were very good.

So I think your idea is sound. I would say that my current endo has a CDE who is a pump user and has been T1 since childhood, so he’s been great. That seems like a good direction to head in. I don’t know what the education pathway would be, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find out. If you have access to a CDE through your care team I’d start there—just ask. And of course Teh Google is your friend. I’d be interested to hear what you find out if you want to circle back here.

Is there a job in particular you’d like to do? Do you definitely want to be a CDE, or just want to be active in something related to diabetes? I’d spend a little time looking into job openings of specific companies, i.e. Tandem, Medtronic, dexcom, Bigfoot medical, Abbott, JDRF, Sanofi, Eli Lily, local hospitals, et al… And see what exactly their job requirements are. Things such as sales, customer service, and marketing wouldn’t even require medical background, just knowledge.

If pay isn’t important and you just want to feel like you’re contributing, there are also lots of volunteer opportunities. I never thought about it before, but Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (are there similar organizations elsewhere?) might be an incredible opportunity. I know I felt like a freak all alone in the world as a child with this, I would have loved a diabetes mentor. Last year I just happened to have met a 13 year old in my tiny, rural town when I spotted her Dexcom sensor. I made friends with her real quick so I could try to be that person for her. (I don’t know if she appreciates it, but her parents sure do! LOL)

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I’ve had similar experiences, having only met a couple of T1’s until I was an adult. I think my first major improvement was switching to Lente from NPH. I think it was dumb luck. Insurance change or something like that. NPH gave me fairly frequent, massive hypos. I would’ve never even thought to try a different insulin at the time.

I don’t have a CDE, but will certainly try asking my Endo about it on my next appointment. I’ll let you know.

I’m still trying to figure that out…My reservation with working for one of these companies is that I believe there is a fundamental conflict between helping PWD and extracting as much money from us as possible. A while ago, I was looking into being a pump trainer, but even that required becoming an RN.

I hate to say it, but pay is definitely important. I have 2 kids, live in NYC, and am usually juggling 3 or 4 jobs. I get asked about Diabetes a lot, and try to share what I’ve learned, but there are some gaping holes in my knowledge. Especially concerning effective T2 management. So, I would like to be in a position where I could learn more. I’ve definitely never had a mentor. All of the best pointers I’ve received have come from online. A friend of mine has a recently diagnosed teenage daughter. They’ve been struggling, but she told me that knowing I’ve lived with it for a long time, and am doing okay has kept her from having panic attacks. I guess that counts for something.

Pick a pump company and be a trainer / marketing executive or online support. No additional formal education needed.

I think we have a huge need for diabetics in the field.

I just did my Masters in Software and have found opportunity to publish on the topic through my professors. I think there is lots of opportunity to carve your own path forward. As you know, there is a lot of need. You can follow an established path. I have found some opportunity to carve a new academic path. I think there is a lot to be gained from some establishment of new paths. I recommend that you follow a path that interests you and just stay connected with the community.

It may also kinda depend on where you live. I live near the headquarters of large device manufacturers and insurers, so that just puts certain opportunities and responsibilities in my lap. But, there are other resources in other places.

I was an EMT first. I think there was lots of opportunity to do good there. MN has special ‘community paramedics’ programs where diabetics might be particularly helpful. Red Cross Disaster services has lots of local chapters. There is need there. Thats volunteer work, but they could get you in quickly.

I have also found a lot to do with Art, on this topic. Every local hospital, I imagine, does rotating art shows, although, I haven’t found those to be great venues for art on the health and illness topic. I’ve brought art to local Ted conferences. There is a church here that does a lot of phenomenal exhibits on mental illness. But, I’m sure there is room for other illnesses. They do regular rotating exhibits. Right now they are doing a film screening. https://www.mary.org/news-events/events/mental-health-film-festival-2020?instance=0

If you dig up some local painters, I’m sure you could do a great exhibit on the experience of chronic illness at one of the colleges that has paramedic or medical students. Painters have all kinds of health problems, lol.

That might allow you to connect more with people who have an interest in the topic and do some creative exploration of the topic. Maybe some interesting paths forward will pop up.

There are lots of lobbying opportunities here. No one, necessarily, gives you a job to do that work. You just start doing it. Work begets work.

Which part of the country are you in?

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I looked up some pump trainer jobs a while ago. I think you need to be an RN. Oddly, I just stumbled upon this disturbingly easy Medtronic’s “Pump Therapy Training Certification for Professionals”

Aced it. They didn’t send me my certificate, though.

Thanks for the advice. I’m in New York City.

Sounds like you’ve made some pretty good moves.

Most of my experience has been as a children’s book illustrator. Between that and various teaching jobs, I have a pretty wide base of experience, but not a lot of specific credentials. I’m looking for more stability and trying to simplify. Also, trying to get out of publishing.

I can understand that. The economy is up and running. I just got my first ‘big kid’ job. I’m really happy with it. If your gonna jump into something else, now might be the time. We have a lot of, technically, under-qualified people because the employer is desperate. Everybody’s performing just fine. There aren’t as many barriers to entry as there have been over the past 15 years. It doesn’t seem that you have to be overqualified to get a job anymore. In general, jobs aren’t as competitive and schools aren’t as competitive as they have been. I think your playing your cards right. It’s time to start throwing your name into the ring for things that interest you. Since everybody’s working, volunteer opportunities are also probably wide open. That can take you a lot of places while your figuring things out. I get interviews for a lot of cool positions just because recruiters think I am ‘interesting.’ A lot of ‘interesting’ work opportunities have come from volunteer work. That stuff just started paying dividends…after 15 years of solid volunteer history.

What’s your story of yourself as a diabetic? Maybe we can build a narrative that helps you professionally…

Very interesting. I’ve been hearing that the economy is strong, but my experience has been different. It probably has a lot to do with my age, location, etc. People I know tend to be shifting away from entrepreneurial ventures into more established fields; education, healthcare, public sector, etc.

My diabetes story goes something like this:

I was diagnosed in 1986, age 8, with classic symptoms; night sweats, failure to gain weight. The small, upstate NY town I grew up in didn’t have much of a hospital, so the GP referred me an Endo in Burlington, VT, about 2 1/2 hours away. I followed the standard ADA diet pretty closely. Took increasing doses of NPH and R. Even weighed my food. I was a pretty active kid. Sometimes my BG would inexplicably drop 100+ mg/dl. I’d have a couple pretty severe hypos about 2x per week, and go into shock and convulsions every other month, on average.

By the time I was an adolescent, my BG drifted upward. Partly from trying to avoid lows, probably due to beta cell death. I was still active, taking MDI 3x / day. NPH + R. My BG would fluctuate ±200 with little provocation. I was still battling lows and would go into shock, usually in my sleep, at least a couple times per year.

I have to go to work. To be continued. Don’t worry. it gets better

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Your only 5 years younger than me, Sam! Perfect age for entrepreneurial stuff.

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Actually, I’ve been doing entrepreneurial stuff for the last 20 years. I’m looking to go in the other direction. Something more stable.

After some research, I want to get an MS in Dietetics. Need a ton of prerequisites, though.

U of Minnesota has it as a B.S. degree. https://fscn.cfans.umn.edu/undergraduate-programs/nutrition/dpd/dpdprostpective/rd-requirements