Many of you do not know Rick Phillips or know his formal title of Dr. Lawrence Richard Phillips Jr. He is best known around these parts as @Rphil2 .
I was prompted to do this interview with Rick because I recently have noticed a few people questioning his motives and his integrity. These questions arose because of his affiliation with Medtronic as a volunteer ambassador. If anyone knows Rick as I know Rick they will know these suspicions are unfounded, it is my hope that after this interview everyone will know why I believe so.
One disclosure I wish to make, this interview has nothing to do with Medtronic, I am not a Medtronic customer although I once was. I left Medtronic for a product that I felt better suited my needs, I did not do so because of a failure on their part.
Gary - Hi Rick, Please tell us a little about yourself, maybe share with us your diagnosis story
Rick - Oh, it’s funny, I was DX’d at Disney world. Yes, it is true Disney world is not always the happiest place on earth. Even more fun is that I got out of the hospital on my 17th birthday. I love that in 1974 when I was DX’d my mom and dad decided to remain in FL for the remainder of the week. We lived in Indiana (I still do), and mom and dad had saved for the vacation. My mom was T1, so we knew what it was that was making me so ill. But, they had saved a long time to go to FL, and by golly, we were staying. Looking back on things I still laugh, I mean who does that?
Gary - You have shared with me that your professional career was as a city manager and later as a school’s director. One story that I would like to ask about is one you relayed to me about the boys allowed to graduate even after being caught intoxicated at the prom. You could have possibly ruined these young mens careers but you chose not to.
Rick -Yes, those kids. They were near the top of the class, but they came to prom drunk. When they showed up, the dean smelled the alcohol, and the police were at the prom for security. The officer decided that he would test them. Sure, enough they were both legally intoxicated. Well, the principal talked the police officer out of arresting them. But that left the boys to me to decide a punishment.
We discussed what to do, and we had the ability to expel them. If we had, they would have failed to graduate, and they both had scholarships etc. So, I ruled they could graduate but not walk at graduation. Oh, for heavens sakes. One of the boys had family coming in, and the parents were so upset. We held the line and let them graduate but not walk.
The thing is as a kid I recall many times was go to High School dances and drink. It was so crazy to be in judgment of a kid who did the same thing you did. It makes a man humble. The phrase - there but by the grace of God, go I, kept turning over in my mind. I know we made the right decision. One is now a highly paid tax accountant and the other an attorney.
Gary - Do You still operate your blog? If so hopefully there is a link to be posted.
Rick - I do. It is www.RADiabetes.com These days it is more about RA and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), but you will see several Diabetes related posts. In fact, my most active posts are usually about diabetes.
I also blog www.RheumatoidArthritis.net. I am fortunate that people enjoy my writing.
Gary - Why it’s important, is its purpose to serve the RA community.
Rick - The RA community is not nearly as organized as the Diabetes Online Community. I found ways to both express myself but also to offer some assistance. The RA community is very female-centric (roughly 80% of RA cases are females), and I enjoy bringing a male perspective to the community.
Gary - Are you involved in any other areas of the RA community?
Rick - Both RA and Diabetes. For the RA community, I serve on the national Arthritis Foundation’s Patient Engagement Committee. It gives me great satisfaction to help out.
For the RA and Diabetes communities, I was selected to serve on the FDA Patient Engagement Committee. I was delighted to have the support of many in the diabetes and arthritis communities when I applied and was selected.
Gary - You have written many wonderful blogs for the TuDiabetes community. Do you have a few favorites you can provide links to.
Rick - Well, I wrote many more really bad ones. In 2013 when I graduated from the doctorate program, I decided to try my hand at blogging. TUDiabetes was a ready-made platform for my blogging.
Here are two I liked writing:
Tough Time’s Café - Tough Times Cafe
Has Your Diacrap Runneth Over? - Has Your Diacrap Runneth Over?
Gary - On our previous operating platform “Ning” we had a dedicated blog section, during part of that time you served as the blog curator for TuDiabetes, please tell us about it.
Rick - I was writing so much on that platform that I think the admins thought, hey this guy is here every day, let’s make him blog coordinator. Oh, that platform was so buggy. We could not find anything, and it was down so much. I think I was less the coordinator and more the blogger. That first year in 2013, I wrote 200 blogs and the second year I wrote 100. In March of 2015, I went out on my own. There is so much comfort however in TUDiabetes and that old Ning platform. After several years it started to make sense, I mean sort of.
Gary - You were once asked to be a member of the TuDiabetes Admin Team, I remember being disappointed when you turned us down. I truly understood why but you would have been a great admin, can you please explain your reasons?
Rick - I have always wanted to serve both the arthritis and diabetes communities. Likely had I been asked one year before I would have done it. I have admired the function of the admins, and of course, I love our community.
You can check, but I think I joined in 2009. However, by 2014 my service in the arthritis community started to grow, and I thought if I become an admin here, would I ever be able to get my involvement in the Arthritis community off the ground? I decided I would pass on the TUDiabetes opportunity. My heart just would not have been in it 100%.
As things worked out, it was the right decision. After I said no I was doing video interviews for TUDiabetes for about a year and then started a project on the new site to read and post the best of the diabetes blogs on the internet each day.
By the way, I still do that every night. I read and comment on about 40 plus diabetes and 20 plus RA blogs each week. I monitor over 200 different blog sites and add to my list almost every week. It allows me to remain completely connected to every blogger I can find in the diabetes community. As a blogger myself I know comments are what keep us going so, I want to try to comment on about 95% of the blogging efforts in the diabetes and RA communities every evening.
Gary - In what other ways have you served the diabetic community outside of TuD. The floor is open to you on this one I will have no follow-ups.
Rick - I love to do clinical trials and do so as often as possible. I believe we are close to finding the best way to stop this disease in some people. I do not believe that I will ever be ‘cured’ (whatever that means), but I do believe we are close to being able to help my grandchildren, or my grandchildren’s children from suffering with diabetes. That is more payback than I could ever imagine in 1974 when I was Dx’d.
Gary - Now to the elephant in the room. The Medtronic Ambassador program, what is it?
Rick - The Ambassador program is for volunteers who use Medtronic products and are resources for others who use them or who are thinking about using them. Frankly, almost all of me being an ambassador is done on TUDiabetes. So, what you see me do on TUD is pretty much what the program does.
As an ambassador, I am asked to answer questions about products I use or have used, help people who are having difficulty with Medtronic, or direct people to resources offered by Medtronic. I like doing it because I get to help some folks.
Gary - Why are you in the program?
Rick - It gives me a chance to help people, and frankly, it is a little self-serving. Just like when I said no being an admin here because I wanted to expand my portfolio of volunteerism in the RA community, I chose to be an ambassador because I wanted to increase my connection back to the diabetes community.
When I feel like one community or the other is taking up to much of my effort. I seek ways to dial in to strengthen my involvement. I was at that point in 2017 when I was asked by Medtronic if I would be an ambassador. My activities were almost entirely in the RA community, so I dialed back in to the diabetes community as a Medtronic Ambassador.
Gary - Are you a salesman?
Rick - No. First, I do not make any money from Medtronic at all. It is a complete volunteer effort. I really did get a cup and a shirt. The best thing about the gifts was the shirt. It is a nice polo with a Medtronic logo on it. Actually, I have never worn the shirt. But it is a nice shirt.
Gary - How long have you been a Medtronic customer?
Rick -I think I had my first Medtronic pump in 2002. I have always used Medtronic pumps, and at one point I used a Medtronic pump and Dexcom sensor. I have used the 670G since fall of 2017. By the way, Medtronic users who would like to apply for the program can do so at:
I think this page says participation is about 1 hour per week? I have found it is about one hour per month unless one finds a site like TUD where more people have questions about Medtronic products. I believe I heard there are a few more than 100 ambassadors nationwide. But I assume they are always looking for others.
Gary - What does an ambassador do? What is the most likely focus of a session, is it exclusively about Medtronic pumps or more about pumping in general. I ask this because I suspect that most of the people might talk with are first time considering a pump and more interested in life with a pump.
Rick - I have attended two events for those considering a Medtronic pump. People at these two events were there to get information about the 670G. At one event I was part of a four-person panel that answered questions, and at the second I attended by myself and also responded to questions.
At both events, people wanted to know if I liked it (I do) what problems I have had (I tell them the first day with a new sensor can be flaky and that the learning curve is at least three weeks). I tell them what they know about pumps is not applicable to the 670G. Sure, we know how to insert the sets and load the pump if you have used a Medtronic pump before, but the learning curve is steep. I tell them it took me about one month to get used to it.
Gary -Are there perks, other than a cup and a shirt.
Rick - Well, it is more of an information perk. For instance, I was asked, and I used the revised CareLink software about six months before it was released. I also sometimes hear about new products a few days before their release. But I have to say the perks are not tangible. No matter what I have done in reviewing that software or any other activity, I am not paid.
Oh, one more, I got to walk down the field of the Indianapolis Colts after one of the events. But I doubt most people think that is much of a perk. The team was not there and let’s face it, 31 other cities in the country are not impressed. Of course, anyone who attended the event got to do the same thing., so it was not really all the special.
Gary - This is an important one. Who is the TuD spelling champion.
Rick - We all know I am the champion for the most amazing 572 straight weeks I have been the champion. Because as we know Rick cnat’ spiel fro sheit
Gary - My last question will be to ask if you would like to add anything.
Rick -The only thing I would add is that I do genuinely value this community. So many people built this site over the many years it has functioned. This community is built on the toil and sweat of many who have come before us. I am forever grateful for their contributions. I hope my grandchildren never need to come here for support, but if they do, I hope it is here for them.
Gary - Thank You for your time Rick