Joslin Medalists and the Medals

The Joslin Medalists are people who have completed 50 years with type 1 diabetes, and who have been awarded a medal for that accomplishment. There are more than 5000 individuals who have this medal. The picture below shows medalists who attended a meeting in Boston in 2011. I am the taller fellow in the center of the back row. There are also 75 and 80 year medals. If you know any long term type 1 diabetics in any part of the world, and they do not have the medal, be sure to tell them to apply. The medals shown are, from left to right, for living 50, 75 and 80 years with type 1.

The Joslin Medalist Study in Boston examined 1000 medalists during the period 2005-2015. It was funded by JDRF, NIH, and private donations. I participated in 2009 and again in 2017. The examination was very thorough, and my past history was required, in detail. Many tests were performed while I was at the Joslin Center.

Many very interesting things were found during the study, including the fact that many of us still produce some of our own insulin. Dr. George L. King is the head of the Joslin Medalist Study in Boston. His area of expertise involves researching the causes of, and preventions for, diabetes complications. Here is an article, about three years old, about the research. The quotes are Dr. King’s own words.

“The major fears of the diabetic patient are blindness, renal failure, or hypoglycemia—all of which are complications of type one diabetes. Focus groups have shown that, if not for the complications, diabetic patients could tolerate the disease quite well.” King is one of the world’s leading researchers into diabetes complications. He is Director of Research and Head of the Section on Vascular Cell Biology at Joslin, as well as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and he has been at both Joslin and Harvard since 1981. “My area of expertise is how insulin interacts with the blood vessels,” King says. Specifically, King is examining the effects of insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, on the molecular mechanisms that could lead to degeneration of vascular systems in the body. In 1989, Dr. King spearheaded breakthrough research postulating that activation of protein kinase C is the primary pathway in which hyperglycemia causes loss of function, and other complications, in the retina, kidney and cardiovascular systems. Following this, King showed in a series of studies using vascular cells from the retina, kidneys, and arteries specifically how hyperglycemia contributed to causing various diabetes complications. King’s research into understanding the causes of diabetes complications, so he can help to find ways of preventing them through treatments and lifestyle changes, extends far beyond the confines of a lab or a petri dish. He is working with more than 800 people in the Joslin Diabetes Medalist program —people who have been awarded medals for living with type 1 diabetes for 50, even 75 years —to uncover how they have managed to avoid many diabetic complications through the decades.“They are very interesting people,” King says about his study group. “Some of them built their own glucose meters in the 1960s and 70s, before they were widely available to the public. ”Aside from being avid do it yourselfers, King found other shared traits of those who have minimized the complications from diabetes, despite living with the condition for many years. After discounting genetic factors, King’s research so far reveals that most of the Medalists exercise regularly. They are also very careful with their diets. But, more than this, King noted another shared trait that, although fairly abstract, is very important. “They are very good advocates for themselves,” King says of his subjects. “The are always on the lookout for new treatments. They are definitely a proactive group. They’re not sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to be done for them. They’ll do it for themselves first, if they have to.” King, and other researchers, also discovered that hdl levels, the so-called “good cholesterol,” is high in Medalists without complications.“We are looking into that,” King says about the implications of the hdl levels. By examining the Medalists King hopes to uncover the specific, if not the actual molecular ways in which they are protected from complications. Is it lifestyle? Genetics? Life choices? Or, is it something else? “The hope is we look at humans who are protected, then see why they’re protected, and come up with answers about lifestyle,” King says. “Then, by looking at their tissue and biochemistry (after death) we can perhaps develop medications to simulate the biochemistry that protected them. ”On that front, King says they have discovered a way that naturally produced human insulin prevents arteriosclerosis. “Can we design an insulin to prevent arteriosclerosis?” King says. “I think this may be possible in the next five years." Because up to 30 percent of people with type 2 diabetes use insulin, such a breakthrough would be good news for more than just for type 1 diabetics, he points out. Meanwhile, as researchers like King work to understand the factors that protect some people from the complications caused by diabetes, and until the development, and testing of medications as a result of those findings come to market, there are things diabetics can do to help themselves avoid retinopathy, neuropathy, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.“Don’t smoke, watch your diet, and exercise,” King advises. “Also, advocate for yourself. Be proactive. That’s the main trait of the Medalists—they stick up for themselves.”
medal-242x300 Joslin-75-Year-Medal


Wow Richard most of those traits

really fit me. I exercise daily, strictly watch what I eat, keep excellent control of my glucose levels, never smoked and advocate very strongly for myself. I have been a type 1 for 60 yrs. No diabetic complications but I do have two heart stents. I received them in 2010 after years of extreme stress. I also had a grandfather who died of a heart attack. I also was low carbing for many years and eating way too much fat.

I have just contacted Joslin about receiving the medal. The medal itself isn’t important to me, but I think that they need to know that there are more of us out there.

I must also add that during my 22 yrs of urine testing, my diabetes care was very poor.

My lab tests say that I do not produce any insulin.

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@Marilyn6, all of those traits fit me, too. I am glad you are applying for the 50 year medal. There is a medalist meeting held in Boston in odd numbered years. It will be held May 4 this year. It is nice to talk with other medalists, some of them have the 75 year medal. I will be eligible for the 75 year medal in Sept, 2020.
Yes, our care was very poor before glucose meters were available. I tested urine for 40 years before I bought my first meter.

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@mohe0001, I cheated and ate some dark chocolate. :slight_smile:

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Good man.

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I hit 50 years a year and a half ago. Too lazy to submit paperwork lol

I’ll skip medals, but accept a cure. :slight_smile:

Good plan, although I just might apply for the medal when I hit 50 years this September. Just wondering though, can Canadians apply for this too?

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Hello @AuntieFi, People from many countries have received the medal. Canada also offers medals. I know a few Canadians who have both the Canadian and Joslin medals.

Ah - thank you Richard. Do you have any pointers to the Canadian medals?

I’m Canadian, and in talking to a Joslin Medalist I was told anyone can apply. You just need some sort of evidence that you became T1D 50+ years ago (Hahaha, as if that’s possible; all my docs from the time have passed away and medical records from the 60’s just aren’t digitally available).

But fear not I was told - simple get 3 friends / family members to swear that you became diabetic 50(+) years ago and apparently they’ll issue you a medal.

I didn’t really feel it was worth the time - I know I’ve been T1D 55 years, 56 years later this year.

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Yes, I too was told 3 letters or a letter from my endocrinologist. Since I don’t have an endo, I don’t know if a GP would count. I too think I probably won’t go to the trouble.

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Thanks a bunch Jim. I know what you mean about the dinosaur age (diagnosed in ’69 at the age of 10) and its antiquated treatments. Not sure I’ll apply myself.

Keep on truckin’!

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@AuntieFi - Perhaps one of us should try applying just for fun??

I just felt that it wasn’t all that important to me, I have far more urgent things in my life than surviving a long time with T1D. And I think these awards tend to diminish the efforts all those those 15 or 30 years behind us, who likely one will make the same anniversary.

My elderly mother is still quite alive, and I have several siblings who would sign testimony, but I really think for me, it’s just not something I need to do :grinning:

@Marilyn -

Kinda funny they need a letter from our current endos.

My endo, and likely all of the other doctors I see weren’t even born when I was diagnosed :joy: :joy: :joy:


I guess they figure that our friends and relatives might lie, but doctors don’t. LOL​:rofl::rofl:

I was eligible for the 50 year medal in 1995, but I had never heard about medals then. It was 2009 that I was told about the medals. I did not have the required proof, but a medalist online told me about the letters being accepted. I did not have a living relative who was old enough to remember my diabetes in 1945, the year I was diagnosed. Since I applied in 2009 that was not a problem. My sister and a cousin needed to remember 50 years prior to 2009. They wrote letters and I sent them to Joslin along with my application. I received my medal a month later.
I was eager to get the medal because it made me eligible to participate in the Joslin Medalist Study, which had begun in 2005. I participated in 2009, and again in 2017. I have also joined the Joslin Medalist Facebook group. Only medalists can join that group. Many interesting discussions take place there.


@AuntieFi, here is some info and a link for the Canadian medal. Joslin is involved here but I think there is also a Canadian medal, but I cannot find that link.

"In 2013, the Joslin Medalist Program partnered with our team of Diabetes Longevity researchers at the University of Toronto in order to facilitate the distribution of 50-year medals to Canadians with longstanding type 1 diabetes.

How to receive a medal:
If you are interesting in receiving a 50-year medal you will need to fill out a Joslin Medalist Application form and provide proof of your type 1 diabetes diagnosis date in the form of ONE of the following documents:

A copy of your diagnosis records,
OR A letter from a family member who can attest to the date of your diagnosis and the duration of your diabetes,
OR A medical note from your current doctor,
OR Proof of attendance at a diabetes camp or related activity.
Click the ‘Sign Up’ button on this page to get in touch with us so we can provide you with an application form and help you through the process."

Here is the link:

Wow Richard, I just heard from the folks at Joslin last week, and they told me 3 letters from friends or family or 1 letter from a doctor.

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