Who do you listen to?
With so many voices sharing so much information about diabetes, how do you know whom to trust?
These 50 influencers have made their mark in the world of diabetes. They have shared and studied and tested and worked to further the cause of diabetes and the people who live with it. If you or someone you love is living with diabetes, these are some of the voices worth listening to (in alphabetical order).
Nadia Al-Samarrie founded Diabetes Health magazine which provides practical and educational health information to diabetes patients and physicians across the country. She has personally funded more than 15 million copies, which are delivered free of charge to healthcare professionals who use the magazine as an educational resource.
Jessica Apple and Mike Aviad were already married to one another when each got a diagnosis of diabetes within six years of one another. They joined forces to create a diabetes-friendly life, and a diabetes website called A Sweet Life. Their goal is to present a variety of voices for people with diabetes to connect with and to prove that it is possible to live happily with diabetes.
Christel Aprigliano is the founder of The Diabetes UnConference, a gathering of people with diabetes and the people who love them. Unlike other conferences, the agenda for the UnConference is established by the attendees so that everyone present is an expert and there is no judgment and there are no wrong answers. She is also the CEO of The Diabetes Collective, Inc., a non-profit created to inspire people through peer-to-peer support.
Dana Ball is the co-founder of T1D Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating therapies and solutions for type 1 diabetes. The group hosts an online community called Glu where it invites participants to share their experiences and stories as a way to impact research.
Natalie India Balmain has been designing clothes since childhood, but it was her diagnosis of diabetes that helped her realize the challenges that diabetics face. She recalls having to limit her clothing choices to those items that allowed easy access to dosing and pumps. Type 1 Clothing helps diabetics find clothing that supports their lifestyle and removes one of the challenges that diabetics face on a daily basis.
Brandy Barnes founded DiabetesSisters when she realized there was very little information available about women and diabetes, specifically information about important life stages such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. The site seeks to overcome the fear and isolation that result from diabetes by connecting women and sharing information.
Allie Beatty blogs about the latest in health news headlines at Allie’s Voice, and she founded a non-profit organization called Dip a Stick for Diabetes to promote diabetes detection. Before home glucose meters were available, glucose levels were measured in urine with dipsticks because glucose in urine can be a sign of high blood sugar. Dip a Stick seeks to make needle-free glucose detection kits easily available.
Dr. Richard Bernstein was the first person to use self-monitoring to control his blood sugar levels. He wrote extensively about diabetes but was unable to find support for his efforts because he was not a medical doctor. As a result, Bernstein left his career as an engineer to pursue medicine in hopes that he could make his voice heard. Modern self-monitoring protocols are traced to his efforts.
Amy Bevan is the Community Manager, Patient Marketing for Insulet Corporation. Amy was also the former content manager at Glu, where she represented Glu and T1D at regional and national meetings and events. She is a charity marathon runner who runs to raise money for diabetes organizations, and she is a nationally-published journalist who writes extensively in support of the diabetes community.
Constance Brown-Riggs is an expert in nutrition and diabetes, as well as the health issues that affect people of color. She is a certified diabetes educator, and the author of The African-American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes, which offers a mind, body, spirit approach to daily life for diabetics. Her book Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes offers healthier techniques for the preparation of ethnic foods.
Leighann Calentine authored Kids First, Diabetes Second to share wisdom and encouragement for parents raising children with diabetes. She also shares her family’s experiences with diabetes at D-Mom Blog, and she is active in the Diabetes Online Community.
Amy Campbell is a nationally-known author and lecturer in diabetes management and an educator for the diabetes digital platform Good Measures. She authored the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” as well as Eat Carbs, Lose Weight, co-authored by fitness expert Denise Austin.
Kelly Close founded Close Concerns to educate the public about diabetes and obesity. She also founded diaTribe, a non-profit dedicated to advocating for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Kelly’s team is known for being among the first to review new products.
Dr. Cori Cooper founded Care Matters, Inc., a non-profit that seeks to provide free education to people affected by diabetes. Additionally, she founded Prescriptive Nutrition LLC, a health coaching company for women with diabetes.
Jeff Dachis, co-founder of a digital marketing agency, turned to his smartphone when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but he couldn’t find a resource that addressed all aspects of life with diabetes. So he designed a smartphone app called One Drop to help type 1 and type 2 patients log and share information in order to manage the disease. The app keeps a running log of data points so patients can track their progress.
Ed Damiano led a research team that created the iLet Bionic Pancreas, an insulin delivery device that continuously monitors glucose levels and automatically delivers insulin based on the readings. Damiano set out to create an artificial pancreas when his son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and he was named the 2016 WebMD Scientist Health Hero for his work.
Ralph DeFronzo and Bruno Doiron of the University of Texas Health San Antonio co-invented, and patented, a technique that cured diabetes in mice for one year without side effects. The therapy uses gene transfer to manipulate different kinds of cells to make insulin that supplements failing beta cells. The study must be tested in large animals before it can be presented to the FDA for investigational new drug approval.
Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation understands the importance of awareness and preparedness for patients with diabetes, so the organization offers diabetes identification necklaces at no charge. The identification, which says “I have diabetes – please test my blood before treating me” is vital for patients who are unable to speak prior to treatment.
Lee Ducat is the founder of JDRF, one of the most successful non-profits dedicated to finding a cure for diabetes. Formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the organization changed its name to JDRF because diabetes affects adults and children alike. Its stated goal is to inform the public about type 1 diabetes and to advocate for more research funding from the federal government.
Bennet Dunlap is a diabetes dad who blogs at Your Diabetes May Vary, and he is the creator of Strip Safely, an online effort to communicate the danger posed by inaccurate blood glucose strips and meters. The community hopes to enlist the Food and Drug Administration, elected officials and news media in the information campaign to prevent the dangers of inaccurate testing materials.
Steven Edelman and Steve Freed are the founders and publishers of Diabetes in Control, a news and information website for medical professionals. Its mission is to be the world leader in online diabetes information for healthcare professionals so they can empower their patients to better care for themselves. The free newsletter helps busy professionals stay abreast of current developments.
Karen Graffeo writes about her life as a diabetic at Bitter-Sweet Diabetes, which launched her into the diabetes online community. She founded Diabetes Blog Week, which allows bloggers to post about pre-determined topics so that readers can get a variety of perspectives on one topic around the blog community. The idea is to forge new connections and raise awareness.
Riva Greenberg has taken an approach to diabetes that she calls the “Flourishing Approach,” which she says improves diabetic treatments and outcomes. She launched a blog called Diabetes Stories where she shares the unique stories of those living with diabetes: the patients, the healthcare professionals, and the loved ones.
Lauren Harris-Pincus is the founder of Nutrition Starring YOU where she focuses on the fact that different bodies have different nutritional requirements. An obese child herself, Lauren specializes in weight management and prediabetes, and she has worked with numerous non-profit agencies to provide nutrition services to uninsured and underserved communities. She has also worked with school districts to improve the quality of menus, as well as fitness programs.
Jeff Hitchcock founded Children With Diabetes when his daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 24 months old. The site includes a Diabetes Team that answers parent questions about raising children with diabetes, and it spawned the annual Friends for Life Conference which brings together families, doctors, experts and even celebrities to share the experiences of living with diabetes.
Manny Hernandez, together with his wife, founded TuDiabetes.org and EsTuDiabetes.org in 2007. They co-founded the Diabetes Hands Foundation together in 2008 with a mission of connecting patients with tools and information to manage their diabetes. Hernandez also chairs the “Living with Diabetes” track at the 2017 World Diabetes Congress.
Nancy Iverson founded Pathstar to raise awareness about diabetes in Native Americans from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Many of the residents have diabetes, but they have few resources to prevent or treat it. Pathstar’s Alcatraz Swim Week features a swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco and invites teams to partner in fundraising, and then to pool their resources toward community education and sharing the experiences from the event.
Dr. Richard Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director, Grass Roots Diabetes and former Director of Medical Affairs, Healthcare Services, for the Joslin Diabetes Center. He was is the sole editor for a diabetes mobile resource center designed to keep health care professionals updated with the most important, and most current, clinical research and news. Jackson also founded the Diabetes Outpatient Intensive Treatment program, which is a four-day program in which patients work with diabetes experts to develop a personalized management plan for their diabetes.
Scott Johnson writes about the struggles and feelings that come from living with a chronic disease at Scott’s Diabetes. He theorizes that he is often the only person around who has to do “complicated mathematical equations” before doing the everyday things that others take for granted, and he started writing in hopes that it would help his family understand his struggles better. He is also a co-host of the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy.
Tom Karlya involved himself in the diabetes community when his daughter was diagnosed at the age of two. He started the Diabetes Dad blog to educate and inspire other parents who are dealing with diabetes. He co-created Get Diabetes Right as a means to offer informational resources about diabetes and to help educate the public about the disease.
Elliot LeBow offers diabetes-focused psychotherapy for adults and children at Diabetic Talks to help patients cope with the physical and emotional aspects of living with diabetes. His program takes a holistic approach combining traditional therapy with education and management coaching. He is also the founder of Diabetic Minds.
Howard Look founded Tidepool, an open-source platform for diabetes data and apps that use the data. It provides a way for patients to donate their data to an anonymous database or to share their data with their doctor. The platform is secure, and HIPPA-compliant and users can see all of their data in one place. The platform is designed to encourage others to build on it and adapt it, with source code freely available to everyone.
MJ2 is a musical group made up of two pairs of twins: Jackie Singer and her twin sister Mollie Miller, together with Jackie’s twin daughters, Jackie and Mollie. The foursome took its effort to Nashville and sought musicians willing to donate their time for diabetes. The result is “You Can’t Say Love Enough,” a song featuring 18 musical stars, including Dolly Parton. The twins have raised more than $750,000 over a lifetime of fund-raising for diabetes.
Kim May co-created Get Diabetes Right with Tom Karlya to provide informational resources such as pamphlets and posters for public education. Kim volunteers her ad agency and its resources to maintain the site, which began as a Facebook movement, and to teach the public about the signs and symptoms of diabetes.
Bryan Mazlish developed a “home-brew artificial pancreas” in his drive to help his type 1 wife and son deal with their diabetes. Based upon the idea that machines, under the right circumstances, can make better decisions than humans, he developed a device that features closed-loop automation of insulin delivery, and his wife and son used the invention for two years, accumulating 30,000 hours of use. Mazlish decided to pursue the venture on a larger scale, and the device found a home at Bigfoot Biomedical, Inc.
Dr. Karl Nadolsky and Dr. Spencer Nadolsky founded Docs Who Lift to promote lifestyle choices as a treatment for diabetics. The doctors promote diet and exercise as preventative medicine rather than pushing drugs to their patients.
William Polonsky is the president of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, founded to help people with diabetes deal with the emotional fallout of living with the disease: frustration, burnout, depression, and hopelessness, to name a few. The non-profit provides clinical services to patients as well as educational support to healthcare professionals.
Betsy Ray is an author and activist determined to destroy the myths and stigma of diabetes. She shares information and support for people with diabetes at Diabetes Activist and in her TED talk “Destroying the Myths.”
Christina Roth founded the College Diabetes Network, which included a local chapter and a national organization, during her junior year at the University of Massachusetts. The non-profit seeks to connect and empower students to thrive with diabetes in a community run by students for students, and it enables student leaders nationwide to communicate about chapter leadership.
Don and Diane Rung took their son to a weekend diabetic camp, and they had a chance to talk to many parents of other diabetic campers. They discovered that specialized camps are vital for diabetic children whose medical needs prevent them from attending mainstream camps. They also discovered that the cost of the camps can be prohibitive for families that are already struggling under the high cost of diabetes. They founded Camp Angels, a non-profit organization that enables type 1 children from financially challenged families to attend specialized camps.
Gary Scheiner founded Integrated Diabetes Services as well as the mySugr app for diabetes coaching. Gary and his team of coaches work together to provide coaching services at the tap of a finger and to “ease the daily grind of diabetes.” Gary is also the author of the book Think Like a Pancreas.
Cherise Shockley is a military spouse whose husband was deployed to Iraq when she was diagnosed with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adult when she was 23. Cherise founded Diabetes Social Media Advocacy in order to bring together people with diabetes so they could share information and encourage one another. She also founded the Diabetes Community Advocacy Foundation, and she has a passion for employing social media to connect and inform people with diabetes.
Amy Tenderich founded Diabetes Mine, one of the top online destinations for people with diabetes, in 2003 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Additionally, she co-wrote Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes, and she was named a #1 diabetes influencer by the American Diabetes Association.
Kim Vlasnik shares her personal experiences with diabetes at Texting My Pancreas, where she writes and cartoons to share “the good, the challenging and the awkward.” In 2011, she founded the You Can Do This Project, a place where people with diabetes can share their own videos about living with diabetes in an effort to build community and provide encouragement for others.
Dan Warren founded the non-profit Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers because he believes that individuals with invisible disabilities will benefit from a canine companion that provides independence, hope and peace of mind. Research indicates that diabetic alert dogs may detect problems as early as 45 minutes in advance, can alert highs and lows accurately about 91% of the time, and may increase the ability to participate in physical activities. The organization supports fundraising opportunities to offset the costs of service dogs.
Jeremy Weisbach founded Jimmy Insulin to provide free one-on-one, peer-to-peer diabetes support for anyone with diabetes. One-on-one relationships allow diabetes beginners to ask specific, personal questions of someone familiar with the experience. Additionally, the service connects caregivers who can provide support to others caring for loved ones with diabetes.
Certainly, there are many voices contributing to the conversation about diabetes. This list doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, but simply a representation of people who are doing important work to improve the quality of life for patients with diabetes. You may know of others, and we hope you’ll share their information here so we can continue this important dialogue.
Until there is a cure for diabetes, communication and education are two of the most important tools at our disposal.
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