NextGen Leaders Reflect on Their Time at the 2022 ADCES Annual Meeting

Contributor
Becca Burnett, Tanner Barton, Shayna Sanderson, Megan Pelli, Hannah Reidel, Katia Kozachok, Destiny Islas, Parinita Kumar, Mike DiGiacomo, Grace Tarnutzer, and Bridget Meyers

Each year, CDN selects a group of young adult leaders as part of our NextGen program to attend conferences to network, represent CDN, and learn about the latest research and innovations in diabetes. This year, we had 8 NextGen Fellows attend the 2022 ADCES Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland while 4 NextGen leaders attended virtually. Our students were able to join over 3,000 diabetes care and education specialists and other healthcare professionals for four days of sessions focused on the latest advancements in technology, self-care behaviors, program management skills, clinicals therapeutic approaches and more. Read on to learn what the next generation of diabetes leaders had to say about their experiences.

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Becca Burnett
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The ADCES conference in Baltimore, Maryland this year was a fantastic experience for me that made me truly confident in targeting the diabetes sector in my career. Not only did this conference expose me to a multitude of employment opportunities and connections, but it also shared the richness of character within the diabetes community. I was greeted with nothing but open arms and support when engaging with the attendees at this conference, and will leave this event with a breadth of resources, connections and food for thought to take with me. Seeing the other attendees with wearable technology, as well as engaging with them about new diabetes technologies has also left me with a newfound drive to pursue the latest diabetes treatment options in my personal care regimen. The new technology I was most excited about is the inhalable insulin - Afrezza - which holds the potential of treating high blood sugars far faster than the standard injectable rapid acting insulin - due to its far quicker peak time. I have already called my doctor about getting a prescription, and can’t wait to try it! Last but not least, my absolute highlight of this conference was the opportunity to speak in the Young Adults with Diabetes From A to Gen Z: What Clinicians Should Know panel. In this panel, myself and one of the other NextGen Fellows spoke alongside provider Dr. Julia Blanchette regarding the experiences of young adults and clinicians. This panel provided an excellent chance to share my story and perspective with conference goers, as well as cultivate my public speaking abilities. This conference was an invaluable experience, and I would recommend it for anyone with an interest in diabetes care, advocacy and education!

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Tanner Barton
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I am so grateful to have attended the ADCES Convention in Baltimore. It was refreshing to be around so many professionals who have an innate desire to help others, especially those living with diabetes. Oftentimes we read or hear that nurses and dietitians are the only ones who can sit for the CDCES exam. Interacting with others at the convention proved that other health care specialists can sit for the exam, and those individuals can be extremely successful when educating and caring for people with diabetes.

As someone who holds a MS in exercise physiology, I have an affinity for helping people achieve their fitness and personal goals. I am also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), so I enjoy teaching and supporting others. At the conference, I interacted with exercise physiologists and health educators who hold the CDCES certification. While I thought becoming a CDCES could be done, I now truly believe that it can be done. Seeing CDCES from these two areas of expertise, and learning from their experiences, has been inspiring.

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Shayna Sanderson
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I have always known I wanted to be as big of a part of the diabetes community as this world would allow me to be, and that includes pursuing a career in diabetes. For me, that path was very complicated, with twists, and bumps, and all the wrong turns. I was a nursing major for two days - yes, that is it - and I quickly decided that is not the path I wanted to take to become a CDCES. My advisor convinced me to switch to Community Health, a major I adored and felt passionate about, until a professor convinced me I could not become a CDCES down that path. She told me to transfer schools and take a sharp turn to a Dietetics degree. Dietetics is where I stayed until I realized through College Diabetes Network that I could, indeed, take a public health or health education approach to becoming a CDCES. With that confirmation and two years of college in my rear view mirror, I switched my major back to something community health related - health education and promotion. Still, I worried when career advisors told me they were unfamiliar with my chosen path to become a CDCES.

Everything changed at ADCES22, and my career dreams were confirmed. At ADCES, I met countless professionals in the diabetes community from all different backgrounds, all of whom were successful and inspiring. People had degrees from community health, social work, psychology, to of course nursing, dietetics, and even finance, marketing, law, and everything in between. ADCES helped me realize that there is not one cookie cutter version of a diabetes professional, and differing backgrounds and undergraduate majors give us all differing experiences and knowledge that fuel the diabetes community and make it a stronger, more-rounded place of expertise. I am thankful for ADCES in raising my confidence in my undergrad choice, and convincing me that I can still be successful in the diabetes community, even if the usual paths of nursing and dietetics were not for me.

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Megan Pelli
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My favorite part of the ADCES 2022 conference was meeting and connecting with individuals passionate about the field of diabetes. I found it encouraging and reaffirming that so many people in the field either have diabetes or have a close connection to someone who does, and even those who do not, sincerely care about the work they do. Until this conference, I had not had the opportunity to connect with individuals with diabetes in person due to my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Being surrounded by the other NextGen fellows, the attendees, presenters, and vendors was an incredible experience for me to see and relate to others living and thriving with diabetes. Seeing how passionate everyone was about diabetes care, advocacy, and access made me grateful to be a part of the large diabetes community and excited for the role I can play right now as a student and in my future career in patient care. The individuals and the environment of the conference left me feeling undoubtedly welcomed and that there is a place for me both as a person living with diabetes and as a future dietician in the field of diabetes.

 

 

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Hannah Reidel
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Attending the ADCES conference in Baltimore provided the space for me to learn more about diabetes research and innovation, be in a community with others living with diabetes, and learn how to share resources within my T1D communities. From sessions on unfamiliar topics like intervention for high-risk youth with diabetes to the experiences of deaf people receiving diabetes education, the vastness of learning opportunities at ADCES was remarkable.

While I enjoyed all sessions, I was most inspired after attending “Successful Diabetes Management via Telehealth in Rural Community Hospitals” featuring research by Dr. Leslie Eiland, on providing diabetes care via telehealth for people living in rural communities. As someone interested in accessible diabetes care in Washington state, I coincidentally used Dr. Eiland’s research for my senior capstone research project on reducing barriers to T1D care in non-urban regions in Washington state. It was a big “fangirl” moment to meet her after this session, and share with her how this research impacted my education and interest in the diabetes field, as well as touched on my life accessing diabetes care in a town with limited T1D care. This connection not only highlighted how this research extends across state borders to provide equitable and accessible resources for all people living with diabetes but also emphasized the interconnectedness of the diabetes community and the impact we can all have.

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Katia Kozachok*
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What I'm most excited about in terms of the rest of my fellowship experience is strengthening connections with my peers, as well as future colleagues, in the diabetes community. I'm looking forward to doing interdisciplinary, collaborative work and making a difference with a really tangible impact on the lives of upcoming young adults with diabetes via helping create a new version of the Off to College guide. The other Fellows in this year's class are phenomenally bright and talented, and I'm excited to get to know them better both personally and professionally. Additionally, I'm looking forward to continuing to connect with my mentor, Rebecca Bennett; though we come from different disciplines, mine being psychology and hers being dietetics, I've found we both share a passion for upstream public health interventions, the social determinants of health, and truly client-centered care. We've had some rich, rewarding conversations over the last several months, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to make such connections, particularly within the field of diabetes. This year's Fellowship has been transformative for me, both personally and professionally, as someone with diabetes who wants to give back and work in the field someday. Through the NextGen Fellowship, I've realized that I am more capable than I had realized, and that I am in astonishingly good company in terms of being passionate for the future of diabetes-related clinical care and research.

*Virtual conference attendee

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Destiny Islas
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The first day of the conference was a day I'll never forget. I remember walking into the exhibit hall and being astonished of how many resources are out there in the diabetes community. From the latest medical research, new insulin needles, healthy food options and medical apps/healthcare resources; it was amazing. The staff, speakers, and diabetes community in general are so dedicated to making big changes for the community. This is just the first step of a great future of managing diabetes care.

The second day of the conference felt more structured because I had made sure to analyze the exhibit halls and conferences I wanted to attend. I started to learn how to manage my time to attend conferences and reach the designated exhibit booths I wanted to attend. The exhibit hall booths were the best part because I was able to learn so much about the realm of diabetes and get connected with so many influential individuals that make big changes for the community.

The third day of the conference was a nice way to end this educational journey. I was able to connect with more advocates within the community, and share my journey navigating diabetes as a person of color. Every guest speaker I was able to meet I continued to bring up how we need to include people of color in these opportunities and provide equity within the healthcare system all around; especially in our communities of color. Back at home, I live in a very diverse community. The beauty about diverse communities is that we can all learn from each other and move forward together.

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Parinita Kumar
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Interestingly enough, I think I knew what one of my favorite parts of the conference would be going into it: being surrounded by people who just got the experience of living with type 1 diabetes. Having a Dexcom alarm go off or needing to take a break to care for a low and the people around me just understanding what I needed to do, no questions asked, was a space I had never been in before. It's quite surreal. That being said, having hands-on exposure to the different types of technologies, treatments, snacks, and so much more that help cater to the specific needs of each person living with diabetes during the span of the conference was incredibly informative. Because, at the end of the day, I believe that it's important to remember that living with this diagnosis is nuanced and distinctive to each person. I truly hope that attending conferences such as this one, along with participating in necessary conversations regarding the field of diabetes is an experience that many more young adults beyond myself get to have.

 

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Mike DiGiacomo
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Before attending the ADCES conference in person, I would have never imagined feeling so much closer to the diabetic community and then refocusing more of my attention on my health. Growing up, I have always been the person who was hesitant to put myself out there and embrace a new situation. For the past seven years of living with type 1 diabetes, I have been pricking my finger with the same Freestyle Lite device to record my blood sugar levels. People fond of the industry would remark on the archaic device and be amazed at how I continued to bolus my glycemic corrections from the same Humalog and Lantus injectables prescribed to me as an adolescent. Given my past, it was so eye-opening having the chance to connect with a nationwide network of collaborators, advisors, and advocates who strive to improve the state of diabetes care and education. I learned of new products like the Afrezza by speaking with associates from MannKind about how inhalable insulin works faster and could significantly help correct high blood sugar levels. I attended an insulin simulator session hosted by Eli Lilly that used software that practices different insulins, insulin regimens, carbohydrate intake, and activity levels using hypothetical case studies of patients with differing demographic information. These two experiences stood out to me specifically because they reminded me of the myriad resources I could try out to improve my diabetes management. Even though this revelation may seem obvious, it was not for me given that I had distanced myself from the community and ignored the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone. While the company partners and speakers at ADCES opened my curiosity to explore new research and development within the diabetes community, ultimately the connections I made with my cohort of Fellows and staff living with type 1 diabetes changed my life forever. Networking and representing CDN at the conference, correcting our meals together, checking out sugars, and talking to each other about life outside of the events filled a hole in my heart that I did not realize was there. The connections I made from the CDN NextGen Fellowship have inspired me to stay closely involved with the community for my future career path in healthcare for the long term. And after just three days of spending time with these incredible individuals, I can proudly say that I am motivated to go on a continuous glucose monitor. 

 

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Grace Tarnutzer*
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I am so thankful that I was able to attend ADCES! It was an inspiring and fulfilling experience, and I enjoyed each session I was able to watch. While there were many exciting things about ADCES, my favorite part was being able to engage with the sessions that fit my interests the best. There was so much material available, and I loved exploring the topics that were most interesting to me while also learning things I didn’t expect to be interested in. One of my favorite sessions was on suicide prevention for those with diabetes. This is a topic that I had never heard discussed by my providers or by other diabetics. I appreciated that ADCES touched on subjects that I had never heard of in the diabetes realm, and I am so grateful to CDN for allowing me to attend this year’s conference! 

*Virtual conference attendee

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Bridget Meyers*
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Post-ADCES, I am looking forward to seeing the Fellows use and apply their skills to their projects. The Fellowship taught us to embrace our diagnoses and provided us with the tools to be successful after graduation. I will have the opportunity to reach out to former Fellows. I am so excited to hear how they applied NextGen Fellowship to their careers and lives with diabetes. I am also looking forward to working with other Fellows and CDN staff to create deliverables from our interviews. Lastly, I am so excited to see what the other teams are working on and how their use their creativity and skills to support the diabetes community.

*Virtual conference attendee

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Thank you to the The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES) for their support of these young adults attending the Annual Meeting!

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Thank you to the sponsors of the NextGen Fellowship, CBDCE and Novo Nordisk!