Connections: Justine’s Mentorship Experience at ADA Scientific Sessions 2019

Justine Lely

This past June, I attended the ADA Scientific Sessions in San Francisco. As a CDN NextGen Leader, I had the incredible opportunity to connect with a mentor in the diabetes sector: a child psychologist who specializes in pediatric diabetes care.

I am a recent graduate of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I am also a CDN Chapter leader on campus and have had type 1 diabetes for over three years. As an aspiring pediatric endocrinologist and a psychology major, I was excited to learn that I had been matched with a professional in the field with rigorous diabetes research and clinical experience. We also shared similar research interests related to diabetes, such as diabetes burnout, adjustment to a new diagnosis, and diabetes technology. 

My first meeting at the conference with my mentor took place over coffee. We connected almost instantly! Not only did we both have type 1 diabetes, but we also shared a love for bubble tea, food, and shopping. We shared our own personal experiences related to pump and CGM technology. I also learned a lot from my mentor about her own personal and professional journey to becoming a pediatric psychologist. 

Over the course of the conference, I reconnected with my mentor by going to sessions that she recommended to me and by attending her poster session. She also introduced me to several local figures in the behavioral diabetes research field—one of whom gave me a job offer at his clinical research program on the spot! 

My mentee experience at ADA has taught me several things. First and foremost, do not be afraid to communicate what you want! This is one of the first things that my mentor taught me about being a mentee. Clearly communicating your professional goals—whether that be about a program you want to work for, an important figure you want to meet, or a research interest you want to explore—will allow the right people to better help you reach that goal. Second, be sure to network! Simply having a conversation with a professional you are interested in can open a potential door that you might have not considered before. There were many moments during my time at ADA that a serendipitous chat led to more connections. 

In all, going to ADA and being paired with my mentor has been nothing short of a life-changing experience. I am incredibly grateful to my mentor for her support, encouragement, humor, and wisdom. I would also like to express my gratitude for CDN and all of the staff at CDN who helped make this experience possible. Meeting my mentor, connecting with the amazing CDN staff and the five other NextGen leaders, and learning about advancements in diabetes care at ADA has reaffirmed my passion to pursue a career in pediatric endocrinology. I am also happy to share that soon after leaving the conference, I became motivated to go back on the pump after a two-year hiatus!

Looking forward, I am excited to give back to the diabetes community through working at a diabetes camp this summer and doing diabetes research at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland.

Editor's note: The CDN NextGen program is sponsored by Sanofi and Lexicon. This program allows CDN members to attend various diabetes conferences with CDN staff, and be matched with mentors in their desired career fields.

Interested in becoming a mentor to CDN NextGen students? Email

If you're a young adult looking to go into the diabetes sector, applications for the NextGen program open in February. Keep an eye out!

Check out other NextGen student experiences at ADA here!

Justine Lely

Justine Lely is a graduate of Portland State University with a degree in Psychology. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, she is a CDN chapter leader at Portland State and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during her first year of college. She plans on attending medical school to become a pediatric endocrinologist. Her interests include diabetes advocacy, behavioral diabetes research, and improving access to diabetes care in vulnerable pediatric populations. She is an avid rugby player and is very passionate about bubble tea. Currently, Justine is a counselor at Gales Creek Camp for Children with Type 1 Diabetes and a volunteer at Doernbecher Children’s hospital in Portland.