Don't be Afraid to Speak Up!

Kristen Fraser, University of Massachusetts '16

If you’re reading this post, I can almost guarantee that sometime, somewhere, you’ve come into contact with someone who was misinformed to some degree about diabetes. I’ve learned to expect and accept this; after all, the media doesn’t do a good job of dispelling diabetes myths and outdated information.

I was not, however, expecting misinformation to come from a college professor in the School of Public Health & Health Sciences.

I was caught off-guard by her explanation of type 1 diabetes, a description in which we T1s are born without insulin producing cells, and are all diagnosed at birth. Did I really just hear that come out of her mouth? Should I say something? Even though I’ve had diabetes for nearly 15 years, and have taken the time to learn about the physiological processes involved, the thought of insinuating that an experienced professor, with a PhD, was WRONG, was a bit scary. Especially in a class with 300+ students.

I’m usually the kind of person who quietly seethes when something like this happens, but on that day, I felt compelled to speak up. I raised my hand and, as politely as possible, stated that I was diabetic, and that I understood the cause of type 1 diabetes to be an autoimmune response by the body to destroy our insulin producing cells- a very different mechanism from the one she described. My question caused her to backtrack, and discuss the autoimmune response in greater detail. By the end of the lecture, I was glad that my classmates had been correctly informed about the cause of T1D, and was proud of myself for speaking up.

Even though I’m always hesitant about raising my hand during class, this was an instance in which I felt I could not let my professor’s remarks go. In general, I find it easier to talk about misinformation with others one-on-one, rather than in a group setting, such as a classroom. I also find myself “picking my battles” when it comes to confronting remarks other people make. A few days before this incident, another professor made disparaging comments about an acquaintance with diabetes, specifically regarding a meal they were sharing, and his need for insulin therapy. Her story and attitude upset me, but I decided not to say anything, since the story was a digression from our lecture material, and my interjection could have led to a heated argument- something I did not want. Sometimes arguments are necessary when educating others about diabetes- but not always in the middle of a large classroom! While some people are comfortable in those kinds of situations, I certainly am not!

If this ever happens to you, and you want to speak out in class- go for it! Any chance you get to correct misinformation (within your comfort limit) is valuable to the entire T1D community. Try to educate politely, rather than correcting angrily, even if you’re upset by the comments; most of the time, it isn’t someone’s intention to upset you. Stay calm, and speak the truth- you’ll be glad you did!

Editors Note: Did you know CDN has brand new Off to College Booklets for parents/caregivers and students. They cover everything from what to pack to how to talk to your roommate about T1D to managing T1D on campus. Check out a preview of the parent one here and the student booklet here. You can request you copy by filling out this form.

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