Diversity in the Diabetes Community

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Emma Zgonc, Law Student, University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign College of Law
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While I was a leader at DOSES, Ohio University’s CDN chapter, I had the opportunity to participate in the CDN Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training presented by Roche Diabetes Care. I have participated in several diversity trainings and attended seminars in the past, but it was a unique experience to watch a diversity and inclusion training that focused on the diabetes community. When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 10 years ago, I remember being told that “type 1 diabetes doesn’t discriminate”, a phrase I have heard repeated over the years. While it is true anyone can be diagnosed with diabetes, regardless of age, gender, or race, this phrase can be very misleading. Structural inequalities, access to health care, education, and stereotypes can make the experiences of people in the diabetes community extremely different. It is important for us to recognize that we have commonalities as people with diabetes, but we can also have differences that should be acknowledged. As a CDN leader, this training helped me be more cognizant of the diverse experiences of the diabetes community, so our events and outreach were more inclusive and accessible to all audiences. 

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"Structural inequalities, access to health care, education, and stereotypes can make the experiences of people in the diabetes community extremely different."

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The DEI training also gave me an important reminder that just because I am a person with diabetes does not mean I can relate or speak to the experiences of all people with diabetes or other disabilities. Race, gender identity, socioeconomic status and more influence diabetes health access and experiences. As a white, college-educated woman, I can speak about personal experiences, but my authority to speak more broadly on certain topics and issues within the diabetes community is limited and I must turn to other diverse voices and perspectives. Throughout my time as a CDN leader and involvement in the disability community, I have learned that an important quality in a leader is recognizing when I have the authority to speak on an issue and when I should make room for other voices.

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"Race, gender identity, socioeconomic status and more influence diabetes health access and experiences."

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As I have stepped into new life experiences, like starting law school and founding a Disability Law Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I think it is important to apply DEI training beyond my time as a Chapter leader. l realized that diversity, equity, and inclusion is a journey, meaning there is always more we can learn and ways to foster a more inclusive environment. I am excited to use what I have learned, specifically within the Disability Law Society, so that we can better live up to our mission of fostering an inclusive and educational environment for law students with disabilities and allies interested in the disability law field. In the process of founding the Disability Law Society, I have carried the importance of providing space for other voices and recognizing the limits of my own experiences. I have had the opportunity to share my diabetes story and challenges with classmates and alternatively learn from their unique experiences. I am excited to continue learning from my peers to challenge my understanding of diversity and use what I learn in a future health/disability law career.

 

Editor's note: Roche Diabetes Care is a CDN Corporate Member.

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Emma Zgonc is a first-year law student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign College of Law. She recently graduated from Ohio University with a Masters of Global Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, where she was the president of OU’s CDN chapter. She is the founder and president of the Disability Law Society at UIUC, a member of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, and hopes to pursue a career in health or disability law.