Leaving the Friends for Life Conference with Experiences for Life

Contributor
Melissa Buckin, Chapter leader, University of Rochester
;./

 

The Children with Diabetes Friends for Life (FFL) Conference in Orlando, FL gave me not only friends, but experiences for life. The conference was a perfect combination of networking, education, professional development, personal growth and of course, a lot of fun. 

 

Attending my first conference pushed me out of my comfort zone, but in the best way possible. On the very first morning of FFL, we attended an invitational breakfast with clinicians and leading physicians in the diabetes community. Right off the bat, we were split up into different tables where I was immersed in a group of people I had not yet met. This ended up being one of the most valuable experiences that I had and definitely made the rest of the week seem easy when talking to other adults in the sector. It was powerful how quickly I connected with everyone I met with the shared passion of diabetes.

Components
Image
';;l
Title
Networking with CDN partners
Description

Meeting with our partners (especially the American Diabetes Association and JDRF) allowed me to really broaden my network of connections. Furthermore, being a part of the exhibit hall exposed me to the pharmaceutical companies, educational nonprofits and technology manufacturers, all parts that are needed and work in conjunction in the diabetes community. Through the exhibit hall, I was even able to try a demo Omnipod pump and Dexcom CGM for the week as someone without diabetes. Feeling the site insertion of the Omnipod and experiencing a (don’t worry, saline only) bolus was an incredibly unique experience. It allowed me to briefly take a walk in the shoes of those who use these devices every day.

Blurb Title
"That's the power of FFL"

Blurb Description

On one of our last evenings in Orlando, we were able to attend the “20th Anniversary Ball”, where attendees are invited to put on their best gowns and ties! When I sat down at my table, I looked around and saw thousands of families with children. I got emotional for a moment because it was such a powerful sight. Each person in that room was there because they either are living with diabetes, care for someone with diabetes or because they want to make an impact on those living with it. Diabetes changes life as you know it, but the positivity, hope and energy that was shared at this conference was astounding. For so many children in attendance, this was the first time they felt fully understood by other people, especially children their own age. That’s the power of FFL.

Title
Connecting with a mentor
Description

While at FFL, I was also able to connect with a mentor, a pediatric psychologist specialized in working with chronically ill children and certified diabetes educator (CDE). My mentor gave me valuable advice in making career decisions. From talking with her, I was able to gain insight into the satisfaction and hardships of working with children. We even discussed the work/life balance of different sectors of medicine. Honest advice from an experienced medical professional was incredibly valuable to me in the critical time I have ahead of my graduation.

Image
oihljlk
Title
Leading CDN sessions
Description

Another highlight from the conference was presenting to parents of rising college students. We discussed the challenging transitions into college with diabetes. Afterward, throughout the week, I would be traveling around the conference or even at the coffee bar, and a parent would come up to me and say, “Hey, you’re from CDN, right?”. I had countless amounts of parents tell me that our advice to them on transitioning into college was “life changing” or “gave them perspectives they hadn’t thought about”. This was one of the most rewarding experiences from the conference. Lastly, gaining the experience tabling in an exhibit hall and of sharing research in a poster session allowed me to answer questions and discuss our work with those who passed through. Being engaged in these events gave me communication and networking skills that I will continue to use in my career.

Overall, I was so humbled at how many people were excited to talk to me about my involvement with CDN and the overwhelming amount of support and encouragement I got to move forward with my career in medicine. I left the conference with nothing short of high hopes for the diabetes community, research towards a cure and the strong need for medical professionals to continue to specialize in endocrinology and diabetes education. Thank you, CDN for a week of learning, growth and inspiration that I certainly won’t forget from Friends for Life.

Editor's note: thank you to Sanofi & Lexicon, the T1D Alliance, for their sponsorship of CDN's NextGen Leadership program.

Image
;kl
Title
Melissa Bucklin
Description

Melissa Bucklin is the co-president of the University of Rochester’s College Diabetes Network (CDN) Chapter in Rochester, NY. While she herself does not have diabetes, her older sister’s diagnosis at 6 years old has impacted Melissa to lead her CDN Chapter. Melissa plans to graduate with a biology degree and epidemiology minor in May 2020 and hopes to go into medicine, with a particular interest in pediatrics.