My time at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) conference in Houston, Texas was incredible and I learned so much in such a short amount of time. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age 3 and ever since then, I have wanted nothing more than to get involved and give back to the diabetes community. The AADE conference provided insight on how to structure my education and career path in order to ultimately give back to the Diabetes community by becoming a pediatric endocrinologist and a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).
At the conference, I was given the opportunity to participate in the CDN panel called “A Holistic Approach to Assist Young Adults to Transition to Independence” and speak to a ballroom full of diabetes professionals about my experience as a young leader with T1D. The presentation was led by CEO and Founder of the College Diabetes Network, Christina Roth. She focused on problems related to young adults with diabetes and the barriers and health challenges they face in their transition to independence. The four main areas discussed included logistics, social, mental, and physical factors. I focused on the social and mental aspects.
While a little nerve-wracking, the opportunity to be on the panel and share my own personal experience was an opportunity to help others navigate their transition to college. Regarding social aspects of diabetes, I talked about college life and managing T1D. I discussed how I relied so heavily on my parents while living at home and that I soon realized in college I had to figure things out on my own. I used this as a learning opportunity to inform and educate people around me about T1D and its challenges. I also discussed how I have to plan ahead in every situation. While some of my other friends can spontaneously go out and not think about what they have to bring, I have to plan ahead in every situation so I do not run into trouble.
With regard to the mental aspect of T1D, I discussed burn-out. This is a common theme with me and some of my other friends with T1D in college. When you are required to go to class, study, take exams, and attend events, it is easy to get overwhelmed and forget about or give up on taking care of T1D. This can have a negative effect on mental and physical health and why it is important to find peer support.
At the end of the presentation, there was a Q&A with the audience. When faced with difficult questions, it is hard to come up with answers on the spot, however, it was a unique opportunity to give insight into my experience with the disease. I found it rewarding at the end of the presentation when we had strangers come up and commend us on doing what we do and living with T1D. Overall, the AADE conference was an experience like no other. The networking with professionals and the friends I made during the weekend were incredible and will last a lifetime. I know that wherever my education and career path might take me, I am grateful to have the College Diabetes Network by my side.
Read the rest of the NextGen Leader experiences at AADE and other conferences here!