ADA Scientific Sessions: First Impressions from a Newbie

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I started working at T1D Exchange a year ago, and this year was my first time attending the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions. I must say, as someone with type 1 diabetes, I was excited to be surrounded by researchers and endocrinologists who might share some breakthrough research that would take us closer to better treatments and even one day a cure (hey, I’m still optimistic). I must put out a disclaimer, that since I work in T1D Exchange’s Quality Improvement Program, I gravitated toward specific sessions that intersected with our projects, so in no way can I speak to all the sessions that ADA had in their program. There were far too many to attend, and the genetic/biology sessions surely would’ve gone straight over my head! Here are the top takeaways from the conference:

Highlight 1: Let’s Actually Talk about Mental Health

I was happy to see that ADA had a whole behavioral health track for attendees to attend. We know from research that many people with type 1 also experience behavioral health disorders. It’s imperative that providers from these two fields work together to address these comorbid conditions. Several psychologists voiced their frustration at working in silos away from endocrinologists, instead of part of the same team. I applaud ADA’s efforts in addressing mental health and was happy to hear about their new Psychosocial Position Statement. Dr. Alicia McAuliffe-Fogarty, (our new vice president of patient-centered research!) also mentioned that ADA will train behavioral health specialists, and upon successful completion of the training, include them in a directory for everyone to access. Bravo! This is truly needed. “Diapression” is a real thing!

Highlight 2: The Tech World Isn’t Waiting

On the tech side of things, it was fascinating to learn that more than 1,100 apps have been developed just for diabetes! The tech field moves at a rapid pace and is not waiting for clinics to catch up. I’m particularly excited about Tidepool’s new mobile app that Dr. Mark Clements mentioned in his talk. This app will replace Blip Notes and Nutshell, but will include functionality for both. I’m particularly interested in the feature that will help users “crack” the hard nut of diabetes by showing you how you bolused for a similar meal previously. It lets you learn from your boluses and from exercise data as well.

Highlight 3: It’s Time to Hear from the Patient!

I was also comforted to hear about improvements in the way healthcare providers approach treatment decisions with their patients. Many are finally moving away from the paternalistic approach of telling patients what’s best for them without making sense of that person’s individual needs and views. This new way of thinking is called “shared decision-making.” Although it’s not actually that new, it seems to be getting traction. Several conversation tools were shared, including Dr. Tim Wysocki’s decision aids that help teens decide if they should get on a pump or not and if they should consider a CGM. These are the types of tools that are vital to patients! They want to hear about their options in an unbiased way.

In Conclusion…

Those were some of my top highlights, but only represent a small fraction of what was discussed at this huge annual conference. I continue to meet passionate researchers, clinicians, and advocates and am amazed how many people have dedicated their lives to this work. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to attend!

Alyssa Cabrera, GluAlyssa

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