What Is Diabetes Research?

teresa derby

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 14 years, 1 month and 6 days ago. I have poked my finger approximately 21,900 times, injected insulin 23,725 times, and changed my pump site close to 100 times (I just recently transitioned to insulin pump therapy). I have participated in various fundraising events for Diabetes Research over the years: walks and bikes for cures, and written my name on a JDRF paper shoe at my local supermarket more times than I can count. What exactly are my friends, family, and coworkers donating time and money for? What is Diabetes Research? My experience with T1D and the fundraising that my family and friends participate in contributes to the larger schema. Endocrine research creates protocols for inpatient hospital visits, develops tools and machines to manage blood glucose and insulin levels, and collects data to achieve the ultimate goal: a cure.

I am a Research Coordinator for the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Metabolism at Northwestern University. I wanted to develop my life experience with diabetes into a career. My hope was to connect my subjective understanding of the disease with the objective knowledge of medical professionals in Chicago. When I entered this field I did simple tasks like entering data into a database, preparing rosters of potential subjects, and organizing schedules. An amazing element of my job is that I have developed skills so that I can collaborate with the physicians, nurses, diabetes educators and more. Medical research is made up of several different layers. At our research site there are engineers creating medical devices (i.e. Anna’s Bionic Pancreas), lab technicians experimenting with clinical drugs on mice and clinical research coordinators collecting data.

My day-to-day responsibilities do not include medical advice or education sessions, but instead they consist of intricate details that connect to the larger research community. I am responsible for recruitment and consenting of research candidates. I develop documents that show a framework of health history and investigators then review that data. How many years have you had diabetes? Do you log your glucoses or download to a computer? These are significant data points that I collect as a research coordinator. I want to connect these dots and gather information from traditional clinical records and approach people (like you!) with questionnaires or data forms. I love to build a connection with research participants about life with T1D and then effectively communicate thosehighs and lows to the health care providers.

In my work with people with T1D, I have experienced what I like to call self-appointed T1D expertise. Although people with T1D are experts with the day-to-day highs and lows, it is the collaboration that shows the bigger picture. The relationship with investigators and researchers creates an opportunity to examine current regimens and develop the tools for the highest quality of life for people with T1D.

What Glu is doing that is different? They are conducting medical research in an environment that connects those researchers to the experts like you! We need data. The more data, the better! The more we can learn about each piece of hay in the stack the quicker we will find the needle. Take advantage of the opportunities presented on this site. It amazes me the power of the T1D community and the new areas of research. Are there any specific elements of T1D research that you want to learn more about?

I took my subjective experiences with T1D and partnered with professionals in the field. I hope to collaborate with healthcare professionals and advance Endocrine Research. My personal experience with T1D has sparked my interest in Endocrine Research and now gives me an edge in a developing field.

My ultimate goal is to develop a clinical transition program for teens and young adults. I understand not everyone turns their life with T1D into their career but how can you use your experience to continue the journey towards a cure? Discuss and share below! I’d love to hear from you.

By Teresa Derby

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