Diabetes affects our entire community. 45% of Californians have pre diabetes. And we face high rates of childhood obesity in Solano County, a major risk factor for diabetes. Still, type 2 diabetes is a largely preventable and entirely controllable disease. Beating it is not simply an individual effort. It takes the whole community.
Managing diabetes impacts more than just the individual. It takes the entire community to make lasting change.
Below are the stories of community members, students, and faculty who are speaking up and sharing their stories.
These are the faces of diabetes.
Touro came out in BLUE
What would you do with 78 hours? That’s exactly how much time Sam Bhatnagar, COM 2020, has spent volunteering with MOBEC. In the mobile classroom, he has provided countless health screenings and engaged people face to face about diabetes. When asked why he keeps coming out, Bhatnagar said that he always wanted to be invested in other people and their futures, and you do that by getting to where they live and by talking to them.
“Diabetes feels like a problem that is fixable, but it’s only going to get fixed if you help the right people,” he stresses.
With MOBEC, which goes out into Solano County communities, Bhatnagar has visited many
senior homes, a population common for diabetes. He has also entered migrant worker
camps that are nestled right in the middle of crops.
Some MOBEC visitors are only curious or want a quick test. But Bhatnagar says that he knows when their brief exchange has sparked something deeper.
“I remember one patient in particular. He was joking, ‘Oh, I can never change that! I’m too old!’,” says Bhatnagar. “We showed him that change doesn’t just mean going to the gym every morning. He can use everyday objects to do chair sits and water bottle curls. And you could see it in his eyes that he started to realize that just maybe he really could make a change for his own health. It may be difficult, but we made him see that it was doable for him.”
Lanial Madden knows what need looks like. Before enrolling in TUC’s Master of Public Health Program (MPH 2019), she would go out to rural communities in Tennessee and Alabama as a pharmaceutical representative to educate providers on the application of medicine. But getting the care that they needed wasn’t always an option for patients.
“I’ve seen families have to rely on samples for their medicine,” Madden explains. “It’s so emotional for them. That’s the population I want to serve.”
Madden plans to apply her MPH to being a PA. She is a newly trained DPP lifestyle coach and will lead her first cohort at the beginning of 2018.
Her desire to treat diabetes comes from her late grandmother, who had multiple complications of Type 2 diabetes. With what she has learned, Madden now helps her aunt with controlling her sugars. Together they’ve cooked dinner and gone through where to find the sugar and salt alternatives in the grocery store.
“Type 2 has a lot of horror stories. People worry that they will lose their limbs, go blind, or will always need insulin. But the truth is that type 2 diabetes is completely manageable if you want to manage it. You just need to know how,” Madden says.
MOBEC: The First Month on the Road
Maybe you’ve seen it? The Mobile Diabetes Education Center (MOBEC) has been on the go across Solano County since its launch in March. To date, 175 visitors from the age of 22 to 92 have come to experience the MOBEC’s services thus far. But more than half are not aware of whether or not they have diabetes.
Read the interview with Anne Lee and Deanna Dickey of the MOBEC Here!
Diana Yang, COM 2020, doesn’t know what kind of diabetes she has. Her doctors have compared it to what is known as mature onset of diabetes of the young, but her extremely rare variation of the disease remains undiagnosed.
“I’m my own lab rat,” she jokes. “I’m happy that I’m going into medicine, because now I know more.”
Yang realized something was off in 2013 when she found herself getting hungry and thirsty constantly. She used her father’s glucose monitor, who has Type 2 diabetes, and the number came out twice what is normal. Today, she has to work hard to maintain her health and reduce the amount of insulin that she has to take.
“I don’t touch carbs and I exercise daily,” Yang explains. “Though it’s still difficult to find a balance, I don’t want to be over-medicated either.”
As an osteopathic medical student, Yang is interested in helping an aging generation through the field of geriatrics. For 12 years, she volunteered at a convalescent home, and she remembers what it was like to care for her grandfather through his dialysis.
“I understand that geriatrics is a field in which I won't see many ‘cures’, but being able to help my patients get the best quality of life their bodies can afford them given the circumstances would be my goal,” Yang says.
Tweet It: Congrats @TouroCalifornia faculty member Clipper Young on receiving the CA-AADE award of 2017 Diabetes Educator of the Year! #wearetouro
Each year the California- American Association of Diabetes Educators (CA-AADE) conference provides an opportunity for like-minded medical professionals in the community to share comprehensive information on current and emerging diabetes research and patient trends all while recognizing those dedicating themselves to the resolution of the disease.
“My journey in diabetes started with walking by my grandfather’s side to the clinic to obtain insulin injections,” says Young. “While I would never realize the dream of serving my own grandfather as a pharmacist and a diabetes educator, I want to be able to help grandfathers around the world with their diabetes. I will forever remember the days with him; my experiences caring for my grandfather have developed into the desire to educate and to motivate others to conquer diabetes as their companion and their advocate.”
Read more here
In 2015, Sheryl White was told by her doctor that she was about to be put on insulin. That was the turning point that really scared her, she remembers. White wanted to get her type 2 diabetes under control, but she needed the right tools to do so. That was when her friends encouraged her to join the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) that Touro University California (TUC) had just started at her church, Kyle’s Temple in Vallejo.
The DPP is a yearlong course designed by the Center for Disease Control to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, which has been found to cut the risk of diabetes by over 50%. Since 2015, TUC has offered the program free to the public. And today it provides the Diabetes Education and Empowerment Program (DEEP), which is designed specifically for people who have type 2 diabetes.
“The focus of the DPP is to teach participants healthy lifestyle habits over the course of a year,” explains Anne Lee, Diabetes Program Coordinator, who provides health screenings and education for community on TUC’s Mobile Diabetes Education Center (MOBEC). “It gives them the tools they can use for the rest of their life.”
After finishing the program, White brought her A1C level, the measure for blood glucose over the past two to three months, down from 9 to 6.5, which is within the range that the American Diabetes Association considers under good control.
“The program worked so well because I received such great information,” White says.
Two years later, White, who is retired after 35 years of working at PG&E, has kept her A1C level down. She does Zumba two times a week, and takes regular two- to three-mile walks down to the Vallejo waterfront. White also continues her passion for baking, using agave nectar to substitute sugar like she had learned in the DPP.
“The program is a great thing to do. You have lessons every week that give you what you need to know about nutrition. It’s insightful,” she recommends.
It was in July of 2015 that Roberta Flannel of Suisun City was diagnosed as pre diabetic. She was told that she had to watch her weight and put on three different medications in addition to what she was taking for high blood pressure.
“I was frightened because I didn’t know how to deal with any of it,” Flannel remembers. “I was told to change my eating habits, but I didn’t really know what that meant.”
But luckily her niece mentioned that a new Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was starting at her church, Kyle’s Temple in Vallejo. The program included 22 classes developed by the Centers for Disease Control.
“It was so fulfilling for me to just learn about fat, calories, and reading labels. It was the foundation that I needed to make dietary changes,” she says, who lost a total of 43 lbs.
Within time, and with the incentive to help others, Flannel became a coach earlier 2017 and now teaches others at the Suisun Kroc Center on the importance of healthy living.
But the reasons to train others vary for each of the coaches. Stefanie Garcia, a recent UC Davis graduate, heard about the program from Dr. Jay Shubrook, professor and diabetologist at TUC. For her, it was the difficulties that Type I diabetes caused her aunt that propelled Garcia to learn more.
“My aunt is dependent on insulin, which can be difficult to manage if you’re not careful,” Garcia says. “After talking with my aunt about how she does her best to not let this condition stop her from becoming the best she can be, I became interested in how I can help others.”
After 16 hours of training to become a certified life coach in the DPP, Garcia was ready to lead. And together with Flannel, they both are educating local residents at the Suisun Kroc Center on how to live healthy, productive lives just touches the surface of what DPP means.
“The cohort I help coach is like a family, everyone builds each other up, celebrating accomplishments such as eating less junk food.” says Garcia. “It is uplifting to hear people say how proud they are of the weight they have lost, and how they are building habits of eating healthy and exercising.”
“You have to validate the very small successes,” Flannel stresses. “If someone eats fast food five times a week, and they start to only eat it two times a week, that’s fantastic. They’re all changes for the better, even if you don’t see it happen in pounds. Each change absolutely matters.”
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