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Amazing Learning for People with Type 1 Diabetes at Upcoming Friends for Life Conference

By Alia Rizvon, Cindy Takigawa, and Monica Oxenreiter

Children with Diabetes’ Friends for Life Orlando 2020 will be held virtually from Wednesday, July 15, through Sunday, July 19. Here are our recommendations on what to attend, including sessions on emotional support, hybrid closed loop systems, diabetes burnout, and insulin affordability

Children with Diabetes (CWD) presents its 21st annual Friends for Life (FFL) Orlando conference, a gathering aimed to connect friends and families who are affected by diabetes. In addition to bringing together world-renowned researchers and healthcare professionals, the conference will feature a virtual exhibit hall where sponsors and lifestyle companies can share their newest technologies and products. CWD is a resource for the type 1 diabetes community, and anybody who is looking to learn more about diabetes or how to support loved ones is welcome to attend. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference will be held virtually from Wednesday, July 15, through Sunday, July 19. Not only is this an exciting opportunity to learn more about diabetes care, symptoms management, research, and physical and emotional health, but registration is free and available to anyone with internet access and time.

Here’s a preview of some of the most noteworthy presentations of the conference. All times listed are in Eastern Standard Time. Though most sessions will be recorded, we’re emphasizing exact days and times below for those who might be able to tune in to chat or participate in social media #FFLOrlando20.  

Thursday

(10:45 am) iLet Update:

This should be an incredible session with Dr. Ed Damiano, PhD, as he reviews the latest news about his team’s efforts to create a “Bionic Pancreas.” His product is very exciting and is one of the first models to mimic the real pancreas by delivering insulin and glucagon. The diabetes world is watching as he runs his clinical trials; we are looking forward to this session which will delve into those trials and what it will take to get the product approved by the FDA and into the hands of people with diabetes.

(1:30 pm) Closing the Loop: State of the Art:

This session will be led by Dr. Bruce Buckingham, a pediatric endocrinologist at Stanford Healthcare. After working in diabetes technology for more than 30 years, he will descrie the benefits, the drawbacks, and the future of the closed loop system, commonly referred to as an “artificial pancreas.” 

(3:15 pm) Finding your community: Support & Knowledge in Social Media (emotional support):

This should be a popular session with a panel of experts in diabetes research, social media advocacy, and activism. The panelists will be sharing their experiences in diabetes. Almost all are individuals who have been diagnosed with – or have family members diagnosed with – diabetes, are active on social media, and will have valuable insights on finding emotional support in diabetes.

  • Chris Aldred - Chris is a longtime writer on diabetes and has become a well-known figure in diabetes – diaTribe has many articles either written by Chris or mentioning his leadership! He has recently taken on a volunteer leadership role at International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

  • Michelle Auerbach  Michelle is a young influencer whose work writing about her experience with type 1 diabetes has been published on many platforms, including The Mighty, Maclean’s magazine, and on her own blog, Love, Light and Insulin. She is also the co-founder of Chronic Love Club, an online community dedicated to those suffering from chronic illnesses and rare diseases.

  • Danica B – Danica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eleven. In 2011, she started making videos for her own Youtube channel, DiabeticDanica, to create content that is both educational and entertaining. Her videos have reached thousands of viewers all over the world, and in 2019 she was the recipient of the Myabetic Diabetes Award for “Diabetes Youtube Personality of the Year.” 

  • Scott Johnson – Scott, the Engagement Manager for mySugr and blogger of “Scott’s Diabetes,” is experienced with CWD events. Part of their FFL staff, Scott plays a role in developing annual conference and regional events. He is an experienced diabetes advocate and has worked hard to establish appropriate communication for people with diabetes.

  • Cherise Shockley – Cherise, one of our own staff here at diaTribe, was diagnosed with LADA in June 2004. Since then, she has founded multiple organizations with the goal of increasing visibility for people with diabetes through social media, online communities, and peer support. She founded Women of Color living with Diabetes (@WOCDiabetes), which has played a powerful role in making the discussion about diabetes more diverse and inclusive.  

  • Kerri Sparling – Kerri is a longtime writer and household name in the diabetes community. As founder of the website www.sixuntilme.com, she has approached diabetes with her charismatic wit and charm, helping people identify the highs and lows that come along with a chronic illness. She has had type 1 since 1986.

  • Renza Scibilia – Renza has lived with type 1 since 1998; in the last two decades, she has been a diabetes advocate and activist, using her platform to promote a person-centered approach to healthcare. She is the National Program Manager for Type 1 Diaebtes and Community at Diabetes Australia.

(3:15 pm) The Emotional Burden of Diabetes:

Drs. Tamara Oser and Sean Oser, a powerhouse team working in Denver on diabetes research and patient education, will speak on the emotional impact of diabetes. They will be sharing their own experiences as parents of a daughter with type 1 diabetes, family medicine clinicians, and Dr. Sean Oser has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years. This talk promises to provide unique insight into life with diabetes from many perspectives, with the added bonus of deep clinical knowledge of type 1.

(3:15 pm) Mental Health for Young Adults:

This talk will share the mental health impact of diabetes on young adults. With increased recognition of both the physical and emotional toll of diabetes, it will be enlightening to learn more about this age cohort. Often, the particular effect of a chronic illness on young adults is missed; we are so appreciative of Dr. Laura Smith of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for bringing this important topic to light. As most of her research revolves around the family dynamics of a type 1 diagnosis, it promises to be a strong session for anyone who needs help managing the mental health aspect in young adults with diabetes. Dr. Smith believes that community is a huge part of dealing with such a difficult and complicated diagnosis. 

Friday

(9:00 am) Hybrid-Closed Loop Systems:

This presentation is by Gary Scheiner, a certified diabetes educator and author of six books, including Think Like a Pancreas. In addition to living with type 1 diabetes for 35 years, he has decades of personal and professional experience. He will be discussing the future of insulin pumps, focusing on the hybrid-closed loop system, where the pump automatically adjusts the delivery of insulin in response to the user entering the carbs eaten. 

(10:45 am) Diabetes Can Be Complicated:

This session will feature a diverse panel that includes healthcare professionals, patient advocates, and social media experts, including Dr. Sean Oser, Scott Johnson, Chris Aldred, and Michelle Auerbach (see above for more details on their leadership in diabetes), all with personal experience living with type 1 diabetes. This discussion promises to encapsulate the multiple, holistic perspectives and struggles of people with diabetes and parents of children with diabetes. Diabetes can be complicated in many ways, particularly during (and hardly limited to) the COVID-19 pandemic – this panel promises to be an important reminder of how to care for yourself, learn from each other, and find support in the diabetes community. 

(2:15 pm) It’s Not Your Fault, or A Look at System Errors in Diabetes Care:

This session is presented by Dr. Rayhan Lal of Stanford Healthcare – he is very well-known in the Bay Area for his care for so many people with diabetes. After his two younger sisters developed diabetes, he realized the importance of advancing the care of people with diabetes. This type of specialized care cannot happen while such broad inequities continue to exist in our society, specifically in the medical community. Dr. Lal’s focus is on providing essential care to those with diabetes while simultaneously working to break down the problems embedded in the US healthcare system. 

Saturday

(9:00am) Advocacy Keynote: Affordable Insulin and Other Things People with Diabetes Need in the Next Round of Health Reform:

This session led by National Diabetes Volunteer Leadership Council members Mr. George Huntley and Mr. Stewart Perry will be an informative presentation on insulin affordability. Access and equity in care are clearly imperative for all individuals. Chronic illnesses are obviously very expensive in the US, where there is not nearly as much consistent support as in other countries; as the cost of insulin and supplies continues to increase each year, this session on advocacy and health care reform will be particularly relevant for people with diabetes who have not been able to take advantage of Patient Support Programs

(2:15pm) Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle:

Breakthrough co-author Arthur Ainsberg will lead a popular session about the history of Frederick Banting’s discovery of insulin and its subsequent development. As a diabetes community, millions of lives have been impacted by these events. This fascinating look at the history of the medical miracle that saved the lives of millions living with diabetes promises to be a fun Saturday afternoon. 

(2:15pm) Recognizing and Overcoming Diabetes Burnout for Adults:

This session will be led by Dr. William Polonsky, author of Diabetes Burnout: What to Do When You Can’t Take It Anymore. In this talk, he will address the emotional issues that contribute to diabetes complications and provide guidance to overcoming these barriers and adopting good self-care techniques. Diabetes can be an exhausting disease to manage; it is chronic and comes with so many highs and lows. This session will be a great look at how to recognize burnout in yourself or loved ones, to help you take the right steps to manage those feelings of exhaustion. Also see Dr. Polonsky’s fascinating recent talk with Adam Brown at Tidepool on “Mental Health Tips.”

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