Erin Zepp, MS, RD, CDE
Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center
Why did you choose to become a diabetes educator?
I think the diabetes education profession chose me, actually! I was hired fresh out of college to be an inpatient and outpatient dietitian for a small hospital and was blessed to be exposed to all kinds of nutrition needs in my community. It seemed that almost everyone who sought me out wanted to talk about diabetes. I started to really enjoy the subject and created a mini-curriculum that I would take to speaking engagements, patient hospital rooms, and even my extended family’s dinner table. It has really developed into a passion.
Recently your DPP program received full CDC recognition – congratulations! What advice would you give another diabetes educator/AADE member who was thinking about joining the National Diabetes Prevention Program?
I want everyone who is thinking about starting this program to know that it is worth it. We had such struggles achieving recognition! There were times when I was ready to throw in the towel, but then I would think about some of the participants we have had go through the program who are seeing success with weight loss and enjoying exercise for the first time and I would keep going. It’s a good program with proven results.
As you know, the National DPP welcomes community health workers, health promoters, and paraprofessionals to serve as lifestyle coaches. What specific value does a diabetes educator/AADE member add to starting and sustaining a successful diabetes prevention program?
One of the strengths of the NDPP is its inclusion of community members as facilitators. But as an AADE member I have access to resources, like the Prevention COI, to help me troubleshoot problems and not reinvent the wheel when barriers arise. Additionally, I am not a stranger to maintaining an accreditation/recognition. That could be intimidating to someone who has never had to manage something like that.
Do you plan to submit to be an MDPP provider now that you have NDPP recognition?
Yes, my health system is in the beginning stages of applying.
Doing diabetes education, and diabetes prevention, can be challenging—what keeps you motivated and keeps that “old excitement bubbling up?”
I have a mental rolodex of “rockstars” that I refer back to when it seems that nothing I do makes a difference. Client success stories have kept me going many times! I also find that I really enjoy the interaction that comes with social media. I make sure to keep a presence on my employer’s social media accounts.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing diabetes educators today?
Providing quality education at scale is something that keeps me up at night. We know that the majority of people with Diabetes do not access services each year. Tools like telehealth and shared appointments can help, but the issue remains that there are millions and millions of people all over the world without access to DSME.
How has being an AADE member helped you treat patients?
I LOVE the annual meetings. I always come home with new information or a new way to present old information, and that makes me a better educator. I also stay active in a few COI’s to network and stay engaged with our community between yearly meetings.
What are some of your interests outside of diabetes education?
I enjoy cooking and am always on the lookout for a new recipe. I am more of a cook than a baker. I have completed two half marathons and am looking forward to my next one in the spring. It will be my first since having my son, and the training experience is very different this time around. Still enjoyable, but wow, so much harder. Good thing I like a challenge!
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring Diabetes Educators?
You never are going to have all the answers to all questions. Sometimes, the client in the room is the real expert and your job is to draw the answer out of them. Stay active and engaged in AADE, because then when you say “I don’t know the answer to that question” you can follow it up with “but I know where we can find some information for you to use in your particular situation.” It takes a village and using your community is not a sign of failure. It’s actually just the opposite!