Carla Cox, CDE, LD, PhD, RD, RDN, FAADE
Certified Diabetes Educator and Clinical Dietitian
Mountain Vista Medicine
Why did you choose to become a diabetes educator?
I find working with children with type 1 diabetes is always a challenge – not only looking at the numbers and why they occur, but encouraging lifestyle choices (healthy eating, exercise) that also have an impact. My first experiences with diabetes in children was many years ago. I was working as a dietitian in a pediatric practice and seeing children from a nutrition perspective back in the days of more structured eating and insulin dosing regimens. One young man was from a family of wrestlers. They all loved it. He was diagnosed during his wrestling season and one night after practice (this is the old NPH and R days) he had a severe low and a seizure. His parents pulled him out of wrestling, never to return. At that moment, really at that moment, I decided there must be a way that persons with type 1 diabetes can live their lives to the fullest doing what they want to do.
Your specialty is sports nutrition and exercise physiology; how does this make your practice unique?
I have worked with lots and lots of children, adolescents and adults who enjoy being very active -- some excellent athletes. I believe my background just helps enhance my understanding of what each person needs. Really it does not matter if they have type 1 diabetes. Though the twist is, of course, titrating the insulin to match their needs!
You served as Chair of AADE’s Professional Practice Committee; how did this experience influence your career and leadership role at AADE?
I LOVED that job. Helping to promote our practice through practice papers – writing and editing them – was one of my favorite volunteer positions!
You have co-authored several papers related to diabetes and technology; how can educators best stay informed of the latest trends?
That is tough one! For those of us working in the technology and diabetes field – it is constantly staying in tune to websites, the news media, and industry on what is coming up next. I spend as much time in the exhibits as I do in the presentations at annual meetings! DANA (AADE) is a great resource as well, particularly for the educator that may not specialize in technology – to keep up with what is out there to help our patients!
In addition to your volunteer work at AADE, you are involved with the Montana and Colorado ADA Summer Camps. How do you apply your expertise? What inspired you to start volunteering?
I am headed to five camps this summer! I love working with children and type 1 diabetes and once again, helping them to learn how to adjust to outdoor activities. I specifically work with teens in Colorado – which is truly an adventure camp – and those teachable moments are special times – we make insulin adjustments on the fly as we raft, mountain bike, rock climb and hike. It takes working with the teens, understanding what they know about their diabetes, and then applying some of the principles I have learned through 30+ years of working with active persons with type 1. I love the challenge and collaboration – coming together to develop a plan that usually works (they do have type 1 – not everything always works!)
What is the single most important message you would give to parents of children living with diabetes?
They should be “let go.” Let them do anything they choose to do – just watch over them for signs and symptoms of acute highs and lows – and when in doubt if they are taking care of themselves – make it a priority to visit with their endo and diabetes team. It IS one of the most important things in their life, but should not be everything.
Tell us about your work with Tour de Cure, the premiere fundraising event of the American Diabetes Association.
I chaired that event for eight years. It was a great experience and we were able to fund multiple children attending summer camp. I encouraged my favorite people to join me, including my husband and co-workers. So, it was fun to get together to organize the event!
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing diabetes educators today?
To stay up to date on the new medications and technology to enhance our patients lives. And be willing to meet all the electronic medical records requirements and still stay excited about what we do!
How has being an AADE member helped you treat patients?
The comradery – I love attending the meetings and exchanging ideas. Volunteering for both the practice and research committees has enhanced my fellowship with other educators as well. Having practice papers at my fingertips. The new DANA website. All these experiences keep me excited about my profession as well as up to date. I believe that translates to patient care.
What are some of your interests outside of diabetes education?
I would say, diabetes education is a huge passion and plays into so much of my life. Aside from that, I have had a dog sled team for over 20 years – racing and driving them for pleasure (mine and theirs); I have 3 grandchildren that I love dearly and enjoy times with them as well. I have climbed/hiked to the highest point in every state (and some high points on other continents) and I enjoy canoeing and hiking near our Utah home.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring Diabetes Educators?
What a wonderful choice you have made! It may not bring riches, but it is a wonderful life – so full of opportunities. I always feel useful. I enjoy going to work every day.