Jamie Lee, RN, CDCES, MLDE
Wellness Outreach & Education Coordinator
Lake Cumberland District Health Department
Why did you choose to become a diabetes care and education specialist?
My earliest memory of my grandfather was that Papa Jim had to have “shots” for “sugar.” He was blind, had neuropathy, had had a light stroke and heart attack – all related to his diabetes. Although my grandfather was blind, for years he was still able to navigate his yard. One day he fell, but he didn’t tell anyone. Over the next few days, the family decided that something had died under the house because of such a foul odor…. until a family member noticed blood on my grandfather’s sock. By then, two toes were black and he had a horrible wound on his ankle. He lost the toes, but the wound never completely healed – years later at his death, he still had that wound…
However, that does NOT have to someone’s “diabetes story” today and that is my goal as a diabetes care & education specialist.
At Lake Cumberland District Health Dept, how do you find your job structure unique?
We are a 10-county health department district – our district is the largest geographically in the state and there are 4 CDCESs that cover the diabetes education program. Because we are public health, we have strong relationships with community partners. We work with these partners and offer classes at churches, libraries, businesses and county extension offices. Truly these relationships are some of our greatest assets.
You recently piloted a telehealth program with support from the ADCES Foundation’s Reaching Out for Better Health grant. What words of wisdom would you give other ADCES members starting a telehealth program?
For anyone out there starting a telehealth/distance-learning diabetes education program, if this old girl can do it, anyone can! Ha! Telehealth classes have saved us so much time – travel time, set up/break down. And, it makes the education SO much more accessible for our community. Individuals can join a class from home – basically anywhere – using their phone, tablet or computer. Overall, we have had very positive feedback from our telehealth classes. Realistically, people would prefer face-to-face, but they said that they have learned and enjoyed the telehealth classes. As far as convenience, I have taught classes when I have had to be out of town at meetings! I simply got online and taught the class.
We have to figure out a way to meet the needs of people with diabetes in this crazy, busy world we are living in. We know that only about 5% of people with diabetes are getting the diabetes education that they need and I truly think telehealth is one way we can begin to do this!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is when you see clients have those “light-bulb” moments – when something clicks for them and they realize that yes, they can do this! I feel like I give them tools for their toolbox in each class, but it is up to them to whip out the tools out and use them. It thrills me when people who have been to our classes tell me how they have been using the tools they learned in class to better manage their diabetes. Or, they tell me their doctor is so proud of them for making changes and improving their self-management. Or, maybe they just feel better – all of these are major wins.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing diabetes care and education specialists today?
One of the biggest challenges I think we are faced with today is making the person with diabetes and their health care provider look at diabetes education as a necessity, not an option. We KNOW that diabetes education makes a difference, but instead of us having a mile-long waiting list, most of us have plenty of empty seats in our classes.
How has being an ADCES member helped you improve your practice?
Being a member of ADCES has given me access to so many resources – patient education tools, continuing education and information about the latest advances in diabetes care. In this age of “just Google it” having a credible, reliable source that you can go to is so valuable. ADCES membership has also allowed me to connect with other diabetes care and education specialists not only in Kentucky, but throughout the nation.
Describe your favorite experience with ADCES.
My favorite experience with ADCES is not going to sound very sophisticated at all! In 2007, I attended my first AADE (ADCES) conference in St. Louis. The energy in that first general session was nothing like I had ever experienced in my professional life. Talk about pumping you up and making you feel like you could wrestle diabetes to the ground – it was fantastic! One of the sponsor’s events was held at the City Museum. That night hundreds of adults became kids again – sliding down slides and simply having fun. I have been to many ADCES annual meetings, but that first one that I will never forget.
What are some of your interests outside of diabetes education?
When I take off my diabetes hat, I love to read, paint, and do things with my husband and family. I enjoy camping, traveling, and attending band contests! (My son is a music arranger/composer and my daughter-in-law is a band director.) My husband and I teach an ESL class at our church, which I LOVE, and we head up the community garden at our church as well – total blessings.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring diabetes care and education specialists?
Being a diabetes care and education specialist is going to be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do in your life, because you will make a difference in someone’s life. Your clients are going to depend on you so never stop learning, advocating, and supporting them. Be their voice when they can’t speak, be another set of hands when they can’t do it on their own, and be an ear to hear their hearts.