I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 20, which at the time I thought was the best possible time to get diabetes – if, you know, there was a choice. I lived on my own, went to school, and could have a lot of control over my food and schedule. It was good. But in hindsight, if I had been diagnosed earlier, I think I would have come to my career as a CDE at a much earlier stage.
I had the chance to participate in one of the first artificial pancreas trials in 2006 at the University of Virginia. After 24 hours of not having to think about my blood glucose and having good control, I decided I would move any mountain it took to have this solution. I finally had peace of mind. So, I asked – “What would I need to do to get hired on this project?” The coordinator at the time said to me, “I could use another nurse.” That was all I needed, I was going to nursing school.
Being a CDE isn’t just having knowledge about diabetes. It’s about being an advocate, a problem solver, a listener, a coach, a mentor.
After working full-time, and going to school full-time for two years (there are still major world events I don’t know about that happened during that time), I finished. I was hired a few months later at the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia to work on artificial pancreas trials. This was a huge goal for me and I thought I was done for a little bit, but then, as always, I started researching and realized, I needed to get my CDE to really be a diabetes expert. So, I set off on my journey to get every hour needed, took the test, and conquered this goal. Now I work for TypeZero Technologies to commercialize the research I’ve worked on. To say that I’m dedicated to diabetes technology that makes diabetes easier is an understatement—it’s my life.
So how do we attract more people to this profession? Where is it best to recruit? College? I’m all for the earlier the better, but I’m open to ideas. There are hundreds of ways to arrive on the path of diabetes education, and each one is valuable. For a lot of people, your experience was elsewhere before you even started learning what a CDE was. And then, you had a moment and you decided to change the course of your life and the lives of those around you. Being a CDE isn’t just having knowledge about diabetes. It’s about being an advocate, a problem solver, a listener, a coach, a mentor.
I could not be more grateful to be among such wonderful people doing great such great and needed work. May the path that brought you here inspire others to take the lead and change their careers and lives.
About the Author:
Molly McElwee-Malloy is the head of patient engagement and director of marketing for TypeZero Technologies, an artificial pancreas company. She also volunteers with the Charlottesville (VA) Free Clinic to help oversee the Diabetes Insulin Titration Telemedicine Program. She's active in the diabetes online community: @MollyMacT1D.