Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Recruit, Nurture, Teach and Repeat

Nov 15, 2017

It’s no secret that we need younger CDEs to enter our profession. It’s also no secret that there is a huge shortage of CDEs for people needed to serve. As a result, we’ve turned to developing community health workers and other paraprofessional allies to assist us in this effort. This is great and this will help, but it’s not enough. Why are there so few people entering this field?

There may be some barriers to obtaining licensure, and I believe the NCBDE has tried to relax and open to more professions. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s incumbent upon us to recruit, nurture and teach the next generation of educators. As a leader, I take this very seriously. When I see talent, I reach out and make sure the person has the right sources to grow. I cannot express to you the joy it gives me to see these people blossom as leaders. It’s a direct reflection of my ability to help them—their failures are my failures, their successes are my successes.

For many years, and in many professions the idea of “eating your young” has prevailed as a rite of passage. This is specifically true in the profession of nursing. We also see it in medicine as new interns start and are worked to death, with only the “strongest” among them surviving and rising to the top of their class. Meanwhile, the ability to survive this “test” doesn’t make them more empathetic clinicians or honorable professionals.

Maybe this bullying behavior (let’s call a spade a spade) is foreign to you, and I sincerely hope it is. When you discover talented people interacting on subjects that are important to our profession, reach out and encourage that curiosity. Tell them about how they might become involved in diabetes education, and let them know of resources and careers that are available. If you see a young person who has the knowledge and the power, but is struggling to make it in this profession, ask yourself, “Why?”


Let’s make this profession what it should be—a giant resource of understanding and innovating, with talented people working toward a better solution for our patients and colleagues.


It may help you to think of this as you do with patients who have trouble taking their medication. Typically, this is due to a lack of resources, support or education to be able to take on the task. Where is this person lacking support, resources or education? How can you help?

I also ask you to call out your colleagues on non-productive behavior. Maybe they don’t know how to mentor people in a productive way or don’t know that their management style is abrasive and unhelpful. Let’s make this profession what it should be—a giant resource of understanding and innovating, with talented people working toward a better solution for our patients and colleagues.

As humans and as professionals, why would we ever adapt this type of behavior? It doesn’t encourage people to enter our profession, it doesn’t attract young and innovating candidates, and it doesn’t help our patients.

As a leader, a manager or a mentor, you are not in competition with your mentees. It’s in your best interest that they succeed and become productive members in this amazing field of diabetes education. They in turn, after seeing what has been done for them, will return the favor and keep the cycle going. This enables you to move up and on with your career and eventually retire – a natural lifecycle. I’m proud to be working to recruit more young talent into our field and I hope you will join me in this task. 

For those of you looking for a positive mentoring experience, I’m grateful to say I’ve had exceptional mentorship by people in many different professions. These people saw my interest in diabetes, nurtured it and helped me become an educator. They were not all CDEs; some were clinical researchers, engineers, mathematicians, nurses and physicians. Real leaders will always encourage you to be better and go further. Anyone who gives you a different message doesn’t have your interests at heart, and isn’t leading anyone anywhere you want to go.


Molly-McElwee-MalloyAbout 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.

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