Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

News & Publications

Mentoring the Alexa Diabetes Challenge

Dec 14, 2017
AADE supports technology innovation, and is working to help diabetes educators stay ahead of the curve. Learn about our latest technology project, DANA, and read how AADE member Dr. Jane Jeffrie Seley DNP, MPH, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE FAAN is supporting diabetes technology in the field.


Dr. Jane Jeffrie Seley DNP, MPH, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE, FAAN, Program Manager & Nurse Practitioner, Inpatient Glycemic Control Program at the New York-Presbyterian
Hospital/ Weill Cornell Medicine
AADE Board of Directors, 2012 – 2014, 2016 – 2018

Mentor, Alexa Diabetes Challenge
Sponsored by Merck & Co., & Amazon Web Services

The Alexa Diabetes Challenge called for proposals in April, 2017 for a comprehensive solution using voice-enabled technology to improve the experience of those who have been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Teams were asked to develop patient-centered solutions that made diabetes self-management easier, while taking into account the needs of stakeholders (e.g., caregivers, healthcare providers, payers, etc.) and the broader healthcare system. Five teams were selected as finalists out of 96 submissions from 82 countries. Jane mentored two of the five finalist teams: GluCoach and T2D2.

Your role as mentor in the Alexa Diabetes Challenge demonstrates your commitment to the advancement of diabetes technology to support people with diabetes and clinicians. How did you become involved with the challenge?

Due to my special interest in diabetes technology, Elizabeth Bowling, senior analyst at Luminary Labs and project lead in the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, recruited and subsequently assigned me to two challenge teams. My role as mentor began in late July 2017 after the teams returned from a two-day “Boot Camp” at Amazon Web Services in Seattle, Washington. The teams spent the first day learning about diabetes management from diabetes educators and the second day exploring voice-enabled technology to inform the development of a prototype.

During the next phase of the competition, named Virtual Accelerator, I mentored both teams via regular conference calls. The make-up of the teams was completely different: the GluCoach team from HCL America included members from India, Germany, South Africa and New Jersey. The T2D2 team members were all from Columbia University, some from the Department of Biomedical Informatics, and in close proximity to my office— which allowed for “live” mentoring sessions.

T2D2 mbr spotlight_2Tell us about the solutions generated by the “GluCoach” and “T2D2” teams. What motivated the participants? What were the similarities and differences?

GluCoach is a voice enabled diabetes management teacher, coach and personal assistant that combines education, motivation and individualized task reminders. I helped the team choose key messages that a person newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes needs to know.

T2D2 mbr spotlightT2D2 (Taming Type 2 Diabetes, Together) is a nutrition assistant utilizing machine learning to provide real-time personalized education and lifestyle recommendations. The team focused on nutritional strategies and personalized information about meal planning, recipes, etc.

At the end of the Virtual Accelerator phase in late September, the finalists presented their prototypes in-person at Demo Day, held at the Amazon Web Services Pop-up Loft in New York City. A panel of judges listened to each team pitch their iterated solution. Several weeks later, the winner was announced: Sugarpod Wellpepper, which uses voice, video, mobile and web interactions to facilitate following a comprehensive care plan. The team was awarded a $125,000 grand prize. Despite the fact that neither of my teams won the competition, both the GluCoach and T2D2 teams continue to work on their projects. It was definitely a positive outcome.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the challenge? 

Working with the teams to help them focus on the most important strategies for a person newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and steering them to the most up-to-date evidence-based information.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to the continued development of diabetes technology today?

There are several major obstacles: 1) the cost of high-tech diabetes devices and reimbursement; 2) the issue of cybersecurity -- to ensure that patient information/data is protected; and 3) the challenge of appropriate billing for the educator’s time spent training patients to use such devices and reviewing patient data.

What inspired you to become a diabetes educator? How has your involvement with AADE helped you treat patients?

Early on in my career, I began to specialize in diabetes after attending an eight-hour diabetes conference, which included an appeal from the local ADA president for health care professionals to start Diabetes Support Groups in hospitals. I created a monthly “Diabetes Club” and realized that diabetes self-management education was necessary for PWD to do well. Subsequently, I received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, funded through the New York State Department of Health, to pilot the “National Standards for Diabetes Education.” The rest is history!

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring diabetes educators?

The diabetes educator is the most important member of the care team for people living with diabetes and prediabetes. We educate, coach, motivate, and translate complex medical information into actionable tasks and wipe away our patients’ tears, all without judgement.

What are some of your interests outside of diabetes education?

I have a special interest in technology as a tool to manage chronic illness for both people living with diabetes and clinicians. I like to speak at conferences and network with participants to share challenges and brainstorm possible solutions. I love to spend as many summer days as possible at my cottage in the woods (50 miles north of New York City), with lots of visits from my diabetes colleagues!

In This Section

News & Publications