Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE,was named Diabetes Educator of the Year bythe American Association of Diabetes Educators(AADE).
The AADE award, sponsored by LifeScan,Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, is givenannually to an individual who has made aspecial contribution to diabetes educationthrough dedication and innovation in the dailypractice of patient care.
What does a CDE have to do to be recognizedby the AADE with such an honor as the onejust bestowed upon you?
I believe many CDEs are everyday heroesin fighting this epidemic and could be theDiabetes Educator of the Year if their virtueswere known.
I speculate that my approach to promotingdiabetes education through cartooningis unique and innovative. Using humor toenhance learning may have helped me toget recognized with the diabetes educationcartoon book I authored and illustrated,“DiabeTease: A Lighter Look at the SeriousSubject of Diabetes,” from which I donate halfof my profits to diabetes research. Plus, beingable to juggle the plastic food models andhaving colleagues write eloquent nominationletters probably helped.
How would you describe your niche as adiabetes educator?
To do what it takes to connect with a personfirst before attempting to cover the scientificstandards of care. I like to think that I putthe “art” in the art and science of diabeteseducation. Then we laugh and learn.
What is the most rewarding aspect ofyour job?
The process of interacting with peoplewhile figuring out the right combinationof approaches to successfully control one’sdiabetes. It is very intellectually stimulating.
What does it take to be a good diabeteseducator?
The commitment and passion to partner withthe diabetes community. Jane Goodall said itnicely: “All I can say is never give up, never give up! Never give up!”
What is your impression of diabetescare today?
Impressive and underutilized. The researchersare amazing in their discoveries, which wecan then apply to clinical practice. Yet, lessthan half of people with diabetes ever geteducation about diabetes from a certifieddiabetes educator. And less than 3 percent ofpeople with diabetes see an endocrinologistor diabetes specialist. We have a lot of work todo to get the word out to the people: Go seean expert. We are fighting an uphill battle.
What do you learn about diabetes from yourpatients with diabetes?
A lot! That diabetes affects no two peoplealike; that we must consider the individualin their path of life—not just a person witha disease; that diabetes management has itsups and downs. And many patients teach methings not related to diabetes, whichstrengthens me as a clinician.
In addition, I enjoy learningabout people’s sense of humorand how they apply it to their lifewith diabetes.
How does diabetes educationneed to change in this era of theobesity and type 2 epidemics?
Focus more on prevention andaccess to care. Get out of the clinicsand into the schools. We need toimprove our education about healthyeating. We need programs thatencourage us to exercise regularly. Inthis day and age, we need incentivesto make us motivated. This is a complexproblem that will need a well-coordinatedplan of attack if we are to succeed withthese epidemics.