NextGen Fellows Reflect on Their Time at the 2021 ADCES Annual Meeting

August 17, 2021
2021 NextGen Fellows

Each year, The Diabetes Link selects a group of young adult leaders as part of our NextGen program to attend conferences to network, represent The Diabetes Link, and learn about the latest research and innovations in diabetes. This year, we had 10 NextGen Fellows attend the 2021 ADCES Annual Meeting. While the conference experience was virtual this year, our students were able to join thousands of participants from all over the country for four days of research presentations and networking. Read on to hear what the next generation of diabetes leaders had to say about their experiences.

Emma Smith: I thoroughly enjoyed my time attending this year’s ADCES virtual conference. Type 1 diabetes is often stereotyped as a simple disease that can be managed easily through diet and exercise, instead as a complex illness that is affected by psychological, behavioral, and genetic influences. I would encourage anyone living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to attend, as well as anyone working in the diabetes field. It was so exciting to have the opportunity to learn about the latest technologies, ideas, and topics surrounding diabetes management by people who truly understand it. I was surprised by the range of topics available in each session. My personal favorite was learning about Eversense, a continuous glucose monitoring system that can stay in your arm for up to 180 days. I had never heard of it before, but now I am planning on asking my endocrinologist about it!

“It was so exciting to have the opportunity to learn about the latest technologies, ideas, and topics surrounding diabetes management by people who truly understand it.”

Amanda Kaufman: ADCES 2021 was my first experience at any diabetes-related conference, and it definitely did not disappoint. As someone who has type 1 diabetes, yet is relatively new to the actual field of diabetes care, I was particularly delighted to see the variety of sessions on the topic of mental and psychosocial health. This spoke to me as a person interested in diabetes care and as a person with T1D. Talks such as “Too Good? The Potential Dangers of Perfectionism in Diabetes” (Kersti Spjut and Alexis Skelley) really hit the nail on the head when it comes to the first-person experience of someone with T1D. Other talks, such as “Technology Interventions in High-Risk Populations: The Identify, Configure, and Collaborate (ICC) Framework in Action!” and “Providing Culturally Competent Care for African Americans With Diabetes” were instrumental in helping me understand perspectives of those with diabetes that differ from my own, and what the right course of treatment would be for those populations. Although these talks are targeted toward those who already have the CDCES credential, I find that the general concepts are translatable to any situation in which I am addressing the diabetes community. Overall, hearing about new perspectives and issues within the diabetes community was the most valuable aspect of this conference for me!

Alexzandra Lupu: The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is one that locks you into a life of learning and adapting. As a community, we are always looking for new medicinal remedies, management techniques, and psychosocial data. I believe that is why conferences are so important to attend and be a part of. I particularly enjoyed the ADCES conference because the information was aimed at the current or future providers of diabetes education, and focused on presenting information in a positive way, rather than emphasizing all of the “coulds”. One of my favorite sessions during this conference was the conversation revolving around the idea of perfectionism. I was particularly interested as the speaker introduced perfectionism as both excessive and avoidant approaches. The desire to be flawless is not always manifested in the typical way of obsessively checking blood sugars and giving boluses, it can also be exhibited in ways that cause you to ignore the diabetes tasks that are necessary for survival.

Personally, I thought the speaker’s explanations were very validating and eye opening, and really caused me to rethink the way I manage my own diabetes. I would encourage others to attend this conference for the diversity of sessions that were offered. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of sessions that discussed mental health, and the implications that may have on people with T1D. Mental health struggles are things that everyone deals with, though it is even more apparent in those with chronic illnesses. To be able to hear the research regarding mental health in a way that was specific to T1D created a very introspective experience. As with other conferences, my biggest takeaway from this conference was being surrounded by and listening to others that experience the same daily struggles as I do. It is an incredible reminder that we are not alone, and there are people and resources that you can reach out to for support. The biggest thanks to The Diabetes Link and the NextGen Fellowship program for making this opportunity possible!

Jenna Feeley: With the support and guidance of The Diabetes Link, I had the privilege of attending the 2021 Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES) conference. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held virtually.

One talk that I found interesting was “Too Good? The Potential Dangers of Perfectionism in Diabetes.” In this talk Dr. Kersti Spjut and Alexis Skelley addressed perfectionism in diabetes care and why it doesn’t work. Many of us living with diabetes believe that being hard on ourselves will deepen our discipline, leading to enhanced diabetes management. However, as explained in this talk, a perfectionistic mindset can actually backfire and lead to avoidance of diabetes management due to fear of failure.

One aspect of the ADCES conference that I valued was the focus on the overall wellbeing of those living with T1D. Many of the talks focused on the question of “how can we enhance the lives of those living with T1D today.” This question led to numerous talks addressing the psychology of living with chronic illness and how healthcare professionals can help patients change their way of thinking to live more peaceful lives with chronic illness. Acknowledging the challenge and managing T1D to the best of our ability is likely a kinder and more peaceful approach. A huge thank you to The Diabetes Link for the opportunity to attend the 2021 ADCES conference!

Serena Fox: The ADCES Annual Meeting was an insightful and interesting experience for all individuals interested in diabetes care or education. Mental health is a part of physical health and I enjoyed that the conference highlighted this point. As a nursing student who hopes to work in psych, I learned about personal relationships with diabetes, eating disorders, peer and provider support, perfectionism, and alternative healing methods. Gaining a deeper understanding of topics in psychosocial and behavioral wellbeing is crucial in my role in caring for patients. I hope to apply this knowledge to my patients on an individual basis to help them in dealing with chronic illnesses. Overall, the conference pleasantly surprised me and exceeded my expectations by serving as a strong advocate for mental health.

Haley Owens: Historically, my experience at diabetes conferences have been management and therapy-centered with a primary focus on medication, lifestyle, and technology advancements. As a person living with T1D who is also a young professional and is pursuing a career in the diabetes sector, I feel that many of these conferences don’t touch on the behavioral underpinnings of what it feels like to live with diabetes every day. Something that was profoundly different about the ADCES21 conference in comparison to other diabetes-related conferences is that it prioritized the psychosocial needs of many people living with diabetes. In total, there were 19 psychosocial/behavioral health lecture sessions – each one working to compliment the other to create a comprehensive conversation on the intersections between diabetes care and mental health. These conversations were empirically grounded, trauma-informed, and embodied restorative practices that allow for both current and future CDCES’s to begin to have these same conversations and address the psychosocial needs of their patients. These types of conversations not only belong in diabetes care, but they are critical and necessary for each person living with this disease to foster a healthy relationship with diabetes. I would highly recommend to all students and professionals interested in working with the diabetes community (especially in an education and care capacity) to attend the next ADCES conference and to learn more about becoming a CDCES!

“These types of conversations not only belong in diabetes care, but they are critical and necessary for each person living with this disease to foster a healthy relationship with diabetes.”

Emily Swanson: The ADCES conference was an amazing experience. Every single speaker was engaging and incredibly knowledgeable about their presenting topics. There were so many different topics to learn about from nutrition, new technology, and more. I enjoyed going to sessions regarding mental health and diabetes. They talked about how the diabetes care team and mental health team should be an interconnected unit along with regular screening. This is so important since diabetes burnout, fatigue and other mental health issues are prevalent among the diabetes community. I also found sessions geared toward type two diabetes to be interesting to me. I’m surrounded by type one diabetes all day every day in my own life so it’s interesting to learn about what other people have to deal with in their own lives. It is so awe inspiring that there are so many facets of education that go into becoming a diabetes care and education specialist. Going to this conference and learning alongside certified diabetes care and education specialists truly helps solidify these goals and aspirations to one day achieve my career goals.

Haley Napier: It was such an honor to attend the virtual Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES) conference in August. As a current dietetics student with plans to get an MS in Diabetes Education and Management, it was such a powerful and knowledgeable conference to attend. My favorite part was connecting with others, not only in my area, but from all over the country. My favorite session was entitled, “Help People with Diabetes Shift Their Mindset and Change Their Approach to Self-Care Behaviors,” by Mark Heyman. Heyman discussed how patients with diabetes can view diabetes from a relationship perspective rather than just someone who has diabetes. Being flexible, engaging, accepting, and confident can help develop a healthy relationship with diabetes. Personally, this was something that took me a long time to realize, but changed my life once I did.

Living with type 1 diabetes for 16 years now has taught me that being flexible and able to roll with the challenges that diabetes brings gives you the power to overcome these challenges. You may not know what to expect, but you’re going to go with it and be okay. You are engaged, and can adapt to challenges as they come. Accepting these challenges instead of resisting them helps you to grow both mentally and physically. Finally, being confident and owning your relationship with diabetes makes managing it so much easier. I have what it takes to manage this relationship, and I OWN that. The conference had an overall focus on diabetes and mental health. It was nice to focus on that relationship because it is something that can be easily overlooked. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the world of Diabetes Care and Education to attend this conference. You connect with some of the most incredible people in the diabetes industry and gain knowledge beyond compare. This conference gave me invaluable knowledge that I will use in my future career as a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. I am so grateful that The Diabetes Link gave me this wonderful opportunity.

Lauren Kneeland: I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect going in to the ADCES21 conference. As someone who recently has found more of a professional passion in the diabetes field, I was really excited to check it out and learn new things. Something I was not expecting was the opportunity to attend multiple sessions about mental health in relation to diabetes. As a psychology major, mental health has always been a passion of mine. I really enjoyed listening to people who are experienced talk about various views and concepts in the field. On the other hand, I did not expect to enjoy some of the other sessions as much as I did. While I love using my diabetes technology, I never follow the field itself that closely. The Eversense idea was particularly interesting, and got me thinking about the pros and cons of a CGM implant. I also enjoyed the talk about medical marijuana and how it can impact diabetes. While it’s not something that particularly interests me to personally participate in, it was fascinating to learn about. Overall, my favorite thing about the ADCES conference was the balance of topics of interest and topics I was not as familiar with. I feel like I got so much out of attending, and I’m so grateful for the experience.

Emma Fleet: I was so privileged to attend the 2021 ADCES conference. My personal interests lay in the field of mental health and diabetes, so I was excited to see that the conference had a number of sessions classified under the section “psychosocial”. Of all the sessions I attended, my favorite was “Eating Disorders and Type 1 Diabetes” with Dr. Ann Goebel-Fabbri. My biggest takeaway from this session, and from the conferences in its entirety, was how nuanced diabetes care is and the diversity of professionals working in the field. I would highly recommend ADCES to anyone considering a career in the diabetes sector, as it greatly helped me understand what I could do with my own career.

Thank you to the The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES) for their support of these young adults attending the Annual Meeting!

Thank you to the sponsors of the NextGen Fellowship, CBDCE and Novo Nordisk!

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