NextGen Leaders Reflect on Their Time at the ADA 81st Scientific Sessions

July 6, 2021
The 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 leaders attend the American Diabetes Association 81st Scientific Sessions. While the conference experience was virtual this year, our students were able to join over 11,500 participants from all over the world for five days of scientific advances and groundbreaking research presentations. Read on to hear what the next generation of diabetes leaders had to say about their experiences.

Megan Ervin: I am so grateful for my opportunity to attend the 81st Scientific Sessions. I was amazed to learn of the intricate complications between COVID-19 and diabetes. Seeing all of the most advanced medical research, I am so inspired by scientists and clinicians who unite in the hopes of one day finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and improving the lives of everyone struggling with the disease. Wanting to become an endocrinologist myself, I especially enjoyed the presentations regarding how to improve patient care. This conference enhanced my desire to serve others with diabetes using evidence-based, scientific advancements.

Kathryn Crooke: The future of diabetes care and education is more innovative and inspiring now than ever. As a 2021 NextGen fellow, I attended ADA’s Scientific Sessions virtually this year. I was able to get a firsthand look at new cutting-edge diabetes research and discoveries. As an aspiring Physician Assistant hoping to enter the pediatric endocrinology field, this conference exposed me to so many new therapies, other healthcare providers, and a diverse, supportive community overall. I found myself gravitating to sessions that explored outcomes and complications of diabetes along with strong social justice themes. Some of my favorite sessions explored the impact of COVID-19 on individuals with diabetes through clinical and mental health lenses. Researchers have found that the status of one’s mental health can play a huge role in proper diabetes management, and providing resources for mental health will improve diabetes outcomes. I will take what I have learned about young adults and mental health in relation to diabetes and apply it to my school’s own chapter! The diabetes community is filled with some of the most passionate, dedicated and hardworking people, and it was truly inspiring to engage with them at the conference. Attending the 81st Scientific Sessions conference was an amazing eye-opening experience and has only cemented my interest in entering the healthcare field. I am so grateful to have been able to attend this amazing conference thanks to The Diabetes Link and hope to go again in the coming years!

“The Scientific Sessions are definitely the place to learn about cutting-edge diabetes research.”

Evan Strat: This past weekend, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the ADA Scientific Sessions with The Diabetes Link! The Scientific Sessions are definitely the place to learn about cutting-edge diabetes research. It was really exciting to hear about all the new advances that will hopefully reach the market one day. Although there are sessions covering pretty much any diabetes-related topic you can think of, I primarily attended sessions focused on nutrition, exercise, and new technologies such as smart insulin, beta cell encapsulation, and automated insulin delivery. The sessions I attended pushed me to question topics I thought I understood, such as how a foods’ protein, fat, and glycemic index affect blood sugar levels, and also created new areas of interest, such as diving deep into the ways exercise influences blood sugars. Overall, attending this conference was a great experience. Not only is there a session for everyone, but the sheer size of the conference shows just how many passionate researchers are out there trying to improve the lives of people living with diabetes!

Zoe Cook: Attending the ADA Scientific Sessions was an incredible opportunity to merge my role as a future clinician, someone with type 1 diabetes, and an advocate for improved standards of care. Some of the sessions I enjoyed most were about new research discoveries and also studies of lifestyle with type 1. I learned about research backing new standards of care, potential functional cures for type 1 diabetes, nutrition and the history of ‘diabetes diets’, and the importance of social equity and support systems. I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope to attend in person next year!

Bradley Martin: I feel truly honored to be allowed the opportunity to attend the 2021 American Diabetes Association Conference. After attending the event, my feelings towards the event were bittersweet. I found the information to be very interesting and inspired me to look deeper into topics of diabetes. However, there were a few issues I had with it. With COVID, it was no surprise that this year’s event was online which was the smart move to make. But I feel that it took away from the experience as I didn’t get that “caught up in the moment” feeling where everything around you is exciting. My only other issue was something completely on my end — and that was internet troubles. Even with all these issues during the conference, I still really enjoyed the experience. Every session I went to was informative and interesting, with topics ranging from Balancing Workouts and Diabetes to DIY Looping. Most topics inspired me to do some quick internet searching to learn more about them which says a lot about the content presented. I also had the luxury of my mentor provided by the NextGen fellowship, guiding me through the conference and giving advice. She also had some general poster sessions which I found fascinating with topics about financial stress and rationing insulin. Perhaps one day I will be able to attend a conference in person.

Alyssa Leong: I had an incredible time at this year’s American Diabetes Association virtual conference. One of the virtual sessions I attended was hosted by my mentor, Dr. Jeremy Pettus. In his session, Dr. Pettus talked about the misconception that type 1 diabetics are at a lower risk for severe COVID-19 complications than type 2 diabetics. However, Dr. Pettus proved through his research that type 1 diabetics are at a higher risk for COVID-19 than type 2 diabetics and people without diabetes. I loved how diabetes research was the main focus of the conference since it is what I am studying and interested in pursuing in my own career. Learning about the new medicine and technology being created in the diabetes field, as well as the research, makes me excited for the future and hopeful that one day we will find a cure.

Alexandra Mendez: My first experience attending the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 81st Scientific Sessions impacted on my overall health and increased my passion for contributing to the T1D Community. I learned strategies that helped me understand the reactions of my body. The type of exercise we do affects our BG levels in different ways. I realized that a holistic approach in mental health with our diabetes providers is a must to improve our management. I recognized patterns and I understood that timing is a crucial factor for meals and exercise. I was impressed to have access to cutting edge research on insulin delivery systems and I appreciate what experts recommend using considering the unique needs of people living with diabetes. This opportunity was mind-blowing. I am already applying what I learned and have seen conclusive results. Thank you ADA and The Diabetes Link!

“My favorite sessions involved those that spoke of diabetes and the racial disparities, especially pertaining to youth, as they were intentional about targeting the issues at hand and where we may go from here.”

Shay Webb: The ADA 81st Scientific Sessions was absolutely game changing! While there I was able to view real time research boards in addition to connecting with other diabetes professionals. I’d have to say my favorite sessions involved those that spoke of diabetes and the racial disparities, especially pertaining to youth, as they were intentional about targeting the issues at hand and where we may go from here. This year’s scientific sessions have propelled me to map out ways so that I too may one day be a speaker at the sessions and inspire another young person with diabetes, just as I was inspired this year.

Thank you to the American Diabetes Association for their support of these young adults attending the Scientific Sessions!

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

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