The Evolution of Diabetes Education
We’ve made some exciting additions to the Sanofi US Medical Affairs team recently and we’d like to help you get to know them a little better. Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Donna Rice, MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, who has joined the Sanofi US CDE HELP Team as Senior Medical Director. In addition to her background in nursing and diabetes education, Donna is also the author of numerous publications, including “Sex and Diabetes: For Him and For Her,” and her recent children’s book, “The Magic Is Me.”
Q: What led you to diabetes care and to eventually become a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)?
A: I’m a registered nurse, and while I was doing critical care in the early ‘90’s there was a huge need for diabetes education. So I stepped up to the plate to start looking at how we could help improve the care of hospitalized patients. I had an opportunity to work with the State of Michigan in developing one of the first outpatient education programs certified by a state for the Medicaid population. These learnings paved the way for a more focused approach to inpatient care and the development of a comprehensive outpatient diabetes education center. Diabetes care and education became my passion and I have continued my work on both a state and national level. I became a CDE in 1991.
Q: Do you have any personal connections to diabetes outside of your professional career?
A: Diabetes is very personal to me because it truly has affected my family and has taught me to go the extra mile to help individuals deal with this disease. The two people who truly stand out as heroes are my father and my cousin. My cousin was diagnosed at a young age. Growing up I was able to see the disease first hand and how it affects individuals in so many ways. She passed away at age 40 about five years ago. Forty-five years ago there were not many therapies and developing the disease at such a young age certainly was a challenge to all of us. My father developed type 2 diabetes later in life and was on dialysis for 12 years. Their positive attitudes and determination have kept me focused on my mission to make a difference.
Q: You were involved in grassroots work in Michigan to change state laws around diabetes care. Can you tell us about that?
A: It was a unique situation in Michigan because so many people work for the car companies, but none of the benefit packages ever allowed for diabetes education. In order to get diabetes education years ago, you had to have a heart event to be referred for education.
Working with the American Diabetes Association, a small group of us came together and worked for 10 years to get legislation passed for reimbursement for diabetes education. We led teams to the state capital and made personal visits to legislators. All of our work was long before advocacy events were beginning. I like to think that we were pioneers in this early movement to legislate for the rights of individuals living with diabetes. Michigan was one of the early states to allow reimbursements for diabetes education.
Q: Can you tell us about your involvement with the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), and what you were able to accomplish?
A: I started volunteering and working with AADE committees in the early ‘90’s. I was asked to chair a national task force on sexual health and diabetes which resulted in the launch of a sexual health program for which I became the lead faculty. I ran for a board of directors position in 2004 and became President in 2007.
During my tenure as President one of my initiatives was to articulate the value of diabetes educators. We commissioned a research study that reviewed Medicare claims data of people who had received diabetes education. The results were so positive that the study was used in Washington to prove diabetes education saves money. Individuals had fewer hospitalizations, stayed on their medications longer, and had more visits with their physicians, all of which helped display the value of diabetes education.
I also played an instrumental part in updating AADE’s image – a new logo, new blog, new strategic vision and a more empowered board of directors. Of course, this was a collective effort with the organization’s members. As president, you lay the ground work and then see the growth. It’s exciting to see so many efforts being made on behalf of people living with diabetes.
Q: How have you seen the role of CDEs evolve throughout your career?
A: The role of the CDE has been changing to meet the demands of the growing epidemic and changing environment. The health care evolution has forced CDEs to play a greater role in shaping their care by creating a more individualized approach with a focus on outcomes both behavioral and clinical. Their role has evolved to more of a coaching model where educators help individuals become empowered in their own care. Gone are the days of “Tell and Do.” Collaborative care is patient-centric and educators are poised to deliver in this new era of education.
Technology has also enabled educators to extend their reach and customize care virtually. Today we can reach individuals in many different venues. It’s about customizing care to individual needs and becoming more of a coach versus an educator.
I personally find Donna’s background to be quite impressive and I applaud all she has done to further the role of diabetes educators and education. We’re lucky to have her as a part of our Medical Affairs team. Many thanks to her for taking the time to share her story.
All the best,