Category Archives: Events

HIMSS18: Diabetes, you’re miles ahead.

Full Disclosure: the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society allowed me to attend HIMSS18 free of charge. The Society for Participatory Medicine provided a stipend to help defray some of the costs of travel to Las Vegas for HIMSS18. All other costs, and of course my opinions, are entirely my own.

Okay, first things first. This space has been a little quiet over the past two weeks, for two reasons: 1) The power at our home was out for four days, and a day before the power came back on, I left for Las Vegas to attend HIMSS18.

HIMSS stands for Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and their annual gathering is the largest health technology conference in the country. How large? There were 45,000 attendees.

The exhibit space covered two floors of a fairly large convention hall. And then a couple more large meeting rooms too. Trust me, this thing was big.

The exhibit spaces included app developers and government health organizations and companies who develop software to help practices manage patient data. There were device manufacturers too, though I didn’t see any business that was specifically talking about their offerings in the diabetes space. In fact, I didn’t see any businesses or organizations talking diabetes in the exhibit areas.

The educational and information-sharing sessions were many, all day long, and covered more subjects than I can even begin to describe. The most attended ones seemed to be anything using the word blockchain. My suspicion is that most of the men in those rooms (and they were almost all men) love the term, but don’t have any idea what blockchain really is… or how it could be used for better health outcomes.

To be honest, I don’t know how it can be used for anything other than evil. Yet.

Going into the conference, I was under the impression that the patient story would be non-existent there, or nearly non-existent. I was wrong.

There were some very well presented sessions and panel discussions involving people living with chronic conditions and telling their stories as only we can do.

I was encouraged by patients and caregivers who have started organizations that are doing their best to advance the cause of compiling and sharing data with medical professionals. Think “I don’t want to have to explain every symptom I have to every doctor at every visit”.

There was a session that included Dr. Joyce Lee as a speaker, and she covered the #WeAreNotWaiting and #OpenAPS movements. There were two other speakers in this presentation who covered other subjects, but when the session was over, all of the questions were for Dr. Lee.

And that brings me to something I learned at this conference. I found out that we, in the diabetes advocacy and technology space, are often miles ahead of those advocating for people living with other conditions.

Where we can afford it, we have access to technology to better help us manage our diabetes. That technology is being delivered to smart devices. There are platforms available for people living with diabetes to upload data from multiple devices and share it with researchers and our healthcare team. When I asked a panel discussion if there were platforms like this to help those living with other conditions track their information, I was met with blank stares.

A few other takeaways from this conference:

– Interoperability was a big theme, and multiple times, a discussion point. I think we’re at the point where everyone understands its importance and what it means for care… we just need industry and healthcare organizations to up the innovation, instead of letting the fire die down after a conference or workshop.

– While there was industry, researchers, hospital organizations, and advocates all in attendance at HIMSS, I didn’t really notice much interaction between the various groups. In a way, that makes sense because you tend to be drawn to the sessions that speak to your area of focus. But I was disappointed when sessions were presented that included patient or caregiver stories, with only 30 or so people in a room that would seat a couple hundred or more.

– There was one thing that I did not experience at this conference, that is a part of just about every other conference I’ve been to. Other than a couple of brief instances, I didn’t really get to interact with anyone at HIMSS. I went to a couple of scheduled meetups that were to take place in common areas, but when I got to their locations, there was no organization, no one introducing themselves, no one saying “over here”… it was just a lot of people coming and going. I think if I attended next year, I might have more of a feel for how to connect with others.

That last takeaway was kind of a downer. Ultimately, I must say that I feel extremely privileged to have been able to attend HIMSS. I did make a few connections, I hope, that will last beyond this conference. I also learned a lot.

I don’t know how this conference has evolved over time, so I don’t know if I can expect there to be much change when the group gets together again next February in Orlando. But since we’re talking technology, and we know that the pace of change in technology is pretty fast, I think next year’s edition of HIMSS should show the organization is going in the right direction, helping to bring patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and industry closer than ever before.


Put these conferences on your calendar… now!

Happy New Year! Since we’ve reached the start of a new year, you might be wondering if there are events in your area that speak to diabetes, or to health care in general in 2018. If you live in my part of the world, the answer is Yes.

This is by no means a comprehensive diabetes conference schedule like the ones Christel Marchand Aprigliano used to write up. But if you live here in the USA, there are a few things you might want to mark your calendar for. Hopefully, these will get you thinking about how to further connect with the community this year:
Healthcare Costs Innovation Summit. This is an HCI-DC event, sponsored by West Health (HCI stands for Health Care Innovation). While this is not diabetes specific, I can relate that I went to one of these a couple of years ago and learned a lot.

This year’s one day event centers around what we, as a group, on this one day, can come up with in terms of innovations and policy fixes that might help slow down or reverse the rising cost of health care in America. Timely, yes?

Andy Slavitt, former acting commissioner for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and a font of information on health care in America (seriously, follow him on Twitter) will be speaking, among others.

The best news is that the summit is free. The second best news is that it will be live and live streamed, so if you can’t get to Washington in February, you can still look in.

Healthcare Costs Innovation Summit
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Amphitheater at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
CLICK HERE to attend or sign up for the live stream.


JDRF TypeOneNation Summit. The first of the JDRF TypeOneNation Summits will be taking place on January 20, 2018 (Middle Tennessee and North Florida). The summit in my state will be happening as usual on the first Saturday in March (March 3) in Bethesda, Maryland.

These are great gatherings that give those living with and caring for people with Type 1 diabetes the opportunity to learn the latest about technology and drug innovations, and interact with others from the tribe.

If you haven’t been to a diabetes event before, this is a great place to start.

CLICK HERE to find out more about JDRF TypeOneNation Summits nationwide.

JDRF Chesapeake & Potomac Chapter TypeOneNation Summit
Saturday, March 3, 2018 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road, Bethesda, Maryland
CLICK HERE for more information. Registration opens, probably, some time this week.


Friends for Life events. Friends for Life will be coming back to Falls Church, Virginia in October of 2018. I’ll be looking forward to seeing old and new friends and learning more about a variety of topics with regard to cost, burnout, managing diet and exercise, and seeking support.

There are usually tracks for kids, teens, and adults at this gathering. If you can’t make the big FFL meetup in Florida in July, October in Northern Virginia is a very nice second option. If you live in the west, Anaheim in May is a very nice second option. If you live in the UK, Perthshire, Scotland in October is a super option. If you live near Toronto or in Niagra Falls, or anywhere else in Canada, Niagra Falls in November works pretty well too.

Friends for Life Falls Church
October 19 – 21, 2018
The Fairview Park Marriott
Falls Church, Virginia
CLICK HERE for more information on FFL Falls Church and the other 2018 Friends for Life events in Orlando, Anaheim, Scotland, and Niagra Falls, Ontario.
2018 is right around the corner. Get out your calendars and start planning! And if you have any conferences or meetups happening where you are in 2018, please let everyone know in the comments section below.

Note: the original version of this post listed the Anaheim Friends for Life event in April; the conference is actually May 4-6, 2018. Totally my fault.

Enlightened, but unknowing.

Even though it meant getting up very early on my day off from work, I was thrilled to go to Washington, D.C. last week for a diabetes town hall, co-sponsored by the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The event, as you can imagine, was designed to facilitate discussion on ways to better promote diabetes prevention and care among the non-white populations in my country. I thought that was a terrific idea. After all, the prevalence of diabetes is much higher in non-whites than in whites here in the USA, yet many of the people affected are in vastly underserved communities, either due to socioeconomic reasons, location, or because their first language is not English. I get it, I thought. This is good.

But it turns out that there is still a lot I don’t know.

For instance… did you know that the prevalence of diabetes in the United States is highest among Native Americans and Alaskan Natives? At 15.1%, their risk of diabetes is over twice that of someone who looks like me. It turns out that 12.7% of African-Americans live with diabetes, and 12.1% of Hispanics do too. Only 7.4% of non-Hispanic Whites live with diabetes here.

But that’s not all. Eight percent of Asian Americans live with diabetes, but they are far more prone to being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI) than other ethnicities. Those advocating for greater awareness among this population are touting an initiative called Screen at 23 to test all Asian Americans for diabetes if their BMI is at 23 or over.

As our presenters that day shared their data, it was clear that while I feel I’m enlightened, I really don’t know as much as I thought I knew. For instance, while there is data surrounding ethnic backgrounds of clinical trial participants, when we see a number that says “Asian”, we don’t know if the Asians in the study were of Japanese descent or Indian descent. When we see “non-Hispanic Black”, we don’t know if these are people of Senegalese or Jamaican descent. Those specifics could mean real differences in understanding the underlying data from a clinical trial.

How about this? Did you know that FDA has sponsored a Minorities in Clinical Trials campaign? The idea is to remove barriers to clinical trial participation for minorities, who, as a friend mentioned, may have transportation, job, family, or other special constraints that make clinical trial participation more difficult than it is for a lot of the majority population.

Did you know that people with prediabetes enrolled in a Lifestyle Change Program for a year under the National Diabetes Prevention Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (a mouthful… take a moment and breathe) showed, on average, a 5% to 7% loss in body weight, and had a 58% reduction in their risk of being diagnosed with diabetes? How do we promote the NDPP and its successes among states and tribal areas with vulnerable populations?

I learned a lot in this short, half day event. Here are a couple of nuggets that I heard more than once:

– We need additional data to understand segments of the various populations at risk for, and with higher prevalence of, diabetes. Subgroups of subgroups, if you will.

– Material and coaching rolled out to non-white populations need to be presented in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner. One size does not fit all, and there is evidence that tailoring a message to its audience has a positive effect.

One of the words I heard mentioned a lot that day was disparities. The more we can reduce the disparities that exist in diagnosis; access to care, food, drugs, and devices; participation in clinical trials; and information that sends clear messages in terms that underserved populations can understand, the more inclusive we will be as a diabetes community, and the healthier all of us will be.

The Diabetes UnConference Alexandria 2017.

Full Disclosure: The Diabetes Collective paid for my hotel accommodations so I could reprise my role as a facilitator at the Diabetes UnConference. All opinions are my own.

That t-shirt says it all: No judgement. Just support.

The fifth Diabetes UnConference has completed. Our venue was the Embassy Suites hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. This time, the UnConference was co-located with the Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women conference. This created the dynamic where, in addition to the separately attended UnConference and the Weekend for Women sessions, there were general education sessions available to both groups.

Obviously, I can’t speak to the Weekend for Women track, but they’re a fantastic organization populated with some of the smartest, strongest, most supportive people you could ever meet… some of whom are actually Diabetes UnConference alumni and facilitators. The general education track was full of informative tidbits.

And the UnConference was the UnConference. A safe, supportive space where adults with diabetes and their PLUs, or People who Love Us, could talk about and explore the various things going on in our heads and our hearts these days. And believe me, there was a lot to talk about.

As usual, the Diabetes UnConference weekend included cheerful and excited Hellos. It included intense discussions, and evenings out with the best of friends. It included tearful Goodbyes and promises to stay in touch and plan meetups in the future. Which brings me to this:

There will not be a Diabetes UnConference in 2018.

There are a number of reasons for this. Mostly, it’s time. Let’s face it… diabetes, and diabetes advocacy, takes a lot of our time these days. Plus, now that we’ve done this five times already(!), maybe it’s time to take a breather and reimagine the Diabetes UnConference for 2019.

One thing’s for sure though: no UnConference does not mean no UnConference activity. I’m looking forward to UnConference alumni gathering throughout the country over the next couple of years, to continue discussions, support, and all the things that make our safe, protected time together as wonderful as it has ever been.

My gosh, I already miss my tribe.

Friends for Life Falls Church.

Like the Energizer bunny, Friends for Life just keeps going.

I think Children With Diabetes, the organization that stages the Friends for Life conferences throughout the USA, and in the UK too (and occasionally Canada), would rather be thought of on their own, as opposed to being associated with a battery company. But that aside, after attending many of these now, I am still amazed at how they make each gathering spectacular and unique.

In Falls Church, Virginia last week, I was working the DPAC table in the exhibit space again, like I’ve been doing for a while now. That means I don’t get to get into many sessions, but I do get to see a lot that goes on around the venue. Not backstage pass kind of stuff, but things that I think help me see how much of an undertaking each conference really is.

The first thing I noticed was the update to the sessions in the schedule. More advocacy sessions with Christel Marchand Aprigliano and Stewart Perry. Cynthia Rice from JDRF and Paul Madden from ADA also jumped in here and there.

Also, there were sessions about Succeeding as and Adult and Parenting with Type 1, a Safe Zone discussion for Significant Others of adults with T1D, and two sessions for Grandparents and Occasional Caregivers. I saw a session on Your Legal Rights as a Person With Diabetes. When you’re tackling these subjects, led by smart people like Kerri Sparling, Tamara and Sean Oser, Brian Grant, and Leigh Davis Fickling, you know you’re going to learn something significant without needing a PhD to understand the subject matter.

Unlike some of the other FFL events I’ve been to, this time I was able to see a lot of the staff working in the background to keep things running smoothly. Think about everything that needs to be done: Making sure everything arrives (think T-shirts, badges, and those wonderful green bracelets). Setup and registration. Getting rooms ready with the right amount of tables and chairs, screens to view presentations, and branding material. Coordinating meals and food choices with hotel staff.

That doesn’t even count little extra touches that mean a lot. When someone at registration asked me if I had diabetes (do I get a green bracelet? YES!), then someone else asked, “Do you still have an appendix?”, it was the funniest moment of the entire weekend. I don’t know how they all remember so much.

I’m not kidding… everyone works so hard, yet makes it look so effortless. Many of the first timers I met, from Ohio and North Carolina and Pennsylvania and beyond, really appreciated how they were made to feel at home, and how accessible everyone was. How can I describe it? Friends for Life is a comfortable place where everyone feels like they belong. It’s a conference, while redefining the very meaning of that word. Friends for Life is an experience, not one time, but always.

Here’s your notice: if you live in the eastern half of the USA, you should know that Friends for Life is coming back to Falls Church, Virginia next October. If you can’t make it to the big event at Disney in July, this is a great opportunity to learn a lot, interact with others living the same life you do, and enjoy being part of the biggest group that no one wants to belong to… that just happens to be populated with the most wonderful people. To find out more, go to

Extra: You should definitely read this post by Leigh Fickling over at Six Until Me. This describes FFL maybe better than anything you’ve read above.

**Note: I get nothing for writing about Friends for Life. DPAC paid for my travel and accommodations to Falls Church, Virginia. Opinions on Friends for Life are entirely my own.

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