Dealing with Diabetes at UMass
Almost 3 million Americans have Type 1 Diabetes, but only one of them started The College Diabetes Network.
University of Massachusetts student Christina Roth started the College Diabetes Network at UMass in the 2010 spring semester and now it has expanded to Harvard University, Pennsylvania State University, Trinity College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and soon Loyola University in Chicago.
“It is a way to connect all of us,” said Roth, a twenty-one-year-old student who was diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago. “It came out of being [at UMass] and not having any resources,” said Roth of her decision to create the group.
“[The College Diabetes Network] makes it easier to live on-campus with diabetes,” said Roth, a Senior psychology major, “these are the ways to make a difference at the base…and the stuff that makes you feel not crazy.”
At first, the network just students “talking about living with diabetes, just to support each other,” said Roth..
The College Diabetes Network (CDN) started off small last year, but as interest grew Roth began getting e-mails from the community asking in what ways they could help. The organization grew into a website and a network including students at other universities and parents.
“We started off with a small goal of connecting people at UMass,” said the Hingham, Mass native, “now we work with administrators to make changes on campus.”
Roth and her organization are working with the University by “trying to change meal plans to make them better for diabetics and expand food choices to make them healthier.” Roth also hopes to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes on-campus.
“There is no reason college or education should hurt anyone’s health,” said Roth.
Roth describes when she was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as “out of control”. “For years I struggled with it,” she said, “but at college I really got in control…it became important for me to stay healthy.”
“It’s a personal issue and that’s why I’m so passionate,” said Roth. “I never thought I’d do anything with diabetes,” laughed Roth, looking back at when she was first diagnosed.
Roth explained that just because the CDN deals with type 1 diabetes does not mean she thinks that type 2 diabetes is not a serious disease or that it is not important. She said, “[type 2 diabetes] is so different [from type 1 diabetes] and not many people in college have type 2.”
The CDN invites speakers to campus to speak with the group about treating and living with diabetes. At one point, companies like Omnipod, Dexcom and Medtronic came to campus and showed of their new equipment. “That night everyone started a new technology,” said Roth.
When she graduates this spring she will retain control over the organization, but a new student will take over control of UMass’s chapter. Roth said there are several front runners for the position, but did not name specifics.
After graduating, Roth hopes to work in a hospital with patients with juvenile diabetes before going to graduate school to learn how to further assist people with treatment of the disease.
“My mom was instrumental in helping parents,” said Roth about the parental assistance the CDN offers. Roth explained how difficult it is for parents who cared for children with type 1 diabetes when the child leaves for college.
“They may be used to checking the child’s blood sugar while they are asleep and they no longer can,” said Roth. The CDN offers tips and a forthcoming blog to help parents.
The College Diabetes Network is a non-profit organization with a pending 501(c)(3) status. “We hope to keep the organization growing and permanent,” said Roth who also said they are applying for grants and funding.
“The UMass chapter is the most established,” said Roth. Prior to joining the network, Harvard University had a small organization of diabetes support but no resources or community. Now with their new CDN chapter, they do.
Sam Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.