Last week Laura K. shared her review of the diabetes patient experience program our team attended at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami, as well as Lori Kuzma’s experience. This week we’d like to introduce you to Michael Williams, Vice President of Sales at Sanofi US. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years, and now works with a team that connects with about 1,100 hospitals and long-term care facilities across the country. He also helps support his father, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 25 years ago.
Before attending the program, Michael wasn’t convinced his father was managing his diabetes well. “When your parent has diabetes, you are very concerned about their health and their longevity,” he said. “From a selfish perspective you want them to be around for a long time, to be able to enjoy all the things that your family will do together.”
Participating in this patient experience program changed Michael’s perspective of his father’s diabetes journey. “I thought of diabetes as being an exact science, that you can manage it the same way every day,” he said. “But now I believe there really is no exactness with diabetes. Life just isn’t the same every day. Sometimes you might eat lunch at 11, sometimes you might eat lunch at one. Or you might attend a wedding. You have to balance the wholeness of your life experiences.”
Michael also now views diabetes management differently. “I believe there is an art to understanding when and how you should dose with insulin, based on what and when you’ve eaten,” he said. “I don’t think that I understood that from a personal perspective, and certainly not from a son-to-father perspective.”
The patient experience program opened Michael’s eyes to how overwhelming life can be to live with diabetes. “I never thought about the relationship between food and this condition,” he said. “You have to think about every single thing you are about to ingest and what impact it might have. It was huge for me to realize a person living with diabetes is not trying to not live well. I think most people living with diabetes want to do the right thing. It is overwhelming to think you have this basically unhealthy relationship with food and you still have to eat.”
Michael now recognizes his father has been managing his diabetes well. “He makes conscious decisions all day long. He knows what each decision means and what he has to do about it. As long as you try to understand what you need to do in terms of balancing food and insulin, then you really are more likely to live with diabetes in a healthy way. You’re managing your outcomes. I think my dad has done a good job of this, in retrospect.”
This change in perspective compelled Michael to call his father while in Miami. “I had to apologize to him for not fully appreciating that he is doing a very good job managing his condition,” he said. “I think my fear for his future got in the way of seeing how well he is living with diabetes today.”
This realization has changed how Michael communicates with his father. Now when they talk, the conversations don’t revolve solely around his father’s diabetes. “I talk to my father every week and now his diabetes isn’t the only thing we talk about. It can’t be the first thing we talk about, and it’s okay if we don’t talk about it at all. This patient experience has changed the context of our conversations. It has opened the door to the wholeness of his life. To me, he is no longer this person burdened with diabetes. He happens to have it and he’s living with it.”
The experience also affected how Michael views his work. “Professionally the program has changed my whole reason for being in this space,” he said. “I joined Sanofi US because of their diabetes work. I wanted to make a difference. But now that I have a clearer understanding of the whole journey, I have a renewed commitment to wanting to help people live better with the condition.”
This patient experience was so powerful; I hope more people can attend this program. The DRI team has truly put together some impactful resources to provide a real eye-opening experience. Our thanks to Michael for sharing his story.
Head of Patient Insights, Sanofi US Diabetes