The DX Diabetes Dish: Jason Baker
The DX regularly features The DX Diabetes Dish, a profile about life and life with diabetes. This month, we dish with Dr. Jason Baker, founder and director of Marjorie’s Fund: The Type 1 Diabetes Global Initiative, whose mission is to help empower those in the developing world living with type 1 diabetes to thrive into adulthood. Dr. Baker, who lives with type 1 diabetes himself, is also assistant professor of medicine and attending endocrinologist at Cornell Medical College in New York.
What is your state of mind today?
I would say hopeful. There are always a lot of things in the world that one wakes up to that seem like challenges – one of which is diabetes. But, each day holds the opportunity to improve upon the next.
What three words would you use to describe who you are?
I would say optimistic, warm, and global.
How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?
I think diabetes enhances who I am. Once I learned to live with diabetes, the challenges that come with it made me appreciate and understand other people's struggles. So, diabetes has expanded my view outside of my own and helped me appreciate the simple things in life.
If you could take away one aspect of diabetes, what would it be?
The annoyance and frustration of having to put so much energy into it on a daily basis and battling the unpredictability. No matter what you do, you don’t always know what your blood sugar is going to be, and you have to accept that and not beat yourself or anyone else up. You can think you do everything right and still not have the blood sugar you think you should have had.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I would say diabetes inspires me to give everybody a fighting chance when it comes to diabetes management – to equal the playing field among those who have limited resources, and to allow them to have a chance to thrive with this manageable illness.
What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Patience. I tend to take longer given all of my diabetes accoutrements, or if we go out to dine, something might need to be made special for me. If I have a low, I can also be a little short-tempered!
What would you pack for your favorite vacation?
I would say a swimsuit, sunblock, sunglasses – to go on some sort of beach getaway. And, of course, extra supplies, and something to keep my insulin cool.
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
The bottom drawer is filled with extra insulin. Otherwise, I have a container of lettuce, a bottle of wine, a lot of seasonings from takeout places...and the beginnings of the makings of tonight’s meal, which will be spinach-stuffed chicken.
What is your favorite way to relieve stress?
Working out. I do weights at the gym right after work – it’s on my way home from the office. Sometimes I just pop in for fifteen minutes to relieve my daily stress!
What is your idea of happiness?
Balance – between career aspirations and social/familial obligations. For me, happiness is about keeping everything in perspective and not losing sight of what's really important. If I get carried away by the details of life, I’ll back up and say, “Have you lost track of what's really important here?”
What do you most dislike?
What’s your favorite diabetes management tip?
Limit carbs. I think while there are a lot of things that can go hand in hand with managing diabetes, limiting and managing carbs, whether they are of good glycemic or bad glycemic index, make those living with diabetes much better off, in my opinion.
What words do you try to live by?
The idea that there is good in everyone, and to try to see that good.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing a loved one.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Expensive restaurants. There are plenty of those on hand in New York. Many of them are actually quite healthy, but the cost can be high, and we love to try different places.
On what occasion do you lie?
I try not to, to be honest. Not to say I never lie, but I honestly can’t remember a time off-hand!
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I would have them closer. Most of my family is in Minneapolis, and we're in New York City. It’s tough with nephews growing up, but you can’t leave to visit them all the time because otherwise, you can’t maintain the relationships you have where you are. I envy my friends with family near at hand.
Who are your heroes in real life?
I have a couple of heroes who are good friends of mine, but also people I look up to. For example, Kevin Jennings is a friend who has done a lot of activism around social justice issues facing the underprivileged. Other heroes are those who aren’t perfect, but I have always admired, such as Thomas Jefferson. The important issue of slavery aside, Jefferson did have a lot of very progressive views. I was recently in Washington, D.C. and went to his memorial. Reading his messages reminded me of what a modern thinker he was.
What would you choose for your last meal?
I know my glucose wouldn’t matter at that point, but I feel like such crap if my sugar goes high, and I wouldn’t want to go out feeling bad. So I’d say it would be something akin to what I eat frequently, which would be frisée salad with lardons (small pieces of bacon) and poached eggs. I could eat a whole tank of them. I would also have a very crispy piece of salmon, multiple glasses of a very spicy red wine, and then a big piece of cheesecake, depending on how much time I had left.
All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience