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The ADA’s Jennifer Puryear Heads New Patient, Youth Initiatives with a Personal Touch

How a personal connection to diabetes drives her to promote prevention

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

When you talk about an organization the size of the American Diabetes Association (the Association), there are so many people involved and it seems like each one of them has a great story to tell. So, in today’s article, I’m excited to introduce you to someone who is responsible for the programs that welcome people who have been newly-diagnosed as well as the programs for children and their families living with diabetes – Jennifer Puryear.

Jennifer Sheen Puryear

Jennifer has been with the Association for 5 years. She began working with the youth camp and Family Link programs and also initiated the development of the Asian American, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander program. In 2009, Jennifer began working with new patient programs and helped launch Living With Type 2 Diabetes, a program for adults newly diagnosed with T2.

Jennifer also has a very personal connection to diabetes. When she was in graduate school her goal was to work with the Association because her father had diabetes that went untreated for years – a situation that affected her whole family. Wanting to promote prevention and the importance of managing blood sugar, Jennifer sought to be a part of the organization so that other families might avoid some of her life experiences.

Q: Can you tell us about your role with new patients and youth initiatives?

A: I work very closely with the Director of Youth and Family Strategies, Shana Funk. She is the other arm of our Youth Department and we work together on the camp operations. We have 53 sessions this summer where we will offer camp opportunities to nearly 6,000 kids with diabetes. Whether it’s a week, two weeks or a day program, it gives them an opportunity to meet other kids living with diabetes.

I also work on the Family Link e-newsletter, which reaches about 25,000 families of children with type 1 diabetes. We try to feature stories of ordinary people with diabetes doing extraordinary things, information about research, and tips to help the families.

Shana and I work closely with our National Youth Strategies volunteer committee and its work groups. Some current projects we’re working on include the Safe Diabetes Sitter training that provides parents the resources to prepare a sitter to take care of their child with diabetes. We are also continuing to review our Everyday Wisdom Kit, which is our type 1, newly-diagnosed kit, to be sure it meets the needs of our families.

Q: For the newly diagnosed, what message would you share about what the Association can do for them?

A: We are leading experts in diabetes information. So, please come to us for information.

I would also encourage people with type 2 diabetes to enroll in our Living With Type 2 Diabetes program that offers free information and opportunities for support over the course of a year. We have the information that people are looking for and we offer opportunities to connect with other people, either online or locally, and to find support so that they do not feel alone in their diagnosis. This is important since diabetes is a lifelong disease.

Q: I’m really interested in the programs that connect people, like your parent mentor program. Can you tell me more about them?

A: This is something that we have had going on for several years. It’s challenging because we send our parent mentors through formal training and a background check and then match them to a newly diagnosed parent who has requested a mentor. So we have to do mentor/mentee matching. To this point, a lot of this has been done manually, so the process has been slower than we would like. But this year we have the opportunity to build an automated system which is very exciting.

In this new system, we plan to set up an algorithm that says this parent’s child was diagnosed at this age, they have this type, and they live in this region. We’re still at the very beginning stage, but ideally this automated system will do the matching, monitoring and evaluation of the parent mentor/mentee matches.

Q: Finally, is it important for families to know there are programs in which they can get involved?

A: I think a lot of times people think that the Association is only for people with type 2 diabetes. I want people to know that we work on behalf of all people with diabetes and there are a lot of things we do for youth and their families in particular. We are here to help them live with diabetes. We don’t just focus on finding a cure through research, though research is very important; we also try to help people live each day with diabetes through programs like our Safe at School campaign that helps families ensure that their child’s medical needs are met at school. Communities around the country also offer opportunities for families to meet and learn from each other through our Family Link events.

I find it is so helpful to learn more about the programs the Association has to offer to various segments of the diabetes population. I hope this helps you, as well, in your search for resources; or, at the very least, to learn more about what the Association has to offer. Thanks, again, to Jennifer for speaking to the great programs on which she is working.

All the best,

Laura K.

Disclosure: Jennifer Puryear received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

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