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The DX Diabetes Dish: Karmel Allison

Biology PhD student & blogger takes diabetes to the White House!

Karmel Allison, a PhD student in bioinformatics at the University of California, San Diego, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 9. Karmel is a writer and contributor to The DX  and to the diabetes magazine A Sweet Life, where she serves as science editor. Karmel’s blog post about Obamacare struck a chord with readers and was widely circulated within the Diabetes Online Community. Officials at the American Diabetes Association were so impressed with the post that they invited her to be their representative at the White House as President Obama addressed the nation on the Affordable Care Act. Karmel, who is pregnant, stood just behind the President’s shoulder as he spoke. Near the end of the speech, a combination of factors led Karmel to feel light-headed, and moments later as she fainted, the President reached back and caught her. Fortunately, Karmel and her baby are doing just fine. The fainting episode led to her becoming an instant internet sensation! She was also widely interviewed by media outlets, including several TV appearances. We’re very glad that Karmel is doing well, and excited that she took time out of her busy schedule to “dish” with The DX. 

What is your state of mind today?

I am happy to be home, and honored to have been able to represent the American Diabetes Association and at the White House recently.

How did you feel representing patients at the White House?

Lucky! I couldn’t believe that I was asked in the first place, and I was so happy to hear that the blog post I had written had struck a chord with so many people. The Affordable Care Act marks an important point in our country’s history, and I was absolutely honored to be able to stand behind the President as a person living with diabetes.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

Diabetes is a constant in my life, and affects every aspect of how I interact with the world. It is the undercurrent in all my thoughts, and as a result has driven me to pursue a career in science. Perhaps without diabetes I would still be as stubborn and curious as I am now, but it’s too late to extract the “me” from the “me with diabetes” at this point!

What inspires you to do what you do?

The desire to know, and the faith that things can be known.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

The fact that they are my friends despite my quirks and shortcomings!

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

My iPad and my stuffed rhino. Plus, of course, diabetes supplies.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Cucumbers, pudding, and Jell-O®1. Don’t ask; I’m pregnant, and I don’t pretend that it makes sense.

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

Venting to my husband.

What is your idea of happiness?

The warmth of a hug.

What do you most dislike?


What’s your favorite diabetes management tip?

Learn to love numbers.

What words do you try to live by?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What is your greatest fear?

Freezing to death. In the dark.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I have 16 GB of RAM on my laptop, and I know how to use them.

On what occasion do you lie?

“Yes, Mom, we’ll drive slowly.”

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

They would all live closer to me.

What are you looking forward to right now?

A cup of tea.

If there is one thing you could tell anyone who saw you almost faint at the White House, what would it be?

I’m alive and well, and happy to be home. Thanks for all the concern!

Jessica Apple is the co-founder and editor in chief of the online diabetes lifestyle magazine A Sweet Life. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, The Southern Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, and Tablet Magazine. Apple is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates. 

1Jell-O is a trademark of Kraft Foods

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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