Dr. Henry Anhalt, chief medical officer and vice president, global head, medical, clinical and scientific affairs at embecta, is a board-certified pediatric endocrinologist and sits on the board of Insulin for Life USA and Camp Nejeda, a residential camp for children with type 1 diabetes. In this Q&A, Anhalt shares common misconceptions about patients with diabetes and the importance of providing patients with a support system.
What inspired your work in diabetes?
HA: I have worked with people living with diabetes since I completed my pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Stanford University in the 1990s. I was appointed chief medical officer of the T1D Exchange, a nonprofit devoted to improving care and outcomes for people living with type 1 diabetes. I also cochaired the scientific advisory board of the Helmsley Charitable Trust Type 1 Diabetes Program, along with Nobel Prize winner Craig Mello. In those positions, I saw firsthand the incredible efforts going into diabetes research and treatment. However, I was also able to talk with individuals living with diabetes to get a sense of what their unmet needs are. Listening carefully to their concerns and offering psychological and emotional support is something we should all be doing, whether we work in healthcare, med tech or simply wish to be more empathetic members of our society.
What are some common misconceptions about diabetes you would like to dispel?
HA: The most common misconception is the idea that people living with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are somehow always responsible for their condition. There are a whole host of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of diabetes. Although there have been many attempts to elucidate the cause of Type 1 diabetes, we still haven’t figured out the root cause. Also, it’s important to realize that Type 2 diabetes isn’t always a result of personal lifestyle choices alone.
Why is a support system so important for people living with diabetes?
HA: To begin with, living with diabetes is physically difficult and emotionally stressful. Mental health issues are common and woefully underdiagnosed and treated. Without a support system, people living with diabetes may feel anxiety, depression, diabetes distress and, as of recently, are at a significantly greater risk of suicide. They can miss out on the wisdom that comes from shared experiences, which can help them administer medications properly, manage their blood sugar, and enlist supplemental care from health educators or other therapists.
What are some resources people living with diabetes can access for additional support and community?
HA: Many children living with diabetes have never met another child living with their condition. Things like injections, finger pricks and a backpack full of supplies make it difficult to navigate common childhood activities like school, sleepovers and summer camp. That’s why residential programs like Camp Nejeda are so important. They provide experiential learning and they set up lifelong relationships with people who truly understand what these children are going through. Supporting a child with diabetes is a full-time job, with lots of overtime.
How can healthcare organizations help people with diabetes?
HA: We all have a role to play in supporting people with diabetes. Organizations can contribute by partnering with advocacy groups or providing resources. I’m proud to be the chief medical officer at embecta, a global diabetes care company with a nearly 100-year legacy in insulin delivery. embecta is demonstrating its commitment to empowering people living with diabetes to live a life unlimited through partnerships with both Camp Nejeda and its foundation and the Diabetes Foundation, among others. This type of support offers embecta employees the chance to connect directly with individuals affected by the condition while strengthening the social support network people living with diabetes and caregivers need. As leaders in diabetes technology, this provides an invaluable opportunity for employees to stay patient centered as we push the field forward. Partnerships like these, together with the efforts of countless individuals, can make a powerful difference in the lives of millions in the diabetes community.
To learn more: www.embecta.com