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Tom Beatson: An Unlikely Journey

Living with type 1 diabetes for half a century is no small feat. Just ask Tom Beatson, of Phoenix, Ariz., who is a Joslin Diabetes Center 50-year medalist. This special award means a lot to Tom. “It symbolizes that I, and many others, have been able to survive and live with this disease,” he explains.

It was Joslin’s medalist program — which is open to anyone living with type 1 diabetes for 25, 50 or 75 years — that first caught Tom’s attention. But it was Joslin’s unique and comprehensive research and care programs that captured his interest and motivated his continued involvement and support.

In 2008 he made a generous $1,000,000 gift to support type 1 diabetes research. This gift was split evenly between the labs of Keith Blackwell, M.D.; George King, M.D.; Gordon Weir, M.D., Ph.D.; and Howard Wolpert, M.D. Also in 2010, the Beatson Foundation committed to a spectacular gift of $3,200,000 for the Thomas J. Beatson, Jr. Initiative for Diabetes Longevity at Joslin Diabetes Center. This time the gift supported the naming of the Eleanor Chesterman Beatson Childlife Care Ambassador Program in memory of his mother. This program is part of Joslin's Pediatric and Adolescent Section, headed by Lori Laffel, M.D., M.P.H. Joslin also named the Thomas J. Beatson, Jr. Tissue Regeneration Program in support of Joslin's Medalist Study. In addition, seed funding was provided for the lauch of Joslin's Web Portal project led by Martin Abrahamson, M.D., and Catherine Carver, MS, ANP-BC, CDE, as well as the Vision Preservation Study conducted by Jennifer K. Sun, M.D., M.P.H.

His involvement and advocacy are helping Joslin to conquer diabetes, through leading research, care and education programs. Tom also recently started his own charitable foundation, with a mission to benefit research, education and treatment for type 1 diabetes. In exchange, Tom enjoys the satisfaction of knowing that he’s making a difference. “I get the knowledge that I am supporting what I consider to be the best in research and treatment,” says Tom.

Throughout the years since Tom was first diagnosed, diabetes treatment has improved dramatically. He remembers the days of urine glucose testing and insulin injections, and today enjoys the freedom of blood glucose testing and insulin pump therapy. “Before the pump I had to follow a strict meal schedule every day,” he recalls. “The pump has given me lots more flexibility with meals.”

“I still have to pay attention to monitoring my blood glucose, but for the first 40 years there was no self-monitoring of blood glucose, just urine testing,” he says. Surely, this added flexibility makes it easier for Tom to lead an active lifestyle. “I have been a bicycle rider for over 25 years, and have logged more than 100,000 miles on the road,” he explains.

Motivated and impressed by its expertise in treatment of diabetes and its complications, Tom decided to become a Joslin patient, even though it means making the journey from Phoenix to Boston for appointments.

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Page last updated: October 20, 2014