November is Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s a time to celebrate how far we’ve come in the fight against diabetes – and a time to recognize all the heroes in that fight, past and present. We are honored to recognize all of the heroes in our fight against diabetes – from our researchers, physicians, nurses, and educators who have dedicated their lives to helping others and searching for a cure – to every person living with diabetes. Below are some of the heroes that Joslin recognizes for their passion and dedication.
You become a hero too when you make a gift to advance Joslin’s mission during Diabetes Awareness Month. Your gift advances Joslin’s relentless work to improve the lives of those living with diabetes, a pursuit that Diabetes Awareness Month commemorates.
Together we’re strong. Together we lead the way. And together, as we work toward the critically important goal of finding a cure, we are all heroic.
Our Patient Heroes
Brittany O’Donnell was diagnosed with diabetes at just 13 months old – the youngest patient her pediatrician had ever diagnosed. Her mother immediately brought her to Joslin, where she found lifelong partners in her care. Brittany says it’s all about having a care team that “understands the delicate balance of being diabetic while living a life in spite of diabetes.” She adds, “I quite literally owe my life to the way I was raised in the Joslin clinic.”
When Carole Harnois was diagnosed in 1967 at eight years old, the expected lifespan of someone living with type 1 diabetes was not very long. Yet, with the support of Joslin behind her, she has led a full and healthy life. “I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be a type 1 diabetic and still be alive 50 years later,” she says. “I would not be here without the support and care of the Joslin team.”
Joslin patient and Medalist Janice McGovern has been living with diabetes for over 47 years and is grateful for her Joslin physician team for keeping her healthy. “Thanks to the care I received, I got pregnant and had a healthy baby,” she says. “There was a time when I was first diagnosed that I didn’t know if I would make it. I am proud of the fact that I am a survivor. It hasn’t always been easy, but thanks to Joslin’s care and the support of my family, I have made it.”
Bik Fung Ng
Joslin patient Bik Fung Ng knows exactly what she wants people to be aware of when it comes to living with diabetes: the importance of proper exercise and nutrition. She learned all about it when she started working with her personal hero, Manager of the Clinical Exercise Physiology Program at Joslin and a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, Jackie Shahar. Even now, despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, Bik and Jackie haven’t missed a beat. “Jackie showed me exercises that I could do at home and encouraged me to go out walking,” says Bik. “Now every time I go out for a walk, I picture Jackie in front of me.”
Our Physician Heroes
Dr. Timothy Murtha
Timothy Murtha, MD, specializes in the treatment and care of diabetic eye disease here at Joslin. He has helped thousands of patients maintain or improve their eyesight, including Janice McGovern, who was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy after having her second child. “I am so fortunate to get the best care from Dr. Timothy Murtha,” she says.
Dr. William Sullivan
William Sullivan, MD, witnesses first-hand the level of care and commitment that goes into living with diabetes. “When you see patients who have had to deal with type 1 diabetes for many years it is inspiring. Our patients should be admired for what they do,” he said. The dedication Dr. Sullivan sees in his patients is the same dedication he and his colleagues provide through their care. “Our patients are our first priority. We are dedicated to serving their needs.”
Our Research Heroes
Dr. Aleksandar Kostic
The pivotal research of Aleksandar Kostic, PhD, is focused around the human microbiome and its impacts on various aspects of diabetes – specifically, understanding the role of the microbiome and metabolism and linking it into aspects of physiology related to type 2 diabetes. Of his research, Dr. Kostic says, “Knowing that down the road we can potentially offer a strong therapeutic modality for people living with diabetes is motivating.”
Dr. Sarah Lessard
As an exercise scientist, Sarah Lessard, MSc, PHD, studies how some people respond differently to exercise than others. “Exercise is a key recommendation for diabetes prevention and management,” she said. “Recent work by us and others shows that having type 1 or type 2 diabetes may reduce some of the important health benefits of regular exercise training, including increases in aerobic fitness.” As a result, Dr. Lessard is interested in developing personalized approaches to care while working to identify treatments that can improve exercise response in people living with diabetes.
Dr. Cristina Aguayo-Mazzucato
Joslin researcher Cristina Aguayo-Mazzucato, PhD, MD, focuses her research on the aging process of pancreatic beta cells. Dr. Aguayo-Mazzucato and her colleagues are driven by knowing that they “can have an impact on patients and the day-to-day care of diabetes.” She adds, “Every researcher is completely engaged in their work. They believe they can and want to make a difference. The potential of making a difference is a huge encouragement.”
Our Educator Hero
As Manager of the Clinical Exercise Physiology Program and a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, Jacqueline (Jackie) Shahar, MEd, RCEP, CDE, is passionate about improving her patients’ quality of life. She says, "I feel great knowing I have made a difference in someone’s life. I look at exercise as medicine, especially for people living with diabetes, and it is my mission in life to share that with everyone."
Our next hero: You!
Give a gift in honor of Diabetes Awareness Month to help Joslin provide personalized care, pioneer life-changing research breakthroughs, share our expertise with healthcare providers worldwide and get us that much closer to a cure.