By David Mark Greaves
Missing toes, feet, and legs below the knee, these are the most visible signs of the scourge of diabetes. “I’m saddened whenever I see a relatively young person with amputations. In wheelchairs. Or folks who’ve had strokes,” said LeRay Brown, President, and CEO of One Brooklyn Health. “We can prevent this.”
Ms. Brown delivered remarks at the One Brooklyn Health Diabetes Center of Excellence ceremony, honoring graduates of the Center’s Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSMP), held in the Lillian Minkin Ballroom of the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.
The Diabetes Center of Excellence focuses on access. “Not only access to treatment. Access to education, access to awareness. Access to the new tools that folks can use to test and monitor their insulin levels. Access overall.”
The program teaches those who have experience with diabetes to be peer counselors to people trying to learn about and manage this chronic disease.
Graduate Rodney Murreld said, “The program has had a great effect on me. I didn’t know about diabetes, but I know now that I can use the tools they give me to help others in the community.”
Mr. Murreld, “born and raised in Brooklyn,” has been attending the Pierre Toussaint Medical Center program, which is part of the One Brooklyn Health network for fourteen years.
“I found out fourteen years ago that I had diabetes. My eyes were bleary, and it was on a hot summer day.” When he went to the hospital at his aunt’s urging, his A1c was so high, his sugar 800, they told him at the hospital that he could have been in a coma. “I was lucky.”
Brown gave a shoutout to program partner Chris Norwood, Executive Director of Health People, citing their more than a decade-long effort to bring this to fruition now. “To work with folks from the “lived community,” who’ve had the experience of diabetes themselves or in their families, and who can give support to others with diabetes. “it’s so incredibly important to have a partner.”
Among the presenters, Dr. Michelle Morse, Deputy Commissioner, DOHMH, told the story of her father’s struggle with diabetes and the resulting amputation. “A big part of the amputation was because he was struggling with loneliness and with depression.” “I am convinced that if he had a peer educator supporting him before that amputation, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Graduate Benjamin Burton offered is own definition of what the acronym for the Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSMP) stands for. “My definition for DSMP is Developing Simple Meaningful Practices. This is in the context of what we learned. We’re not telling people what to do or what not to do. What to eat or what not to eat. We encourage everyone, including those of us who don’t have diabetes, to self-manage what you eat, what you do, how you do it.”
In her testimonial, graduate Colette Boston expressed the general feeling of all the graduates. “It is always amazing when you realize that what you are doing not only has value but it is needed and has an impact on lives we will never know.”