I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a total Insulindependence fanboy. Or girl, I guess. Type 1 diabetes athletes! And not just, “Yeah, I bowl,” athletes, but surfing, climbing, Ironmanning athletes. Hardcore athletes. What’s more, they do cool things like organize morning runs and camping trips, and assemble teams to represent type 1 diabetics at a great number of national sporting events.
Clearly, I am biased in my analysis of the 14th North American Conference in Diabetes and Exercise that they just hosted in San Diego. Keep your grains of salt about you.
With that out of the way, it was a great conference, complete with an awards show and concert to honor the annual Athletic Achievement Award winner, along with several others. The awards show was the bash to be seen at, and everyone was dressed to the nines, or at least the eights. I would also like to point out that the show was held at the House of Blues in Downtown San Diego, one of the hippest spots in the city. In fact, the last time I was there, it was to see Moby. Same stage, but this time with two great local bands, both of which included among their members long time friends of Insulindependence.
So who won the big award and was crowned the year’s greatest diabetic athlete? The ever cheery Scott Johnson! Congratulations, Scott. Now, to be honest, I didn’t vote for the winner (Sorry, Scott!). And I didn’t vote for Steve Richert, the climber I interviewed back in 2011. I voted for Greg Florian, who I viewed as both a local, actively involved in the San Diego Insulindependence community, and an underdog. An Ironmanning underdog, mind you.
The conference was more than fun and games, though; I was able to attend the second day of talks, which Insulindependence had stacked with big names and informative presentations. Dr. Steve Russell gave updates on the truly impressive bioinic pancreas trials he has been running with Dr. Ed Damiano, in which glucagon and insulin were used to maintain blood glucose levels near normal levels in children at camp and adults out and about in Boston. With a system built on a Tandem pump and a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Meter (CGM), Russell and his team were able to achieve average blood glucose levels of 130 mg/dL (equivalent to an A1c of about 6.2%) in the 20 adult patients wandering around Boston, all without sending patients low. There is still a lot to do to develop the system, including getting a stable formulation of glucagon, and running several multi-center trials, but Dr. Russell laid out a timeline that envisions bringing the bionic pancreas to market by 2017. This timeline is ambitious, even by his own reckoning, but big goals make for big achievements.
Dr. Russell, who received a standing ovation from the audience, was a hard act to follow, but luckily Insulindependence had planned well, with the closing panel being chaired by the always entertaining Dr. Steve Edelman and Dr. William Polonsky. With lots of endearing banter, the two guided several experienced type 1 diabetic athletes through a discussion of lessons learned and best practices. It was both educational and heart-warming, as the group shared wisdom from hundreds of years of cumulative diabetes experience.
Perhaps the best part of the sessions, though, was the informal atmosphere of the whole event; these were not experts at arms’ length, but friends and colleagues who were available to answer questions and give personal advice. Plus, it’s a conference full of athletes who had done a group exercise session that morning– dress code? Yeah, I was wearing yoga pants and tennis shoes. Now if only all conferences were that chill…
In sum, go next year, if you can. And in any case, get involved with Insulindependence. Seriously, they’re the coolest diabetics around.