I didn’t go to diabetes camp as a kid, so the first time I found myself among other people with diabetes wasn’t until I was in my early 30s. I remember sitting in a room full of friends from the diabetes online community, marveling at how instantly these folks felt like my family. I came home from that weekend and broke into tears. The experience had been that cathartic.
That’s why there is no way I am missing the upcoming opportunity of the Diabetes UnConference, a peer-to-peer support conference for adults with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes taking place March 13-15, 2015 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. The first of its kind in healthcare, patient participants will set the agenda and tone of the event.
Christel Aprigliano is well-known to the Diabetes Online Community as a blogger, a contributing writer here at ASweetLife.org, a dLife columnist, a two-time DiabetesMine Patient Voices Scholarship recipient, a member of the Diabetes Advocates Steering Committee, and host of the very first diabetes podcast, diabeticfeed.
You’re bringing the concept of an “UnConference” to a patient community. Can you describe what an UnConference is and what makes it a good format for patient engagement?
The Diabetes UnConference focuses on the psychosocial aspects of living with diabetes and will allow all of the participants an opportunity to share and learn from each other.
The “unconference” concept came from the tech community, who found that an open participation forum was a wonderful way to learn from others and get answers to questions that wouldn’t have been brought up during a keynote speech or an “expert” talk.
The diabetes community is made up of experts – all of us are experts. Every one of us has some wisdom to share with others and questions that need answers or feelings that need validation. The “unconference” concept is the perfect way to provide a safe place to make that happen.
Who do you hope will attend? Is this primarily for people with specific interests? Like advocacy, for instance?
All adults with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are encouraged to attend. This is the only diabetes patient conference of its kind: bringing men and women with every type of diabetes together to talk about what matters to them. Interested in talking about your struggles with burnout? Curious about how others deal with talking to family about complications? Want to bring your fears and concerns about diabetes to a group where you know you won’t be judged? Welcome to the Diabetes UnConference.
We’re hoping for a wide variety of interests and backgrounds, because that will make for enlightening and insightful discussions.
We will have a special Friday night session for those wishing to learn a little about diabetes advocacy and how easy it is to get involved. Saturday and Sunday will be focused on what the participants want to talk about, because there is no set agenda: we will, as a group, decide on the topics the first morning of the UnConference. That way, we are sure to have lively conversations!
Having been around people from our community before, I don’t think lively conversation will be a problem, and it seems the conversation has already begun among those looking forward to the event.
The UnConference is for adults with diabetes only, correct? Will there be any offerings for spouses or family during the conference?
This year, registration to participate in The Diabetes UnConference is only for adults with diabetes. Our focus is on creating a safe environment where people with diabetes feel comfortable expressing their feelings and thoughts without judgment or fear. Bringing in parents of children with diabetes or loved ones without diabetes does change the dynamic of the room. There are some wonderful conferences where those without diabetes can learn (Children with Diabetes Friends For Life is a great one!), but The Diabetes UnConference is just for adults with diabetes.
That being said, having this in Las Vegas makes it a perfect time to make it a mini-vacation for couples. Spouses/significant others are welcome to sign up and attend the Friday night event (it’s open to the public) and join us for meals and entertainment outside of the conference times. (I know of one couple who will be staying a little longer and celebrating their anniversary!)
No children will be allowed in the conference area or entrance to the events. There are no child care or babysitting facilities offered by The Flamingo Las Vegas, but they will offer referrals if you are bringing your children.
What are you most excited about in pioneering an event like this?
Talk about a dream coming true! I have been fortunate to be a part of the DOC (diabetes online community) for years, but there is nothing like being able to really talk and share face-to-face. Incredibly raw, open, and healing discussions with others that never can happen online happen face-to-face and I realized that I wanted everyone with diabetes to have that opportunity.
I’m also excited to bring Type 1s and Type 2s together in one room. Despite what one may think, both groups have a lot to learn from each other. We all want the same thing: to live well with diabetes for a long time with as few complications as possible. We all deal with depression, burnout, stigma, fears about complications, disclosures, dealing with family and friends and employers… and it’s time that we build a community that can rely on each other for support.
We spend so little time with our medical team and so much time trying to live with this disease on our own. We need all the help and support we can find, and what better way than through The Diabetes UnConference.
Plans are already in the works for the next one, if you can believe it! We want to add a separate room for people who love us so that they can talk about their own issues (we’re lovable but sometimes we’re tough to love) and learn from others, just like we will this year.
Full registration for the event is $159 and includes the Friday night event, the Saturday conference (plus breakfast, snack breaks, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages), and a conference t-shirt. Saturday night there will also be a special event for attendees and their spouses or significant others. The conference hotel (Flamingo Las Vegas) is offering an incredible deal on rooms for UnConference attendees: $69/night (plus taxes and fees).
You can even find a bunkmate as this writer has done. I bet diabetes camp has nothing on the playground that is Las Vegas!
But not everything that happens in Vegas has to stay there.
Last question! How do we sign up?
Easy! Go to www.DiabetesUnConference.com and click on “Register”! Use the code SWEET to receive a $20 discount.
Done! I will be there. Will you?