Diabetes Educator of the Year Travels
By Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE
In the blink of an eye, time passed from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) conference in August 2004, where I was selected as the National Diabetes Educator of the Year, to the first lecture of my national tour in Jacksonville, Florida. In this column, I will share anecdotes of my travels across the United States in which I plan to make 15 stops, visiting chapters of the AADE along the way (there are over 100 chapters nationwide). I am grateful to the Defeat Diabetes Foundation for their support of diabetes educators and for their graciousness in letting me share this once in a lifetime experience with you and to LifeScan who provided the $10,000 travel grant which made this journey possible. I am also thankful to my employer, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula for promoting diabetes education by allowing me to take this time off for travel!
This may be the first time a National Diabetes Educator of the Year has had an opportunity like this. The journey has been incredible and certainly the highlight of my career. I am lecturing on humor as a technique for setting goals, and humor and leadership. I will share the research findings that explain how humor is beneficial to diabetes education with my colleagues and why laughter is the best medicine. Part of my presentation required attendees to create humor, some of which I will share with you.
I believe that part of the reason I was selected as Diabetes Educator of the Year over several qualified candidates is due to my use of humor. Have you seen my diabetes cartoons published on the Defeat Diabetes Foundation Web site? Check out Islets of Humor™.
One thing I have learned is that diabetes educators share a common bond: a passion for promoting diabetes self management skills and for partnering with the diabetes community. We are struggling to make a difference in our own communities, to control hyperglycemia in the hospital setting, to get coverage for our expertise, and to make a difference for those dealing with diabetes. My hope is to promote our visibility. I will share photos of the audiences of diabetes educations which include nurses, dietitians, physicians, social workers, and pharmacists. If you are having difficulty managing your diabetes, please call 1-800-TEAMUP 4 (1-800-832-6874) to find a diabetes educator in your area.
I hope you enjoy these stories and learn a little about the efforts of diabetes educators from across our country.
January 13, 2005
The intensely glorious sunrise that appeared as I left Monterey, California, symbolized a new beginning that I’ll always treasure. I had never been to Florida and found people to be very nice and helpful. I had all day to tour Jacksonville, which is in the northeast part of the state, before the evening’s lecture. So I did what most tourists would do—I went to the beach! Or so I thought. It turns out that after recent violent storms, the beach was gone, but it really didn’t matter. That was part of the experience. Instead, my walk lead me into the palm tree-lined streets, full of fun shops and an obligatory stop at Starbucks. No one would want to hear me lecture without my morning dose of caffeine. The sun peaked through the clouds just long enough for me to return to the hotel, wherein the clouds opened up and it absolutely poured.
The President of the Jacksonville Association of Diabetes Educators chapter, Jean Kilts, picked me up from the hotel and drove me to the lecture site at a glorious, swanky golf club resort called the Orange Park Country Club. I felt like royalty on the outside. On the inside I was a nervous wreck. This was the first time performing the lecture. And I couldn’t have had a nicer audience. Besides reviewing the history of humor and how to use it in our practice, we created humor based on the AADE 7 Self Care Behaviors:
- Health Eating
- Being Active
- Taking Medications
- Problem Solving
- Healthy Coping
- Reducing Risks
Audience created humor:
· Got milk? Got cookies too!
· I made a New Year’s resolution to lift weights, so I bought a heavier remote!
· The good new is I decided to increase my activity. The bad news is that I walked to McDonald’s instead of going thru the drive thru.
The first trip on the national lecture went very well.
1. Jacksonville Beach
2. Jean Kilts, President of the Jacksonville Association of Diabetes Educators
3. Jacksonville, Florida audience
January 14, 2005
LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company that makes blood glucose monitors (Ultra, UltraSmart and Sure Step) provided the travel grant money to make this national lecture tour possible. Two of LifeScan’s Professional Sales Specialists coordinated getting me to Gainesville, which is about a 1 ½ hour drive east of Jacksonville. Sandy “Hun” Beatty drove me to Gainesville where we passed the town Waldo (now I know where’s Waldo). I learned she is a gifted storyteller. Hun introduced me to her colleague Lizzy Bobbitt. It was like meeting long lost friends.
The Shands Diabetes Center of the University of Florida conference was an all day event coordinated by Sharon Valley. About 160 participants attended. One of the funniest pieces of humor created by an attendee was an exercise twist on a national political slogan, “No child left big behind.” The audience roared.
Other audience created humor:
- If you walk twice as far, does that mean you can have the double cheeseburger?
- It’s not a treadmill, it’s a dread-mill.
- My doctor recommended I test on an alternate site, so I stabbed him in the arm!
4. Gainesville, Florida audience
5. Sandy “Hun” Beatty, Theresa Garnero, and Lizzy Bobbitt
January 18, 2005
Speaking in my birthplace in front of many of my peers was perhaps the most nerve racking of all. It’s one thing to speak in front of a crowd of strangers. It’s quite another to speak in front of colleagues, family (my mother and step dad), and friends I have worked with for the better part of 2 decades. As the President-Elect for this newly formed California Central Coast chapter of AADE, I was thrilled to learn the event had the largest turn out of any of our educational programs with over 70 attendees. I owe a lot of credit to this program’s organizer, Gail Quinnan, who is also making all my travel arrangements for this tour. I also recognize the current President, RoseMary O’Neil, who is holding down the home front along with other supportive colleagues who are covering my schedule at the Diabetes Program at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula while I am away on lecture (practically every other week). It is exciting to be a part of this new, growing chapter, and to have the support of my employer and the AADE.
Audience created humor:
- If it tastes bad, you can have all you like.
- Show me the fiber!
- I am too short for my weight.
6. Monterey, California audience
7. Annie Garnero and Bob Richerts, my mom and step dad
8. RoseMary O’Neil, President of California Central Coast chapter of AADE
February 9, 2005
Lower Hudson Valley, New York
I arrived in the pitch black of night but could see the contrasting snow on the ground. Luckily the cold front had passed and a “beautiful spring day,” followed (as described by locals who said it was “warm” at 50 degrees—OK, I don’t expect non-Californians to appreciate that comment). Seeing snow on the ground and lots of salt to keep it controlled was of interest. I spoke at St. Johns Riverside Hospital which is literally on the beautiful, lush Hudson River. I noticed chunks of ice floating down the river below. Visitors could purchase flowers in vending machines. Patients, their family, and staff pay to park at the hospital, totally unheard of in my small corner of the world. Jan Knorr is the Lower Hudson Valley chapter President of AADE. She organized an intimate conference with about 35 participants. The challenging aspect in speaking to this welcoming group was a case of bad timing. Due to State budget cuts in the Medicaid Program, funding for outpatient diabetes program funding was also cut. This resulted in their outpatient diabetes program being considered a non-essential service and therefore was slated to close in a matter of 2 weeks. So I was speaking about humor and diabetes education to several professionals who were about to lose their jobs. New York residents, please contact your local politicians to protest these budget cuts.
Audience created humor:
Jackie Roth, President-Elect of the Cleveland chapter of AADE picked me up and drove me to meet their current chapter President, Terry Grano for dinner at a local vegetarian restaurant. There were pages and pages of choices at this Arabic restaurant, a highly unusual experience for a vegetarian.
I spoke to a spirited group of about 35 diabetes educators and was happy to be out of the freezing cold temperatures! Did you know that meter supplies are not covered by insurance in Ohio? If you live in Ohio, please call your local and state politicians, as that needs to change! We created a lot of humor and had fun while learning some new concepts. Jackie was kind enough to take me for a drive around Cleveland after the lecture. Since it had snowed heavily in the morning, there was no way I could have toured this city. She made the trip so special to me. Otherwise, I would have been held hostage in the hotel. What topped that experience was being awakened for a fire drill at 3:30 AM. Hotel guests piled out into the snow-covered parking lot in their pajamas. Very nice, but not quite as fun as when it happened again at 5 AM at which point I decided it was time to face the masses at the airport.
Audience created humor:
- Being active? Does driving count?
- I thought of exercising today, so I laid down until the thought passed.
- Less is more, and more, and more
12. Terry Grano, President of Northeastern Ohio Association of Diabetes Educators
13. Theresa Garnero and Jackie Roth, President-Elect of Northeastern Ohio
Association of Diabetes Educators
14. Cleveland, Ohio audience
February 22, 2005
During this trip, I learned about the kindness of strangers and southern hospitality. The last leg of a very long flight got cancelled. What was supposed to be a simple 45 minute flight from Atlanta to Augusta, turned into an 8-hour adventure. We had to wait several hours for a bus, which ended up having no air conditioning (a must for a muggy night like that). To make matters worse, the driver turned on the heat to defrost the windows. Passengers went ballistic and began opening emergency windows, which brought in much needed air, and not so much needed rain. Then someone started smoking in the back of the bus. We came unglued. The cherry on the pie was the E.T. movie that someone popped into the VCR. The soundtrack was off. The music was ultra loud and the dialog super quiet. Then the driver got lost. I finally arrived to the airport, thanks to a kind local resident named Opal, who was a retired teacher and truly a gem. She gave me a ride from the airport to the hotel. At that godly hour of the morning, there was no taxi service and certainly no transportation to the hotel. Opal also gave me a list of local attractions that I checked out the next morning during a 3 ½ hour walk. I even walked to South Carolina (OK, I crossed the bridge on the Savannah River which was the state line). The evening lecture went well. There were about 40 participants, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel at ease. Dr. Ian Herskowitz presented me with a coaster baring their chapter logo. And Robin Petry, who I met at the national AADE conference in August 2004, left a lovely goody bag for me at the hotel with all major food groups represented, including chocolate.
Audience created humor:
- Eat 5 a day, so I ate blueberry, glazed, lemon-filled, jelly-filled, and chocolate doughnuts!
- Exercise…the diabetes drug of choice. Just say yes!
- I love what you do for me, Metformin!
15. Catherine Buice, President of Greater Augusta Diabetes Educators
16. Savannah River
17. Augusta, Georgia audience
March 4, 2005
Greenville, North Carolina
I am convinced people from North Carolina have a high IQ and good sense of humor. When one of the event’s organizers warned me to be sure I got on the right plan, I was quick to react, thinking, “I am a seasoned traveler, come on!” It wasn’t until I was in Charlotte’s airport, waiting to board the flight to Greenville that her sage words became clear. Why would an airport have 2 flights destined for a city with the same name, but 2 different states, leaving from the same terminal gate at the same time? There is a Greenville North AND South Carolina. The airport announcers didn’t make it any easier by saying, “We will board Spartanburg first that Pitt next.” That means nothing to a non-native. Luckily I got on the right plain. Sandra Young, President of Coastal Carolina Association of Diabetes Educators (CCADE), picked me up after midnight at the airport. Now that is dedication. She made sure I got checked into the hotel, and even walked me to the elevator. That’s when all hell broke loose as I got stuck in the elevator. Mind you it is 12:30 in the morning; I just flew all day to get there, and was to speak first thing in the morning. The emergency buzzer yielded no response. After 15 minutes and frantically redialing my cell phone until I was fortunate enough to get reception for enough time to reach the hotel operator, the maintenance crew fixed the elevator. I was free to settle into my hotel room. Too bad a fight broke out at 3:30 AM. I had to be up in a couple of hours to get ready to be the first speaker. The audience of over 100 people was very understanding when I explained that due to lack of sleep and time zone changes, it was the equivalent of 2 AM. This all-day event coordinated by CCADE and the Eastern Area Health Education Center was well-received. Sandra gave me a gorgeous crystal vase as a gift, which homeland security thought to be an explosive and practically scanned the crystal right out of it! Another funny airport story found. I also liked the rocking chairs lined up in Charlotte’s airport, but didn’t particularly care for the cigarette smell and prominently placed ashtrays.
Audience created humor:
- You know you’re at the gym for the wrong reasons if you spend more time on your make-up than your work-outs!
- The good news is your sugars are in the same range. The bad news is the range is in the 300-400s.
- I drank it through the grapevine!
18. Sandra Young, President of Coastal Carolina Association of Diabetes Educators
19. Greenville, North Carolina audience
March 9, 2005
I was eager to accept this engagement for a couple of reasons: it is the only trip with a direct flight from my home and I would get to visit my goofy geophysicist brother Ed, his wife Pam, and their nearly 3 year old twins, Nico and Devi. I got to sit in on one of my brother’s lectures on geology at Arizona State University and spend time playing with the kids whose vocabulary is non-stop and pretty much decipherable by parents only. It is good to connect with family.
The President-Elect of the Central Arizona Association of Diabetes Educators (CAADE), Karen Seifert, made arrangements for me to speak in Phoenix. Carolyn Griedl, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who belongs to their chapter and works in home care, drove me from my brother’s house in Tempe to the shindig in Phoenix. I always appreciate gestures of this sort as driving out of town is a stress I do not need prior to giving a lecture. CAADE has a historian, Laura Nolan, who began documenting with photos and an occasional video. She started this innovative position after their chapter won the AADE Chapter of the Year several years ago.
- The dietitian is the devil. I’d better follow her advise so I don’t got to hell!
- How come every time I remember to take my Viagra, my wife remembers to take her sleeping pill?
- Where’s the tofu?
I am happy to report a much needed vacation is in the works after this lecture. It may only be for a week, but it will be a nice break from the hectic pace and physical stress from travel. My next “gig” is in Chicago, at the AADE National Leadership conference where I will speak about humor and leadership. I’ll update you after that. Have a nice couple months of spring.
20. Cindy Penaranda, President Central Arizona Association of Diabetes Educators
21. Phoenix, Arizona audience
22. Brother Ed Garnero, his wife Pam Neuharth, and their twins Devi and Nico
April 8-10, 2005
Saratoga Springs, New York
This stop at the 20th Annual International Humor Project Conference was not part of the official Diabetes Educator of the Year tour, but a necessity to beef up my humor skills for the keynote address looming next month in Chicago. Dr, Joel Goodman is the Founder and Director of the Humor Project. His pioneering work has been featured in thousands of television and radio shows, newspapers, and magazines in 150 countries. The weekend was co-lead by Margie Ingram, Coordinator of the Humor Project’s conference. Their mission “is to make a positive difference in the world that touches the lives of individuals, organizations, and nations.” Mission accomplished; I was touched as were the several people I met over the course of an incredible fun-filled, educational weekend.
This is the largest humor conference of its kind, attended by more than 18,000 people through the world. The Humor Project not only provides cutting edge lectures by top-notched, award-winning speakers on humor research, resources and its application to everyone—the Humor Project believes in sharing the wealth. They have provided grants to over 350 schools, hospitals, and human service agencies.
Some of the workshops attended (with over 50 selections from which to chose, I wish I was a quintuplet) and people encountered:
- “Love is a Laughing Matter,” by the hysterically poignant Yakov Smirnoff.
- “Humor: More Than a Laughing Matter,” by Jeanne Robertson, a 6 foot 2 inch former Miss North Carolina beauty pagent. She is a tall glass of humor that taught me the importance of finding humor—just ask a colleague or friend what was the funniest thing that happened to them. In just 2 days, I have collected a lot of fun!
- “The FUNdamentals of Leadership,” by Ron Culberson. He proves you can lead with fun and promote productivity and minimize stress.
- “I’m Not Lost, I’m Exploring: How to Keep Joy in the Journey,” by the musically gifted humorist Jana Sanfield. What a breath of fresh air she is!
- “The Art and Science of Creativity as Seen Through the 68,647+ Cartoons of The New Yorker,” by Editor Bob Mankoff. What’s with the plus sign? Did they get tired of counting after 68,647 and throw their hands up in the air? Brilliant man with lots of insight into the process of selection and history of cartoons within The New Yorker. OK. This was the real reason I went. It is every cartoonist’s dream to meet Bob Mankoff who defined cartoons as, “Something normal that is violated in some way we can tolerate.” He was encouraging. I’ll keep sending in to The New Yorker to do quality control checks on their rejection slips.
- A video of Normin Cousins, “Anatomy of an Illness.” I was delighted to see the founder of humor research (psychoneuroimmunology). He was the Editor of The Saturday Review before getting a diagnosis of ankylosis spondylitis (a condition which often leaves a person paralyzed) and a prognosis of 3 months. He postulated, “If negative thoughts can have negative effects on the body, what about the effects of positive thoughts?” He checked himself out of the hospital and prescribed himself high doses of humor and he recovered. There is much more to this story but our space is limited.
- “Humor 101: Taking Serious Things Humorously and Humor Seriously,” by Dr. Joel Goodman. He is a good man by showing us how to look at things from a different perspective and understanding why we should be serious about humor.As serendipity would have it, the pearl of this conference was in meeting a kindred spirit, Saranne Rothberg, CEO and Founder of Comedy Cures. As her card reads, “We bring joy, hope, & therapeutic humor programs to kids and grown-ups living with illness.” Saranne has a gift of vision and determination. She fought off stage 4 breast cancer, despite being misdiagnosed several times and told she had a short life ahead of her. This amazing woman put together a phenomenal organization that applies the work of Norman Cousins by putting the power of humor and positive thinking out there. Saranne is in the midst of producing a Broadway show for the children impacted by Sept. 11th called "Funday Sunday" Extravaganza on May 22nd. We need more people like Saranne in this world. For more information about Comedy Cures, call 1-888-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha.
This conference was life changing for me. I strongly recommend anyone interested in learning more about the powers of humor and how to incorporate it into your everyday lives, to attend The Humor Project conference. For more information, call (518)587-8770.
23 Saranne Rothberg, CEO and Founder of Comedy Cures, and Theresa Garnero
24 Theresa Garnero and Bob Mankoff, Editor of The New Yorker