Two weeks ago several members of the Children with Diabetes team visited San Diego, California, to attend the 83rd annual American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions conference. As a first-timer, I wasn’t sure what to expect but knew that primary audience for the conference was healthcare providers and that the topics would be mostly about scientific advancements in diabetes and research. I had heard so much about the ADA conferences and was excited to attend the event to learn more on behalf of our CWD families and individuals living (and thriving) with type 1 diabetes. What I found was a mixture of science and technology sponsored by the ADA and 1,000 hugs and smiles sponsored by Children with Diabetes. Let’s grab a cup of coffee and have a recap on Sci Sessions 2023!
With approximately 10,000 conference attendees, ADA Sci Sessions is a large conference that needs a very large convention space. The conference was held at the San Diego Convention Center and activities for the conference took place on several floors of the convention space. Conference sessions were held in one part of the building and the exhibit space and poster space were held on their own dedicated floor of the convention center. After registering for the conference, each attendee was given a name badge and lanyard and then had the opportunity to visit with members of the American Diabetes Association team at the merchandise pop-up store and with their photo wall and conference testimonial cubes.
The Children with Diabetes team was on-site to meet with our diabetes industry partners and sponsors and also to potentially recruit new faculty members for our Friends for Life conferences. In addition to attending the conference, CWD Events sponsored four events during the conference week with esteemed members of the diabetes community. These events helped to bring together faculty members, health care providers and professionals, and industry leaders for food, conversation, and a deeper dive into the issues that matter most to people with diabetes. It was at these events that I first began to notice the contrast between the conference, itself, and the events sponsored by Children with Diabetes.
Children with Diabetes focuses on providing care and encouragement to individuals living with type one diabetes so that they can live their very best lives until there is a potential cure for diabetes. As we made our way through the exhibit hall and met with our sponsors and people familiar with our organization, you could feel a genuine warmth happen as soon as someone saw the CWD logo on our shirts. The conference felt very academic (and was academic in nature) but in those moments when meeting with our Friends for Life you could feel the shift. The conversation moved from the technical aspects of diabetes to the human side of diabetes and how we can continue to reach more and more people living with type one. Because the ADA conference was less than a week before Friends for Life Orlando 2023, much of our conversation with our sponsors centered around the mutual excitement for the upcoming FFL event and finishing up last minute to-do lists for our own conference. We also had the opportunity to meet with key leadership and stakeholders in the diabetes community to learn more about how CWD can continue these partnerships and take them to the next level with a common goal of supporting those with diabetes and helping them to living well. As we worked our way through the exhibit space, we also had an opportunity to meet with new exhibitors and potential sponsors and to learn about advances in diabetes technology.
Reflecting on the experience, ADA Scientific Sessions was a success for the CWD team! We ran into so many of our Friends for Life family in the hallways of the convention center and on the streets of San Diego. We strengthened our bonds with our industry partners and sponsors. We made new connections and learned so much about advances in diabetes technology and scientific research. But, most of all, we brought a heartfelt human connection through our CWD events that helped to bridge the science and technology with the people who live with diabetes every day of their lives. We told everyone we met all about you—our CWD family. We shared with them how important it is for people with diabetes to live well and to thrive while we are waiting for a cure. We told them about your need to access affordable insulin and diabetes supplies. We told them about taking diabetes to school and the workplace and the challenges you sometimes face with accommodations. We told them about how difficult it can be to participate in sports or other activities but how you never let diabetes stop you from getting out there and doing your very best. We told them about our community. We told them about the green bands and the orange bands and how those wrist bands unite our hearts together…all because of diabetes. And, they felt the love and the connection to our mission and most importantly to YOU.
We left San Diego and had less than 72 hours at our homes completing last minute preparations for Friends for Life Orlando (and doing all of the laundry). Our heads were full of new information that we learned at the conference. Our address books are full of new contact information for potential new sponsors and partners. Our hearts were full of love from our time in San Diego and from sharing Children with Diabetes with such a large audience. This was definitely time well spent for all of us on the CWD team.
Green and Orange Forever,
Written by Leigh Fickling, JD, MEd, MS