A diabetic friend of mine once said to me: “Diabetes is the most serious disease that’s still acceptable to joke about.”

Popular belief seems to be that having diabetes isn’t really a big deal compared to bigger name ailments like cancer and AIDS.  But in reality, diabetes is a chronic disease affecting millions of people. Diabetics must inject themselves daily with insulin and be able to count carbohydrates accurately.

The disease is more than a minor inconvenience: it requires a lifestyle change for all those afflicted by it.

Sophomore Mary Bucklin knows from experience how serious diabetes is. Her twin sister Hannah has had Type 1 Diabetes since first grade, and the disease has played a prominent role in her life ever since her childhood.

She and her sister used to attend community events and support groups for diabetes, and Mary was surprised when she arrived at Rochester that no such group existed here. Hannah is a student at the University of Pennsylvania, which also had no diabetes network, so the sisters decided to each start a program on their respective campuses.

The club started this semester here at UR is called the College Diabetes Network, and Bucklin believes her efforts so far have been worthwhile. “Through this experience, I have met many great students, URMC, and U of R faculty,” she said. “I also have had the opportunity to speak with student representatives from other schools, which has given me a broader perspective of the types of challenges people with diabetes can face on a normal basis.”

It is not necessary to have diabetes to go to the club’s meetings; in fact, according to Bucklin, most members of the club do not have the disease but instead have a relative or close friend who does.

Community Outreach Coordinator Morgan Kath has a diabetic sister and she frequently attended diabetic research meetings back home. She got involved with CDN as a way to continue her advocacy as she believes the club fills a gap for diabetics on campus who may need a forum to voice their feelings and concerns

“[Diabetes is] a topic which normally doesn’t come up in everyday conversation,” Kath said. “I think some people may feel isolated or like they are the only one affected.” Diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent in the United States, and Kath feels that allowing those who are suffering to connect with each other is a useful tool for sharing resources and raising morale.

Besides connecting students, CDN has also has established strong ties with University Healthy Services and the medical center. Heather Jones is a social worker in the endocrinology department at Strong Memorial Hospital who works closely with Bucklin and the rest of the CDN team. Together, they are trying to begin a support group for medical center patients, bringing volunteers from the River Campus to work with afflicted children and adolescents.

“Support groups for children with diabetes are lacking in our community, which I find very unfortunate because many patients and parents are asking for them,” Jones said. “My vision is to develop a group that allows children to come together, discuss their feelings, show support for each other, enjoy fun activities, and have a good time with other children who can relate to what it’s like to have diabetes.”

Although it’s still in its beginning stages, the Rochester chapter of the CDN has high expectations for itself. It’s goals include creating a supportive environment for diabetic students, making resources for members readily available, establishing a mentoring program for freshmen, and bringing in speakers to talk to students and the surrounding diabetic community.

Plans are in the works for several events, including bringing blood sugar sniffing dogs to campus and hosting a speaker from across Elmwood. CDN places an emphasis on reaching out to those both on and off campus, hoping in the future to host events for pediatric patients at the medical center.

Rochester CDN is a chapter of the College Diabetes Network, a national organization with chapters on over seventy campuses across the country. The club holds their meetings every other Wednesday at 8:30pm in UHS.  For more information, e-mail uroch@collegediabetesnetwork.org or visit https://collegediabetesnetwork.org/content/university-rochester. CDN does not currently receive SA funding but is applying for it next semester.

Freedman is a member of the class of 2016.

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