With little fanfare, my husband turned to me about two months ago and said, "Wouldn't it be something if we gave away your books to the speakers and member nations who'll be at the International Diabetes Conference this year? After I rolled my eyes I said laughingly, "It sure would." And, I'm here to tell you it was!
1,000 copies of "50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It" and 1,000 copies of "The ABCs of Loving Yourself with Diabetes" made their way to Montreal where they were on display last week in the Exhibition Hall of the IDF as my gift to all those who work to make life better for people with diabetes. The books were accompanied by this letter that expresses my appreciation.
By noon the second day of the conference all the books had been handed out and are now heading back to libraries, clinics, hospitals and patients as far away as China, South Africa, the Philippines, Russia and most everywhere in between. The IDF has more than 200 member countries around the world.
For an author who rarely sees the impact of her work, chatting with those who surrounded me, seeing their delight in the colorful and unique pages of the ABC book, hearing them agree how we only talk about negative emotions in diabetes rather than strength, joy, appreciation and pride, was thrilling. Seeing their smiles glance over the playful cover of the 50 diabetes myths book that dispels a huge myth right on its cover was also a thrill.
So much so in fact that when the books were gone by 11:30 AM the second day I felt bereft. It had been so fulfilling to talk to so many who are working tirelessly every day in diabetes that I wished I had brought another 2,000 books!
I did spend a fair amount of time at the many behavioral sessions offered at the conference where I heard confirmed the value of story-telling in helping patients in their healing process and that most behaviorists in the field are currently advocating motivational interviewing and patient-centric methodologies. I actually find both a step in the right direction but at the same time not quite the right step. Motivational interviewing is a directive approach where the HCP largely directs the conversation and intent rather than without prejudice openly exploring the patient's ideas for options, and as pointed out in one presentation, the HCP can bring his or her own prejudices to the process and a number of other blocks. Also, while most HCPs need to become more patient-aware, making the patient/doctor interaction patient-centered, too heavily weights the interaction on the shoulders of the patient and minimizes the HCP's contribution. I am well aware of these approaches and working on a behavioral intervention that moves patients further and will be unique to the diabetes world.
Back to the conference, while it was a chore to leap out of bed early the first morning and walk a half hour in the cold to the conference center for the 8:30 AM session, it was the session that resonated most deeply with me and was most akin to the work I'm developing.
It was given by Dr. Jean-Philippe Assal who spoke with the knowledge of a physician, the understanding of an educator and the eloquence and wisdom of someone who has evolved in his study of patient/physician interaction and human nature to understand that treating patients with diabetes is as much art as science.
Dr. Assal also presented a remarkable video about gondoliers developing their skills to maneuver the waterways in Venice and comparing the development of those skills to how we develop the skills needed to live successfully with diabetes. An incredible metaphor and one that can only be recognized by those who look beyond the traditional care model.
The second day of the conference my husband and I found ourselves to our good fortune lunching with Dr. Assal, his wife, Tiziana, an education specialist, and their assistant, Benedetta Barabino, a biologist who is working in stage directing to help patients and physicians work through blocks and barriers. Needless to say it was a stimulating lunch centered around how the patient must be regarded as an equal expert to the provider as he/she is the expert on his/her life, and that working together the best outcomes can be achieved.
One outcome that was immediately achieved over lunch is the husband and I have an invitation to visit the Assals at their Geneva home. Hmmm...I wonder how long it takes to get to Geneva from Brooklyn?