Q: How can I be sure my diabetes expert (DE) is meeting all my needs?

The only way you'll know for sure if your diabetes educator is meeting all your needs is to do a bit of research on your own to find out what kind of assistance you should be getting from him or her. Knowledge is good. You have to talk to people, ask questions, find out what you can, read up on diabetes. Education is important for understanding diabetes conceptually so that you'll know what questions you should even be asking in the first place. It also affords you the ability to not just do what you're told, but also to think through things to make the right decisions for yourself. If you want to do well with your diabetes over the long haul, find a really good doctor, DE, and medical support team. They should be up-to-date on the latest research, technologies, medications, and more. If you question their judgment, seek out a second opinion about your diabetes care, and switch providers if you need to in order to find someone who is more knowledgeable. In theory, you should not know more about diabetes and its appropriate care than your doctor or your DE.

Having access to a good diabetes educator can serve you well, even if your doctor doesn't specialize in diabetes care. Many DEs are living with diabetes themselves, which just increases their awareness of the possible problems you can encounter and how to overcome them. An excellent place to turn to find one if you don’t have access in your area is online diabetes education resources, including on the web site of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (found at www.aadenet.org), which has a diabetes educator locator by city and state. Alternately, you can call them toll-free to be directed to an educator in your area at (800) 338-3633.

Sheri Colberg, PhD, is an exercise physiologist and professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, as well as adjunct professor of internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Having earned a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, she continues to conduct extensive clinical research in diabetes, exercise, aging, and disease prevention with funding from the American Diabetes Association and others. She is the author of eight books, including The Science of Staying Young, and of over 175 research and educational articles. In addition, she has more than 40 years' worth of experience as a (type 1) diabetic exerciser and person living well with diabetes. More information about her books, articles, and more is available at www.shericolberg.com.