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Creating a Community for Students With Diabetes

For most students, starting college is a big enough challenge. But for some young people, the transition is made even more difficult by the fact that they’re diabetic.

Students with Diabetes is an organization that started at USF Health and has since spread to more than 30 chapters on other college campuses and locations, along with members on about 100 campuses.

Students with Diabetes’ creator, Miss America 1999, USF graduate Nicole Johnson, says the group serves as a support community for 18 to 30 year old diabetics and their loved ones.

"The core is making people feel safe, providing them with relationships, providing them with inspiration," says Johnson, a Type 1 diabetic who's pursuing a doctorate in public health at USF. "Then we add information about disease to that so that there's empowerment to live healthier, to make wise choices and to be able to just follow your dreams."

That mission will be on display at the group’s third annual National Conference, held May 31 through June 2 at the Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore.


"My favorite part (of the conference) is the friendships that I get to make, I've made lifelong friends," says group president Paige Wagner. "While that is my favorite part, I know I can take away educational opportunities and learn about new technologies."

Those technologies include the JDRF's Artificial Pancreas, which would replace a standard insulin pump in dispensing insulin based on real-time changes in blood sugar levels.

In addition, so-called "Type 3 diabetics," friends and relatives of people with diabetes, are also welcome to attend the conference.

"At the conference, we'll have a separate track just for those people," says  Type 3 diabetic and PhD student Stephanie Melton. "What happens is often they don't get very much diabetes education, and then, in turn, have to care for their loved one because we know that the more the people around a person with diabetes is supported, the better off the person with the disease will be."

The Students with Diabetes National Conference is hosted by USF. Registration closes this Friday, May 17. The registration fee of $85 covers housing, meals and activities. More information can be found at the Students with Diabetes website.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.