2016 Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum: Transforming Diabetes Care Together

Laddie_Head SquareLast week I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum in Northridge, CA. This was the first time I have been invited to such an event and I found it to be a great experience. The advocacy power in the room was palpable with representatives from 5 Latin America countries, 2 from Canada, and 14 from all over the US. I was proud to be the one with gray hair in the group photos. My social media skills were not quite as adept as those of the younger attendees, but I represent a growing population: seniors living with diabetes. I felt welcomed and respected by all.


In the last two years Medtronic Diabetes (MDT) has been reorganized to move from a product-based pump and sensor company to a patient-centric model. The MDT executives with whom we met described the future role of MDT as a “holistic diabetes management company.” They were consistent and comfortable using phrases such as:

Inspired by people

Global human insights

Behind numbers are the patient

No two journeys are the same

Together we can make change

The Medtronic Vision was shared often and highlighted on walls throughout MDT headquarters:





This idealistic philosophy envisions a table where all of the players meet with the patient as the focus. Doctors, pharma/tech companies, government, payers, and patients work together to achieve better clinical outcomes and high levels of satisfaction for patients. This is easy to draw on a white board, but unfortunately not the reality for most people affected by diabetes.

What is the role of Diabetes Advocates in this vision? I like to think that we are working to bridge the gap between how things are and how things should be. We are fighting to identify and throw the “Lack of” monsters under the bridge: lack of availability, lack of access, lack of coverage, lack of education, and lack of respect.

Bridge to Good Health 2

There is a huge gap in diabetes care between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” This disparity is significant in the United States and becomes even more staggering in a global view. In the conference room of advocates we had the mother of a child who was part of an artificial pancreas trial. In contrast we had representatives from countries with little or no access to diabetes education and advanced technology. Missing from the room were people from all over the world with marginal access to insulin and diabetes supplies.

The future success of a company like Medtronic is tied to providing products and services that deliver value-based quality healthcare. Positive clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction are worthy goals. Those are big words to describe what we all want: a happy and successful life with and despite of diabetes.

We advocates have a symbiotic relationship with companies like Medtronic. They need us as the faces and voices of people with diabetes. We need them for products, services, and the ability to open doors to decision-makers. I believe that their success results in better health for those of us with diabetes. Similarly, better outcomes for me should ultimately result in a healthier bottom line for them. Sitting at the table together gives both of us a better chance for success.

Transforming diabetes care together, for greater freedom and better health.


Disclosure: Medtronic Diabetes paid for my travel and hotel expenses to attend the forum. As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

5 thoughts on “2016 Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum: Transforming Diabetes Care Together

  1. Laddie, I am so glad you were part of this forum. You are a necessary and insightful voice in our community, and you’ve described the experience well.

  2. It’s hard sometimes to gauge our role in a forum like this. Are we being invited so that we speak the corporate message to the world, or so that we vocalize the world’s messages to the corporation?

    While I liked what I heard for the most part (from some more than others) about the company’s direction, I’m still struggling to find where the “advocacy” part fits in, other than the brief afternoon session. I think what they gave us was not a FORUM to advocate, but an OPPORTUNITY to do so. I took advantage of those opportunities, challenging and questioning the corporate status quo at several opportunities. That takes courage and confidence — the first time I was invited, I remained mostly quiet.

    The effectiveness is yet to be determined. But even if this was just an event put on for show, I got to (finally) meet some great people – yourself included. And building strong relationships is a first step towards doing great things.

    • Scott, I have to hope that the event was put on for more than show because in the end, we need companies like Medtronic to be successful. I definitely need them on my team as I advocate for CGM coversge by Medicare and other issues that seniors with diabetes face. For sure their whole message was idealistic, but It made sense to me.

      I’m glad to know that you were mostly quiet the first time around because I did worry that I did not contribute enough in the group sessions.

  3. I believe the graphic is spectacular. I guess i always knew the role of the advocate, but there is no way I could have drawn it and perhaps I could never have explained it so well. i am glad you had a great conference.

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes blog page for the week of April 18, 2016.

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