Joslin Medalists: Rx for the Soul

Laddie_Head SquareWelcome to Day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week. I started writing today’s post by describing the mental baggage that comes along with diabetes. In a roundabout fashion, my post didn’t end up where I had planned to go. So I began again. I hope that a profile of the Joslin 50-year Medalists qualifies as a discussion of mental health and diabetes. As always, thanks to DBW organizer Karen Graffeo of Bitter-Sweet™ for her hard work harnessing the 2016 voices of diabetes.

Today’s Topic: We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

This week I have been revisiting articles and videos about the Joslin 50-year Medalists. Elliott P. Joslin, M.D. believed that proper self-care would lead to a healthier life for people with diabetes. Following his vision, the Joslin Diabetes Center began awarding medals in 1948 to people who had lived with diabetes for 25 years. In 1970 the program expanded to award 50-year bronze medals. Since then 4,000 people have received 50-year medals along with 65 recipients of 75-year medals.

In 2005 the Joslin Diabetes Center began the 50-year Medalist study to investigate why this group of people had managed to thrive despite longterm Type 1 diabetes. Surveys along with physical exams, genetic tests, and lab work found that over 40% of the medalists did not have serious eye disease, 39% were free of nerve damage, 52% did not have cardiovascular disease, and fewer than 15% had kidney disease. And amazingly, 66% of these T1’s still had measurable insulin production. What made them special?

It also emerged from this study that most of the Medalists were optimists. Multiple articles and videos highlight Medalists attributing some of their longterm success to positivity, a good attitude, and a sense of humor. Does that mean that they never had bad days and never got stuck under black clouds of diabetes burnout? I doubt it. In my opinion it  means that they persevered and lived what they considered a successful and happy life despite diabetes.

Some memorable quotes:

“Like so many of the other Medalists, my story is one of good attitude, good doctoring, and good parenting.”          -Amy Schneider *

“But I tell everybody the two miracle drugs that God gave me: insulin and a sense of humor.”          -Annette Richardson **

“The fun part of life just took on a different perspective.”          -Louise Jesserer *

“Attitude, especially a positive attitude is important. You can’t be perfect.”  Kathryn Ham *

“I feel that if it doesn’t work so well today, tomorrow is another day. We should get up and think it’s going to work better.”          -Judith Ball *

“If I can do that, you can do anything…. It’s all possible.”          -Joel Bernstein *

My favorite takeaway from the Joslin profiles of the Medalists is that “one of the most common attributes, apparently is that Medalists like to dance!”

I don’t think that there is a better image that I can leave with you today than visions of people with diabetes dancing.

Young, old, glass syringes, insulin pumps, urine tests, CGM’s


People from all over the world


Dancing with diabetes

Dancing to forget diabetes

Just dancing

Dancing with Diabetes


*These quotes are from the Joslin Medalist Stories videos.

**This quote is from Words of Wisdom from Joslin 50 Year Medalists, a 6/06/2011 video by Kerri Sparling-Six Until Me.


To read other Diabetes Blog Week posts on this topic, click here.

To learn about the application process for a Joslin 25-year certificate or a 50-year medal, click here.

17 thoughts on “Joslin Medalists: Rx for the Soul

  1. I love this post. It’s so interesting, I had no idea the medals started so long ago! And they have 75 year medals?! Crazy. I was diagnosed at age 9 so I guess I could potentially reach the 75 year medal mark but hopefully there is a cure first :-P. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed this post.

  2. Great piece! I just took a webinar on resilience and it highlighted the importance of optimism and a positive mindset on resilience (a trait I imagine is necessary when living with diabetes). So interesting to see the connection between positive mindset and health outcomes!

    • It is kind of amazing, Danielle. Of course it wasn’t necessarily a scientific sample although they are really investigating this. Maybe a lot of the people who didn’t survive that long were also optimistic. Or maybe it is easy to have a good attitude when things are going well. Either way the videos I watched of the Medalists were fun to watch and inspiring.

  3. Now I’ve got that song stuck in my head — I Hope You Dance, by Lee Ann Womack. It was the song for the “mother-son” dance at my wedding, and it’s a good one.

    Sometimes you can’t take things too literally or too seriously. Sometimes the best treatment for an overburdened mind is to let loose and have fun.

    • I thought of that song as I wrote the end of the post as well as a choir anthem that I can’t remember the title of. And them amazingly on the way to babysit one of the grandkids this morning, the Lee Ann Womack song was on the radio!

  4. I really like the positive, upbeat tone throughout this post. Now resisting the temptation to get up and dance at my desk at work 🙂

  5. This was a breath of fresh air amidst an understandably serious collection of posts for today’s topic. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of optimism and dancing!

  6. Positive mindset and dance like no one is watching…both are difficult to do and yet both are so worth it.

  7. Thank you so much! I didn’t know most of this about the medals. I love the idea that a thread of optimism and bravery might be running through the lives of many of those who live with diabetes for a long time. Go us!

  8. Laddie, This is what I was trying to say in my post today. You said it so much better. I whole heartedly agree. Time to crank the music….

    Thanks for this post!

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