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.