Diagnosed with diabetes at 12-years-old, Maureen McGrath knows first-hand how devastating the disease can be.
As a clinical professor at UCSF, she's now devoting her career to helping others get the quality care they need. She's doing it by starting the first-ever specialty in diabetes for nursing students at UCSF. "I’m very excited to be at the cutting edge of offering this to advanced practice nurses so that when they go for their first nurse practitioner job they are actually 100% comfortable with the number one chronic disease that they will be dealing with," said McGrath.
In class, the students, who are studying for their masters get a unique lesson in living with diabetes.
"The first class they learned to check their blood and they go home with a meter. The second class they learn to give injections and I made them count carbs and give injections," McGrath said.
“It really helps me understand what a patient goes through,“ student Paula Lee said.
With 1 in 3 Americans pre-diabetic, this specialized care can’t come soon enough, but the statistics for minorities are even more stark.
12.6% of African Americans and 11.8 % of Hispanics have been diagnosed with diabetes.
"We know Latinos in particular and people of color have higher rates of uninsurance and higher rates of diabetes," Susan Chapman, another UCSF Nursing School Professor said.
It’s these frightening numbers that’s spurring student Gabriella Valencia, herself a Mexican immigrant into action.
"The bottom line is i’m doing this to help the Latino community get the care they need from someone who understands their language and culture," Valencia said.
The help goes beyond medicine. It’s also about looking beyond the illness and into a patient’s life and lifestyle. That's as simple as speaking their same language when it comes to their diet. "It’s very unlikely that you eat bread and pasta as your main staple. You gotta talk about rice and tortillas and beans and so those are the things that could make a huge difference in the five minute conversation that you have with them about their diet," Valencia explained.
Valencia’s passion gives McGrath hope the UCSF program will eventually catch on nationwide to meet this growing health care crisis. "This program I believe strongly will make a difference in peoples lives with diabetes," McGrath said.
Diabetes is not just a health issue, it's also an economic issue. The American Diabetes Association estimates $176 billion was spent in diabetes related costs last year in the United States.