The Diabetes Teaching Center (DTC) at the University of California San Francisco

Many of us who have lived with diabetes for more than a few years think we know everything there is to know about diabetes management. We may even feel that we don't need to see an endocrinologist or a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator) because there is nothing they can tell us that we don't already know. Taking advice from medical experts on something as personal as what to eat for breakfast is never easy, especially when they tell us something we don't want to hear (like Golden Grahams are not the best breakfast choice!). On the flip side, those who do want more information may find that doctors are so pressed for time that they can't give us the information we need to hear. So what's the best solution? How about comprehensive classes and education programs from the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California San Francisco?

The Diabetes Teaching Center at UCSF

As one of the country's oldest diabetes education programs and a pioneer in promoting diabetes self-management, the Diabetes Teaching Center (DTC) at the University of California San Francisco informs patients about the newest treatments in diabetes. A multi-faceted team of medical professionals that includes an endocrinologist, CDE, dietician, and medical director provide individuals with diabetes education, individualized therapies, and continuing resources and support.

Program Coordinator Marlene Bedrich RN, MS, CDE says in 2000 the DTC realized they needed to expand. "We were not reaching enough people and so we decided to create a website that would provide diabetes education to newly diagnosed patients as well as people who were looking for a refresher course." Today classes include the monthly 'flagship,' 3 1/2 day insulin workshop. 6-10 patients are followed by a nurse, dietician, and the medical director and focus on fine-tuning their insulin regulation. Bedrich says a lot of the participants have been living with diabetes for years and never had any kind of insulin training.

Classes at the Diabetes Teaching Center

A monthly two-day Type 2 Workshop focuses on carbohydrate digestion, absorption, use and storage, label reading, carbohydrate counting, medications for diabetes treatment, Hemoglobin A1c, testing blood sugar, weight control and the importance of support and diabetes among other relevant topics.

The classes are all intensive from sun up to sun down. At the end of the program many students exchange emails to maintain their new friendships. The downside is that these classes cost money and are not completely covered by insurance, but it's hard to put a price on education. "Taking care of diabetes is a really big job and it's hard for people to make lifestyle changes that stick," says Bedrich.

"That's why these resources are so important."

What you can learn at the Diabetes Teaching Center

  • Understanding diabetes: its types, its causes and effects, and the goals of treatment
  • Effective ways of managing lifestyle changes: exercise, diet, meal planning, weight management and prevention of low blood sugar
  • How to manage insulin: principles of usage, modes of action, the best regimen, dose adjustments
  • How to test blood sugar and ketones and develop skills for adjusting therapy
  • How to prevent and manage potential complications, both acute and chronic
  • How to recognize the psychosocial issues: emotional adjustment to diabetes mellitus, the role of family and support groups

Diagnosed in 2004 with type 1 diabetes Alan Lefkof didn't think he had time for a diabetes management class. A busy executive who travels frequently for work, a diabetes class seemed unnecessary until he was told that one of the greatest benefits of the class is the experience of listening to others. "So I marched my way to class. It was so well structured, built in and around meals. Figuring out how to use insulin is a very consuming process, and the best way is to do it together. It was invaluable," he says and adds, "I don't know of another class that approaches it (diabetes management) so comprehensively, with what foods to bring for lunch, what to eat for dinner, and checking blood sugars two hours after each meal."

For those who can't get to the San Francisco campus, the DTC offers a tremendous amount of learning tools on their website to individuals who don't have access to diabetes professionals. Currently in English, the website is in the process of being translated into both Chinese and Spanish. The Learning Library includes quizzes to help measure user's progress/retention.

With the limited supply of endocrinologists and certified diabetes educators, and the increasing demand, remote diabetes education from the Diabetes Teaching Center may be the wave of the future.

Article sources  expand

About Amy Stockwell Mercer

Amy Stockwell Mercer is the author of The Smart Woman's Guide to Diabetes, Authentic Advice on Everything from Eating to Dating and Motherhood. Her follow up book, The Smart Woman's Guide to Eating Right with Diabetes, What Will Work, will be published in the fall of 2012.

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