The Conference Faculty

Possessing a three decade career spanning service to US Presidents, Governors, state and federal congresspeople, advocating for rights of those affected by diabetes across the globe, and authorship credits including enacted rights in 46 states plus Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance provisions, Tom Boyer will lead our advocacy themed session on behalf of CWD and DPAC. Tom recently worked with the Obama and Bush Administrations, Members of Congress, and Governor Jay Inslee (WA) to create, pass and implement laws ensuring coverage for diabetes needs within Obamacare, Medicare Part D, Medicaid, and diabetes specific essential health benefit definitions. He and his spouse Melanie live in Sacramento, CA with sons George and Theodore.

Leslie Eiland, MD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She is Medical Director of Patient Experience and Telehealth at Nebraska Medicine. Clinically, Dr. Eiland’s areas of interest and expertise are remote delivery of endocrine care and providing endocrine support for primary care providers in rural communities. Originally from Columbus, Nebraska, Dr. Eiland obtained her undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of Notre Dame. She completed medical school and an internal medicine residency at Emory University in Atlanta, and an endocrinology fellowship at UNMC.

Dr. Eiland was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during her last year of medical school at age 25. She lives in Omaha with her husband and two sons, ages seven and nine.  Thanks to her boys, her most-listened album on Spotify last year was the Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie soundtrack.

Leigh Fickling, JD, MEd, MS, serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Children with Diabetes. Leigh is responsible for the day-to-day operational leadership of the organization and for the oversight and implementation of the organization's strategic plan. Leigh's daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2013 at the age of three. Leigh is a subject matter expert in the implementation of accommodations for people with diabetes in the classroom, workplace, and beyond. The Friends for Life conferences are the highlight of the year for the Fickling family and they can't imagine trying to dia-beat-this without their circle of friends.

Irl B. Hirsch, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he has worked since 1990. The majority of his patients have type 1 diabetes, and most of his research involves clinical aspects of type 1 diabetes including new insulins, new technologies, skin challenges from long-term pump use, how type 2 drugs may slow diabetic kidney disease, appropriate inpatient glucose targets, and understanding the limitations of HbA1c.

Benny Loebner Benny Loebner is married to Pam (First Timers Team) and the proud father of Sarah (dx’d 6/2002), who is a Physician Assistant at the University of Washington Diabetes Institute. He is also dad to Keith, who earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 2017, got married a few weeks later to Ellen, and just celebrated his son Jonah’s first birthday. The family attended their first CWD Friends for Life conference one month after Sarah was diagnosed, and they have been volunteering in various capacities ever since. Benny, an environmental geologist living in Los Altos, California, enjoys most sports and coaches and referees for the American Youth Soccer Organization. He is looking forward to meeting and greeting everyone.

Faisal Malik, MD, MSHS, is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington, an Investigator at the Center for Child Heath, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute, and a pediatric endocrinologist at Seattle Children's Hospital. As an investigator, he leads the Improving Diabetes Outcomes Team focused on developing and investigating the effectiveness of patient-centered interventions that improve patient health and healthcare quality for youth and young adults with diabetes. Dr. Malik is also the Director of Research and Medical Co-Director of the University of Washington Adolescent and Young Adult Diabetes Program.

Matthew Point, MS, serves as CWD’s Director of Advancement and Programs. Matt is responsible for CWD’s fundraising and development, working with our generous sponsors, and managing our conference scholarship program. In 2013, Matt attended his first CWD event – Friends for Life Orlando. Matt’s favorite part of being involved with CWD & the Friends for Life Conferences is having the opportunity to meet other significant others of people with type 1 diabetes.

Marissa Town, BSN, RN, CDCES, is Clinical Director for Children with Diabetes and oversees the medical content on the website and develops the adult programming at Friends for Life conferences. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 2 years old and grew up as an attendee of the Friends for Life conferences since the beginning in 2000. Marissa also works part time at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to help improve health equity for families with T1D.

Dana VanBuecken, ARNP, is a Research Nurse Practitioner at Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle. She provides care to participants in T1D research trials, and is passionate about developing new therapies to prevent or delay T1D as well at technologies to improve the lives of those currently living with the condition. Dana shares research discoveries through speaking engagements and contributions to medical journals. She is also an active advocate for lower insulin prices, and in that role was invited to attend the State of the Union address in our nation’s capital.

Dana is the mother of four young children. As a person living with T1D for more than 15 years, Dana brings unique insights to diabetes research and its impact.

Jessie J. Wong, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist and clinical researcher in Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Stanford University. She received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Arizona State University and completed postdoctoral fellowships in health services research and diabetes psychology at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University, respectively. Her research focuses on the intersection of mental and physical health and diabetes self-management among children, adolescents, and families. She is an NIDDK K23 awardee and is currently leading a study that seeks to optimize family-based interventions for adolescents with type 1 diabetes and their parents.


Indicates faculty member with diabetes