Friends for Life Fall 2021: The Highlights

November 17, 2021

Missed the week of live events at our Friends for Life Fall 2021 virtual celebration? No problem! We have the recordings ready for replay on CWD’s website. Here is a quick rundown on what the sessions covered so you can pick which you want hear or listen to in the background while you’re working (we won’t tell if you won’t). If you’re a health care provider looking for resources for your families with diabetes – feel free to share as well! It’s all here and all free in hopes that it helps people learn, feel empowered, and thrive with diabetes. Until there’s a cure, there’s CWD.

Monday is for the MoFFLs

The Moms of Friends for Life (a.k.a. the MoFFLs) hosted an evening full of camaraderie and connection to kick off the week of sessions. The MoFFLs have regular Zoom meetings to connect with other moms who understand what it means to care for a child with diabetes. For more information on upcoming meetings, check out cwd.is/community.

Tuesday Keynote Highlights History of 100 Years of Insulin

Author Arthur Ainsberg took listeners on a journey back in time to the discovery of insulin, 100 years ago this year. He chronicled the events from Dr. Banting’s dream that sparked the discovery and development of insulin to one of the first recipients of the miracle drug, Elizabeth Evans Hughes. It is truly an inspirational story that makes all of us today who depend on insulin feel grateful for the incredible advances that allow us to thrive with diabetes today.

Wednesday Took us Back to the Basics

For anyone newly diagnosed, Dr. Kajal Gandhi’s session on Diabetes 101 will help you and your family get your footing as you start your journey with diabetes. It can be so overwhelming when you are first diagnosed–there is SO much information to take in–so feel free to watch and re-watch at your own pace! You can even send the video to caregivers or family members who are looking to learn more and help support you and your child with diabetes.

Expert diabetes educator and dietitian Constance Brown-Riggs tackled carbohydrate controversies. She discussed the variety of viewpoints throughout the past 100 years about carbs and what the most recent research says about carbohydrates for people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. Constance also provided key information about the different types of carbohydrates, played an interactive game of carbohydrate hide and seek, and talked about the latest research on low carb diets.

Thursday: Easing the Burden of Diabetes

We know that having two sessions focused on the psychosocial side of diabetes is just scratching the surface! But diabetes psychologists Julie Gettings and Jessie Wong gave amazing information and tools to help facilitate family conversations and relationships related to diabetes. First, Julie Gettings focused on diabetes technologies and sharing data. We hear every summer at Friends for Life from the kids who attend the youth programming that they are frustrated with their parents’ access to their BG numbers. Julie gave an overview on continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and remote monitoring, how important it is for caregivers to cope with their own anxieties related to their child’s diabetes, and how to create an empowering, compassionate relationship with your child with diabetes.

Jessie Wong then discussed resilience related to diabetes for the person with diabetes and the family. She shared tips on how to recognize when someone is having a difficult time, how to facilitate support, and create a successful team for diabetes management Jessie also discussed importance of having support for people with diabetes of any age – not just in childhood – and gave tips for people of any age about how to ask for their own support. For those of you who are parents, both psychologists gave an important reminder that you cannot pour from an empty cup. In other words, taking care of yourself is equally, if not more important, than taking care of your children or family.

On Fridays We Advocate!

In Friday’s first session, diabetes advocacy leaders and CWD Board members Stewart Perry and George Huntley presented a very informative talk about advocacy in the U.S. healthcare system. They discussed how our healthcare system works, the challenges people with diabetes and other chronic conditions face, and what we can do to help facilitate positive changes. They also highlighted the progress that has been made throughout the recent decades and how powerful sharing your personal story can be in promoting change.

In Friday’s second session, CWD parents Leigh Fickling and Jeff Karitis shared their experiences with diabetes advocacy. They talked about diabetes as a disability, what the term “disability” even means, and how the Americans with Disability Act can help you in your diabetes journey. Leigh and Jeff provided tips and resources for navigating 504 plans and empowering parents to team up with their healthcare team, or other parents with diabetes, to ensure their child is safe at school. They also noted that children feel empowered to advocate for themselves in the future when they see their parents advocating.

Technology Saturday

We heard from Dr. Daniel DeSalvo, a pediatric endocrinologist who also lives with type 1 diabetes, about the closed loop systems available in the U.S. Doctor Dan, as his patients call him, shared detailed information about the key components of these systems and explained how to use them successfully. Dr. Dan also provided incredible resources for people using closed loop systems, including websites that help explain the way the systems work, how to adjust settings, and how to get support.

In the second session on Saturday, Marissa Town, CWD’s Clinical Director, presented information on how to get insulin into the body. She discussed a variety of topics, from insulin pen options to infusion set options to the importance of site rotation. If you are looking to switch up your infusion set, having issues with site rotation, or trying to determine what infusion set would be best for you, this session could be helpful for you.


Sunday, November 14th, was World Diabetes Day, and we decided to celebrate this year more than most years given the additional celebration of 100 years of insulin! The CWD team created a beautiful video from various people involved in the CWD community who are thriving with diabetes. We also had a Q & A session with the CWD staff about Friends for Life conference plans for 2022, which will be posted closer to our Friends for Life Orlando 2022 conference. And, last but not least, diabetes podcaster Stacey Simms presented her gameshow “Wait, Wait, Don’t Poke Me.” Her attendees this time were CWD’s own Matt Point, Kyler Cares founder Kyle Banks, and FFL Volunteer Nia Grant. Some questions were quite challenging, and it was a very fun way for us to end the week of Fall FFL 2021.

We really appreciate everyone who contributed to making Fall FFL 2021 a success! Thank you to the CWD Team, our generous and supportive sponsors, our esteemed faculty, and our attendees! Here’s to hoping the next Friends for Life conference is in person!


Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES