“Living with type 1 diabetes is like fighting to win a battle.” This is Medtronic Diabetes Senior Clinical Manager and author of Operation Determination, Mary Beth’s, mantra. Living with type 1 diabetes for 34 years, she educates and inspires others with diabetes through teaching them to adopt a motivational state of mind by continuously fighting with a passion, building a battle plan, and defending life.
Q. You’ve been at Medtronic Diabetes since 2005. Tell us about your role.
A. I am a Senior Diabetes Clinical Manager, training people with diabetes and doctors on Medtronic’s insulin pump and CGM therapy, as well as motivating and teaching self- management skills to our customers to help them achieve better clinical outcomes. The success that can be achieved through collaboration between nurses, healthcare providers, patients, and me is amazing. My job is extremely rewarding – I get to change lives for the better EVERY day.
Q. How do you feel about working for a medical device company that helps people like you?
A. Fortunate. I always wanted to be a nurse, and after I was diagnosed with diabetes, I knew I’d someday work in the field of diabetes. I feel so fortunate to be able to make such an impact in the world of diabetes. The people I have the pleasure to meet and train are so grateful and appreciate the fact that “I know” what they go through.
Q. How has your personal use of an insulin pump and CGM allowed you to excel at your dreams?
A. I owe a lot to the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)  and the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) . My freshman year of college, I was randomized into the intensive arm of this study, and am still followed annually to this day. 26 years ago, I was placed on an insulin pump. I feel fortunate and blessed I have benefited from insulin pump therapy early in my diagnosis. Every person with diabetes that requires insulin should have the same opportunity as I have to use the best therapy available! This drives me every day and fuels my fire to get this therapy to the people who need it.
Q. Tell us about your book, Operation Determination: Diabetes Boot Camp… A Way of Thinking
A. Operation Determination (OD) originated from my own way of thinking and motivating myself to win my own daily blood sugar battles. When I was diagnosed, my doctor warned me that if I didn’t formulate a plan and strategy to win, I would lose my eyesight, feet, and life. Pretty harsh for a little girl, but it sure motivated me! The book compares diabetes to war. The bad thing about this war is it never ends and you fight multiple blood sugar battles every day. The good thing about this war is it can make you stronger and disciplined like a soldier, and you can WIN and live a long healthy life. It is a motivational way of thinking about diabetes that can benefit children and adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes, families, and doctors.
Q. What interested you to write a motivational book? Was there something specific that initiated the idea?
A. Volunteering at Camp Hertko Hollow, a diabetes camp for kids, sparked the idea to put my own way of thinking into a book. The kids understood the concept, relating the enemy to something trying to destroy them with high blood sugars. Wanting to fight the battles, they thought of ways to win and illustrated their ideas through drawing pictures. I call this concept the best ammunition to treat diabetes, and use it every day to motivate patients as I train them on their devices. I also use the story to encourage doctors to prescribe the best technology/ammunition for their patients. If they prescribe outdated weapons, their patients have a much tougher time winning battles. Prescribing better ammunition and stronger weapons leads to superior clinical outcomes and an improved quality of life for their patients.
Q. Which part of the book was the hardest/easiest to write?
A. Identifying the audience was a struggle. Was it children, adults, or doctors? Wanting to kill 3 birds with one stone, I wrote in a way that would be valuable to anyone whose life is touched by diabetes. I could not have done it without the help of my sister, Anne, who transformed the children’s illustrations into a lighter hearted version of my war analogy, and my daughter, Ana, who helped alleviate the harsh connotation with “war”. The hardest part has been defending my decision to use the war analogy. I prefer peace, but with diabetes, there is an enemy that can rob you of your life. I am determined to not let that happen and hope my way of thinking inspires others to defend their beautiful lives!
Q. With a husband, two girls, and a full time job, how did you find the time to write?
A. This is my first attempt at writing, and honestly it didn’t take long to get it on paper. I received encouragement from people who had heard me teach and educate using this story. Once I realized that the story could really help others, I set a deadline, stayed disciplined, and executed the plan I set forth. Knowing what you are doing could help someone live a better life motivated me to just get it done!
Q. Can you give me an example of a negative experience you’ve had with diabetes that you turned into a positive?
A. Being diagnosed with diabetes was a negative experience. I accepted my diagnosis, embraced the management, and eventually secured a job where I have the opportunity to inspire others who have a chronic disease to live a long healthy life. I love being a positive example to people living with diabetes. I believe one has to go through the steps of grieving, and once they reach ACCEPTANCE, I am confident they will succeed. My biggest accomplishment is my strong and faithful marriage which has allowed my husband and I to raise two passionate, faith filled, loving young women. Life is full of ups and downs, good times and bad. Life is short and every minute is precious. Your life is worth fighting for. Don’t ever give up, and if you can find JOY in every journey, your life is sure to be a beautiful story. Anything is possible!