Happy Diabetes Alert Day 2015!

Each year on the fourth Tuesday of March, we find the American Diabetes Association holding its one-day "wake-up call," encouraging millions of Americans to take their Diabetes Risk Test -- a simple but powerful seven-question online survey aimed at determining one's risk for developing type 2 diabetes.Kevin Hagan

What a perfect time to introduce the American Diabetes Association's new CEO Kevin Hagan, who was named on Feb. 19 and takes over the helm June 1. Hagan replaces Dr. Suzanne Berry, the interim leader following the departure of former CEO Larry Hausner in August 2014.

This is Hagan's fist foray into the diabetes universe, although he has numerous family members with diabetes and describes himself as having "prediabetes" -- so there is a personal connection.

Outside the diabetes world, Hagan's well-versed in running non-profits. Yet he's joining the ADA at a critical time -- in its landmark 75th anniversary year, when many eyes will be on accomplishments, while diabetes numbers are skyrocketing but sponsorships aren't doing the same.

Without further ado, here's our recent interview with Hagan:

 

DM) Tell us a little about your background, before coming to the ADA?

KH) I will be joining the American Diabetes Association after serving as President & CEO of Feed the Children, an international childhood hunger organization. During my tenure, I was responsible for the significant turnaround and transformation of that 35-year-old organization. While CEO, the organization increased the number of sponsors more than twelve-fold and consistently increased net revenue and fundraising efforts. This came about because of our work to diversify our revenue channels. We were also able increase the average gift size to by 20% and we worked hard to focus on long-term donor value while creating a renewed emphasis on customer service for our donors. Corporate fundraising was boosted through the introduction of a corporate philanthropy engineering team to custom design corporate giving programs for Fortune 500 companies.

Prior to my work with Feed the Children, I served as chief operating officer for Good360, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fulfilling the needs of nonprofits with corporate product donations. I think these experiences combined with my previous corporate experience and my sincere interest in fighting diabetes prepare me well to lead the American Diabetes Association.

Why did you want this position with the ADA?

What really attracted me is a personal family connection to diabetes. My mother has diabetes. My father has diabetes. My brother-in-law has diabetes. My grandparents had diabetes. And then about 8 or 9 years ago, I was diagnosed with prediabetes myself, which led me on a path to get healthier and watch more closely the lifestyle I was leading. It was really that personal connection that brought me to the Association because I always wondered, growing up with a family with quite a few people with diabetes, “What would life be like if you didn’t have diabetes?” It was really... the thought that I could have an impact on the lives of the nearly 30 million Americans with diabetes – both type 1 and type 2 – and the 86 million people who have prediabetes. It seemed like a perfect intersection of personal connection and a skill set that I could contribute to this great mission.

You didn't distinguish between diabetes types when describing your connection...

I do not take insulin or any diabetes meds. As far as my family goes, all the members I have mentioned have been diagnosed with type 2; however, I have several close friends with type 1 and believe all types of diabetes need more attention and research dollars.

What are the biggest challenges facing the ADA?

It is still too early in my learning process to know the greatest challenges, but it is very clear that one of our biggest challenges is getting our society to focus on the seriousness of this disease. The numbers of people who are affected by it continue to grow and likewise the cost to our healthcare system is dramatically affected. We have to stop this trend and we will need to be creative in the ways we educate the public and we’ll need new and growing amount of resources to do that.

What do you think has not been happening with ADA that needs to happen?

I put what needs to happen in four buckets: prevent, manage, cure, and then advocate.

What I said to the American Diabetes Association’s Board of Directors was that we want to focus our resources on prevention, but we also can’t forget the management and treatment of people who currently have diabetes. And then of course you never want to forget the cure for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Then we have to make sure we advocate for proper resources to fund additional research. During my first few months on the job, I intend to go in and make that assessment so we’re able to address the need and figure out potentially new ways that have never been tried before in terms of disseminating information to all the critical stakeholders. The one thing I’m confident of is that with the growing diabetes epidemic, there is a great deal of work to be done!

Do you foresee any changes in how the ADA works with other organizations, such as the JDRF or International Diabetes Federation, or other smaller non-profit groups?

From the outside looking in, I think one of the hot issues is the need for improvement in terms of diabetes organizations working together. This disease is an enormous health challenge for our country and the world and we can’t afford to be working alone in silos. Silos are very common, not only in organizations, but within industries as well, so I fully expect to find them at the American Diabetes Association and within the greater diabetes community.

And while silos existed in my previous industry (anti-hunger organizations) I have to give all of us in that industry credit;  many of the anti-hunger organizations got new leaders within the last 3-5 years and we all worked diligently to stay connected to one another and coordinate our efforts for the greatest impact. I think it has paid off. Now we are more focused on collaboration rather than competition. The greatest testament to that fact is that some of the anti-hunger groups started funding others' program work and doing joint programming. It’s been a real joy to see this unfold and I hope I can help bring that same mentality of collaboration to the diabetes world.

How is the ADA marking its big 75th anniversary this year?

Our 75th anniversary celebration is a wonderful opportunity to share the milestones that have occurred in diabetes care and research in our long history and to draw more attention to the seriousness of this disease. You can go to diabetes.org/75years to see the highlights and milestones of our successes as an organization. This is also available in Spanish (diabetes.org/aniversario75). There are links to special events and the “A Wish for Diabetes” mosaic. The timeline highlights significant events about the history of the Association over the last 75 years and also the history of diabetes.  Milestones include general Association events, advocacy accomplishments, research and patient care highlights.

I’m also excited about the plans to celebrate our anniversary at the 75th Scientific Sessions in Boston this June. There will be two main anniversary celebrations — a celebratory kick-off anniversary reception, and a museum-like Timeline Exhibit featuring a one-of-a-kind display at the Boston Convention Center. It will highlight the Association’s contributions over the last 75 years in improving diabetes care, treatment and expanding knowledge.

 

How can PWDs (people with diabetes) get involved in these ADA anniversary activities?

 The “A Wish for Diabetes” mosaic is a place where you can get engaged in the celebration. When users submit a photo, they are asked, “What is your wish for diabetes?” They can make a wish for themselves or dedicate the wish to someone they love. The photos come together as a collage to form a special image that will change several times throughout 2015. The mosaic is accessible on any viewing device, in both English and Spanish, or you can view it on our website atdiabetes.org/mosaic (English) and diabetes.org/mural (Spanish).

Of course today is Diabetes Alert Day. What are your hopes and expectations for that?

This day presents a powerful opportunity to provide a “wake-up call" to the undiagnosed population by distributing lifesaving information about type 2 diabetes risk and prevention.

We're inviting people nationwide to take the free Diabetes Risk Test and access information about diabetes, and encouraging them to join or start a team for a Step Out event by visiting diabetes.org/alert or by calling 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Preventative tips are provided for everyone who takes the Diabetes Risk Test, including encouraging those at high-risk to speak to their health care provider.

Nearly 100,000 online diabetes risk tests were taken during the month-long campaign last year and we hope to see even more participation this year.

Finally, what would you say to people who feel the ADA doesn't represent them, as it's too focused on prediabetes?

As I’m learning more about the work that is being done in the diabetes community, I’m aware that there are some who believe that there is an imbalance in the work that is being done in all forms of diabetes. It’s my understanding that the mission of the American Diabetes Association — to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes — applies to all forms of diabetes. With regard to funding, that’s something I won’t be able to answer until I’ve had a chance to delve more deeply into understanding each form of the disease and the total resources committed to each type, but I’ll do my absolute best to raise awareness and resources for all types of diabetes.

 

Thanks for taking the time, Kevin! We look forward to this special anniversary Scientific Sessions in June, and will definitely be eager to circle back with you once you've had a chance to more thoroughly settle into the CEO spot.

 

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.