We always love hearing from folks with diabetes who also work in the pharma/device industry, to get a glimpse into what spurred them to build a career in the field.
Recently, we were thrilled to welcome longtime type 1 Jim Berkebile to our DiabetesMine Innovation Summit at Stanford University, joining us from the San Diego offices of Tandem Diabetes Care, makers of the t:slim insulin pump (and also a major sponsor of our Summit.) Yep, aside from his own personal experience with type 1 for the past three decades since age 14, Jim is Director of Marketing & New Product Development at Tandem. Before starting there in 2010, he spent years several working up the ranks at JnJ-owned Animas. So, he's definitely got some diabetes industry combined with personal D-cred under his belt!
As Jim's bio tells it: "He attributes whatever success he's had in dealing with diabetes (and in life in general) to continually seeking the right balance of mind, body and spirit. Spending time with his family, renewing his mind through reading, and staying active running, biking, and swimming keep him busy outside of the workplace."
Polished bio aside, we're excited to hear some personal insight from Jim about what "free the data" can mean to PWDs:
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A Guest Post by Jim Berkebile
Obnoxious cacophony from a 1980's era alarm clock shot through still morning silence like a buzz saw and tore me awake far earlier than any person should ever be awakened, let alone a teenager on Saturday morning. Another quarterly fasting visit to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh -- yet another opportunity for one who already "knew it all" to demonstrate just how much I knew about the importance of diabetes data. Just hours before, I had methodically compiled 3 months of blood glucose and injection data (Lente and Regular mixed twice a day) on a sheet of paper from "memory."
While still waking from my slumber, I grabbed my meter and after waiting what seemed like an eternity, "252" appeared on the screen. I'd better take one last quick scan of my logs to make sure the ink is thoroughly dry before getting ready for the morning. Hmm, too many of my glucose values seem to end in "4" or "7." Too late now to do anything about it... maybe Dr. Feingold (who had a decade of training) would't notice. Darn it all! In my youthful eagerness to complete my assignment last night I had pre-fabricated a blood glucose reading of 117 for this morning. What to do, what to do?! Several brisk laps around the block later in an attempt to lower my blood glucose to something more like 117 than 254, we were en route to the clinic.
Looking back, I have no illusion that my cover was maintained through this quarterly facade. Pristine log sheets without a single blood smear, tattered corner or tear -- with the ink of a single pen still drying were pretty obvious clues. But in the absence of any other data (besides the A1c that would be mailed out a week later), there was little use for anyone to reveal my not-so-secret deception.
Much has changed since then.
Several weeks ago, I joined a passionate group of diabetes technology leaders at the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit to continue their tradition of sparking the kinds of conversations that really matter for people living with diabetes. At the Summit, I was reminded that of course there is much to be hopeful for in the future, both on the Artificial Pancreas front and with the ultimate goal of diabetes prevention/cure. As a community, we continue to hope that this progress won't remain on the distant horizon -- ever just glimpsed but disappearing when grasped at -- for too much longer. But there is a whole lot that we can do NOW. And when it comes to accessing the very personal data that I need to inform the hundreds of diabetes decisions that confront me every day, thank goodness today's NOW has come so far since my adolescent foolishness.
Last weekend in preparation for spending the better part of the coming week traveling, I uploaded my t:slim insulin pump and blood glucose meter to the t:connect diabetes management application on my Mac at home. Viewing trends and making a few tweaks allowed me to at least take the sharp corners off of the blood sugar roller coaster that inevitably seems to accompany long flights, time zone differences, unfamiliar meals, and unpredictable schedules. I couldn't do that without the data.
Unfortunately, according to data from T1D Exchange recently published in diaTribe, the majority of people living with diabetes never upload data from their devices at home. For too many, it's just viewed as a hassle with the only payoff being charts and graphs that are difficult to understand.
We need better tools NOW. Our t:connect app was developed after thousands of interviews with people with diabetes, with the same guiding emphasis on ease of use employed in the development of the t:slim Pump. Users can quickly and easily identify meaningful information and trends leading to more informed diabetes decisions. We are proud that t:connect was recently recognized as the #1 consumer software by the dQ&A Patient Panel.
At the same time, we also recognize that one size will never fit all when it comes to diabetes data needs. Starting from the principle that the data is the patient's in every way that the disease itself is, it follows naturally that the patient should be able to choose how and where they view their data, as well as who else can view it. That's why we've opened up our communication protocols to both Diasend and Tidepool (as announced at the DiabetesMine Summit in November).
Data from the t:slim can be combined with data from other devices (BG meters, CGMs, activity monitors) to create a more connected chain of all the variables that need to be linked together to make sense of life with diabetes. Individuals who trust us to play a role in their diabetes care have an immediate need for their data as they seek to gain an edge in tackling the relentless demands of living with a condition where there are neither breaks nor vacations. The more good options that are available, the more likely it is that the data will actually be put to use in service of making life with diabetes easier.
We are proud to be creating partnerships with those in the diabetes community who are dedicated to improving the lives of people with diabetes.
Thirty years ago, I viewed diabetes data as something I had to construct to check the box and keep my care team off my back. Thankfully, with today's tools, that game is behind us. Somewhere right now, today's upgraded version of me from 30 years ago is viewing data from his t:slim, and using it to make living with diabetes easier. Knowing that makes everything we do worth it.
Thanks, Jim! We appreciate the hard work of folks at Tandem Diabetes and especially your personal passion as a type 1!