Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone! We have a special treat today, from the lucky lady who nabbed one of the diabetes community's most eligible bachelors, Team Type 1 founder & CEO and co-founder of Team Novo Nordisk Phil Southerland.

Her name is Biljana, and she and Phil were married in Fall of 2012. They've just recently had their first child, a little boy -- so now dealing with a partnership that includes Phil's diabetes, two careers in the D-World, AND new parenthood. Whew!

We're happy to bring you this account of life & love together as part of our periodic "Diabetes Partner Follies" series.DiabetesMine Partner Follies Icon


A Guest Post by Biljana Southerland

Telling the full story about how Phil and I met and what our life together has been like for the past two and half years could easily fill a novel, but here is my attempt at the short version of "us."

I first heard the name Phil Southerland in my home country of Macedonia where I was working as a Doctor Advisor in the Cabinet of the Minister of Health.  One of my primary roles in that position was to develop and lead the country's National Diabetes Program. In 2011, Phil was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Skopje for doctors from the endocrinology clinic, children with diabetes, their parents, and government officials. The doctor who invited Phil to Macedonia knew that I probably would not be able to attend the event but in light of my work on the National Diabetes Program, he wanted to ensure I had an opportunity to at least meet and speak to Phil, and arranged a dinner the night before. With such long days at work and the need to be focused and well-rested on the job, I usually did not go out at night. But before declining the dinner invitation, I did a quick web search to see who it was the doctor wanted me to meet, and when I Googled Phil's name, I realized why it was so important to meet him.

Through sport and the Team Type 1 athletic program, he was doing big things and changing the way the world viewed diabetes.

As a doctor I don't define people by their condition, but Phil had all his diabetes equipment at the table and he checked his BG several times in a span of hours.

I was astounded at the great care he was taking in his diabetes management, and after dozens of questions back and forth, I was intrigued to learn more. Of course, I attended the speeches he made at the University as well as a diabetes camp that was put on by our Ministry of Health and the National Program for diabetes. I was inspired by his words, and more profoundly, by how he inspired the kids at camp.

Phil's message and passion for improving the lives of people with diabetes around the world prompted me to add new provisions to the National Program for Diabetes. I felt I owed that to the people of Macedonia after I saw, through Phil's example and the example of all the athletes of Team Type 1, the quality of life and level of achievement that was possible, if people have the necessary tools to manage their diabetes. Within two months, our program was revised to entirely cover the cost of insulin, test strips, pumps and diabetes camps for all people in Macedonia living with diabetes.

As this evolved, I had also started sharing with Phil my ideas for developing a sustainable model for diabetes care that could be scaled around the world. We began to see each other regularly at diabetes conferences, events, and eventually bike races. At that point in my career, I had worked with very senior medical professionals and politicians, but never had I seen anyone work as hard and as much as Phil. He can be "on" for 18 hours a day and has such a passion for his work. He is also an incredibly gifted speaker and watching him on stage was so inspirational — not only to hear his story, but watching how much of an impact he had on everyone listening.

In two years, we've been to 15 countries together and the love, energy, understanding and support we share is so special. We got married in 2012 and I moved to the States, taking on the next big challenge of my life, leaving a well-established career and a government post. But at 33, there is no bigger reward than having a relationship founded on love, understanding and a common goal to improve the lives of people around the world.

I do not have diabetes but diabetes has been a bond for us. Watching Phil, who has lived with diabetes for 32 years now, has taught me a lot. He checks his blood sugar more than anyone I have ever known, and makes corrections where needed. For Phil, it is all part of life just like eating and breathing for the rest of us. Am I ever scared? Of course.

As a doctor, I'm used to treating patients, but when your partner or spouse is affected by a health condition, there is a big difference. I have come to realize that Phil knows his body well, knows his diabetes, and the most important thing I can give is support.

It's both very rewarding and very challenging to work together on the Team Type 1 Foundation. He has extraordinary vision, has high expectations and instills in everyone involved a passion for the mission that empowers us to work hard.

As a husband and a father to our baby boy, Phil is so full of love. Our son Alexander has melted his heart and Phil is even more responsible with his diabetes, which is hard to ihappyvalentinesdaymagine given that he was already the most responsible person I have ever seen.

Our dream for a family came true this year and we hope to continue living this dream. I hope and know that he will achieve his other dream too — to have an all-diabetes team compete in the Tour de France.

Through the Foundation, we will continue to create opportunities for people around the world with diabetes to live their own dreams. We will continue the fight for the right to live well wit diabetes through a global mission of education, empowerment and equal access to medicine for everyone affected.


Thank you for sharing Biljana -- and it's so great to meet you.

We wish the Southerlands, and everyone in the D-Community and beyond, a wonderful love-filled Valentine's Day!

{If you'd like to contribute to our Partner Follies guest post series, please contact us via email}


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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.