insulINdepence Conference 2013

Recap of North American insulINdependence (IN) Conference on Diabetes and Exercise
by Bill King

As a longtime board member of the International Diabetes Athletes Association (IDAA) and Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (DESA), I looked forward with anticipation to the August 17 – 19, 2013 North American Conference on diabetes and exercise, which took place at the Marriott Hotel Conference Center in San Diego, CA. I particularly wanted to see how this first annual conference by Insulindependence, the host organization, might absorb the traditions of prior diabetes conferences and add their own updates to assist today’s athletes with diabetes.

IDAA/DESA was founded by Paula Harper back in the 1980’s in response to a lack of support for people with diabetes on the do’s and don’ts on safe exercise and activity. Over the years, the organization grew and in 1994, the first annual conference was held in Chula Vista, CA.

The first scheduled event of this year’s conference was on Friday afternoon. Buses arrived at the Marriott Marquis at 2:00 pm for a tour of the Tandem Diabetes Care facility, which is headquartered nearby in San Diego. Close to 50 conference attendees took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the most innovative and anticipated insulin pump system on the US market, the Tandem t:slim. In years past, DESA conferences would often include tours of local companies that developed diabetes innovations and medicines.  The Tandem tour was well done and a wonderful look at the quality of their products, the manufacturing process, the unique attention to the customer, and a discussion about features and future technological visions in a bionic pancreas. Later in the evening, IN held a VIP reception for all of the former DESA Board members and the faculty and presenters of this year’s conference. This was the first time we all had a look at the friends and attendees from past DESA conferences as well as many celebrities and accomplished athletes with diabetes.

The conference Saturday started bright and early with a group run/walk at 7:00 am with a choice of 3, 5 or 7 miles along the beautiful San Diego harbor. There was a great turn out for the run and with 30+ runners holding a good pace through the out and back pre-determined course. 

The conference’s Opening Welcome Address was delivered by Felicia Gelsey, the incoming board chair of Insulindependence. Felicia did a masterful job of updating the attendees on the state of the union and mission of IN. Founder and President, Peter Nerothin, then addressed the development of the conference and the goal of delivering the same quality and impact he received at his first DESA conference as well as taking the event to new levels of impact and excitement. Peter really paid great respect to the efforts of Paula Harper and many others who influenced the path of support for athletes living healthier lives with diabetes.

Then the education programs began, including exercise physiology, exercise nutrition, using CGMs and insulin pumps, exercise gadgets and technology, supplemental carbs to energize the athletes with diabetes, anaerobic strength training, and insulin pumps.

Many corporate vendors had their latest diabetes technologies as well as their representatives. There was a noticeable gap in meter companies most likely due to the sudden and drastic drop in glucose strip reimbursements that is now underway and that may limit access to accurate meter testing technology. 

At 7:00 pm, Tandem Diabetes Care sponsored the Greatest Awards Show in Diabetes at the San Diego House of Blues. The cost of attendance was an additional $50.00 charge and the loud venue was a distraction from the focus of the actual award winners but it was a big party that was very well attended.

Sunday morning began with quality Tai Chi with our very own Judith Ambrosini followed by a report on the progress of the Bionic Pancreas project by Dr Steve Russell. The final presentation was delivered by a panel of athletes who have been living healthy lives with diabetes for an average of over 50 years each. Paula Harper, Judith Ambrosini, Jerry Nairin and Bill Carlson answered questions from Drs. Steve Edelman and Bill Polonsky.

All in all, the 2013 INNAC was a high quality event with great attendance and presentations. I was a bit disappointed that there was little focus on the emotional aspects of diabetes and exercise, using the strategy of humor and the role the type 3* diabetic plays. I had misgivings regarding the high cost of the venue of the most expensive hotel in San Diego.  On the positive side, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of presenters and the number of VIP athletes in attendance as well as so many past DESA members. The future of diabetes and exercise continues to grow as shown by many young and new attendees who are reinventing extreme sports with diabetes. I congratulate Peter Nerothin and the staff of Insulindependence for their successful efforts in planning and executing such a high quality conference with their first event.

* Type 3 refers to friends and loved ones who are helping or are responsible for a person with diabetes.

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