Jane K. Dickinson, faculty member and Director of Teachers College’s Master of Science Program in Diabetes Education and Management, has been named Diabetes Educator of the Year for 2019 by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).

Dickinson, who was selected from some 15,000 certified diabetes educators nationwide (and another estimated 15,000 in practice), was honored on August 18th at the AADE annual meeting in Baltimore.

Dickinson launched TC’s program, which was created by Kathleen O’Connell, the College’s Isabel Maitland Stewart Professor of Nursing Education, in 2011. Her research and publications focus on the language of diabetes and the impact health care messages have on people living with the disease. She earned her Ph.D. in Nursing at the University of Connecticut and her Master of Science in Nursing from Yale University.

“The words and messages that people with diabetes hear are often negative, judgmental, and self-defeating,” Dickinson says. Instead, she and her colleagues are working toward “person-centered, strengths-based, and empowering language” in collaboration with AADE, the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and other organizations – part of a broader paradigm of empowering and motivating people with diabetes to function as “the central members of their care teams, experts on their experiences, and integral to the management of their disease.”

The words and messages that people with diabetes hear are often negative, judgmental, and self-defeating and can contribute to stress and feelings of shame and judgment and negatively affect the motivation, health, and well-being of people with diabetes.

Jane K. Dickinson

In one recent paper, reflecting her work as head of a joint AADE/ADA task force, Dickinson and nine co-authors assert that language contributes to the “stigma that has historically been attached to a diagnosis of diabetes,” which “can contribute to stress and feelings of shame and judgment” and negatively affect “the motivation, health, and well-being of people with diabetes.” They argue for continuing efforts to remove terms such as “uncontrolled” from the diagnoses and reimbursement lexicon.

Dickinson also is involved in the Diabetes Online Community, where she maintains a blog titled “It’s All About Balance,” and is active in diabetes social media. Beginning in January, she will give lectures around the country on the topic of language and diabetes.

“The Diabetes Educator of the Year Award is a signature achievement for Jane,” says O’Connell. “This recognition brings highly deserved attention to Jane and to the unique, interprofessional program she has created and leads at Teachers College. Her work on language is fully consistent with TC’s emphasis on diversity and respect.”

Teachers College’s program in Diabetes Education and Management, housed within the College’s Department of Health & Behavioral Studies, is the nation’s first academic degree program for diabetes professionals. (The prevailing approach has been an apprenticeship model which, in essence, requires someone interested in the field to work as a diabetes educator in order to become one.) Offered completely online to accommodate working professionals, TC’s program has drawn people from the fields of nursing, nutrition, medicine, optometry, physical therapy, clinical psychology, occupational therapy, podiatry, health education, exercise physiology and dentistry. Students have represented 16 states, as well as Canada and Hong Kong. The program offers both a master of science degree and a post-master’s certificate in advanced diabetes topics.