By Riley Gentry, Staff Writer–
For two years now, the College Diabetes Network has been a safe place for students with type one diabetes facing different but unifying challenges: everything from the struggle that comes with living away from parents to the need for diabetes supplies.
Kierstan Szalay, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee majoring in business marketing, is the president of the College Diabetes Network chapter at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
In speaking about the organization, Szalay said that “it is one of the best organizations I could be involved in on campus.”
She had considered starting a chapter herself until one of her friends said they were going to start a chapter. Szalay’s attention was sparked, and from that moment, she was all in and very excited to be a part of the club.
Carol Oglesby, assistant director of University Health Services, said anyone interested in joining the College Diabetes Network can reach out to her via email, phone call or in person. From there, she will get the person in contact with the group.
According to Oglesby, 57% of students with type one diabetes coming into college will suffer from depression.
She notes that “a lot of [the factors have] to do with trying to schedule classes around their insulin injections, whether students talk to one another about having type one diabetes, and getting access to good food.”
“That 57% needs a support group, and this is the perfect group for them. They become close very quick,” said Oglesby.
Szalay said her experience in the group has been amazing because of how supportive everyone is. If she is on campus and needs any supply that she doesn’t have on hand, she can text in the organization’s group chat and more often than not someone will have what she needs and be completely willing to help her out.
Support as she describes is beneficial because students like Szalay can remain on campus learning rather than searching for supplies.
According to Szalay, there are about 15 students involved in the chapter as of right now. The club usually meets once or twice a month, depending on the needs of the group.
At the meetings, the group will introduce themselves, and then they will have topic-specific discussions relating to diabetes. Towards the end of the meetings, the group will just hang out and talk about many things depending on the group’s needs for that specific meeting.
Oglesby said the group is a great resource for anyone with type one diabetes.
“They get together on a regular basis so that they can discuss anything that is new in research. If they need any doctors or specialists, that group would know exactly who they are and where they are,” said Oglesby.
The group usually sets up a table during club week where interested students can come and the group will introduce themselves, explaining who they are and what they do.
“Type 1 diabetes does no limit who the person is; it does not define them. I am much more than my disease,” said Szalay.
She added that just because a person has type one diabetes does not mean they can’t run a 5k race or be a painter.
“Type one diabetes is not something that you cause to yourself. It is not something I could have prevented by eating less sugar… my diabetes is here to stay,” said Szalay.
To learn more about how to get involved with the College Diabetes Network reach out to Carol Oglesby at Carol-Oglesby@utc.edu