Diabetes education specialist prioritizes the patient connection



Virginia Valentine, APRN, BC-ADM, CDE, FAADE, has seen the tremendous growth of medical technology in the diabetes field firsthand. Continuous glucose monitoring is just one of the many advanced offerings medical professionals can offer their patients. However, these technologies are not available to every person with diabetes. For Valentine, a diabetes specialist at the Clinica La Esperanza in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who has type 2 diabetes herself, addressing these gaps is of utmost importance for the future of the field.

Diabetes education specialist prioritizes the patient connection 1

Virginia Valentine

Valentine, who is also a volunteer clinician faculty member with the Endo ECHO program at the University of New Mexico and the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award from the American Diabetes Association, discussed her passion for connecting with patients, the impressive impact of CGM and her own personal connection with diabetes in an interview with Endocrine Today.

What was the defining moment that led you to your field?

Valentine: It was when I was a new nurse and realized I enjoyed working with people who were dealing with chronic diseases. I like having patients that I work with over a long period of time. They become friends. I just found that was much more interesting than working with acute short-term patients.

Also, everybody in my family has type 2 diabetes, so it was always one of those things. I knew I would end up with diabetes, which I did, so that gave me another reason to be interested in diabetes.

What area of research most interests you right now and why?

Valentine: An area that we’re seeing that’s truly growing is all the technology that’s available to help patients track what’s going on, such as continuous glucose monitoring. Also, new technologies for medication delivery. That technology is most fascinating and something that has great promise to help a lot of people.

Right now, we’re seeing all kinds of cool gadgets and products. Unfortunately, they’re not available to everybody, so access to these kinds of technologies — being able to scale it up to be available to the masses — is our next big challenge. There is such great promise with a lot of this technology. It would be nice if we could make it available equally across all of our patients.

What do you think will have the greatest influence on diabetes care in the next 10 years?

Valentine: Some of the medications that we now have available — that are not only diabetes medications it turns out — have great promise for reducing cardiovascular disease and renal complications. It breaks my heart sometimes when I can’t get those medicines for some of my patients. I work in a little clinic in an underserved area, so not everybody has the insurance that will cover it. That’s a disappointment for me.

Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?

Valentine: One of my first jobs out of graduate school was working for the state health department in Oklahoma. I had a wonderful opportunity to help establish diabetes education programs in county health departments. We were able to introduce patients to glucose monitoring. It was brand new. It gave people a huge amount of information, and I saw the impact that it made on patients. Now, here we are 38 years later and seeing a huge impact. The continuous glucose monitoring systems give patients that ability to see what’s happening with their blood glucose and what foods are doing to their blood glucose. It’s like turning the lights on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a new technology take off and grow as fast as CGM. Patients just love it. When they have the opportunity to have a CGM, it changes their life and gives them huge ability to engage with their diabetes.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of your field?

Valentine: Diabetes is one of my main hobbies, but one of my others is I have a 7-year-old granddaughter. Getting to be a part of her life and doing stuff with her is always great fun. I also love cooking and baking. Not the best hobby for a person with type 2 diabetes, but it’s something I enjoy.

Whom do you most admire and what would you ask that person if you had 5 minutes with him/her?

Valentine: Lois Jovanovic, MD, was a huge mentor for me. During my first diabetes training, I was able to go to a class that she and Charles M. Peterson, MD, developed for Cornell University, and we bonded over the years. If I were to talk to her now, I’d say, “What’s next Lois? What’s the next big thing?” – by Phil Neuffer


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