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Using Diabetes as a Guide #dblogweek

Today marks the final day of dblogweek for 2017 and today's topic is "More Than Diabetes" which is a topic focused on letting readers of dblog week get to know me better. Below is the prompt, makes pretty good sense.
Lets wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with.  Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can.   Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes, because there is more to life than just diabetes!
 For people who have previously read my blog, you would likely know some of the story of me outside of diabetes, but after diagnosis (just before my senior year in High School) it really did shape my life quite a bit, it changed the course of my life forever. It started me on the course to go into a major in college where I could use my skills to make a difference in the lives of other people in my situation or help the lives of others who face daily struggles with a chronic illness.

I went to the University of Iowa and studied Biomedical Engineering.  This was all in order to initially try to get into medical school and become a doctor, the hope was to be an endocrinologist of some sort and help those patients who are also dealing with diabetes on a regular basis.  After 3 years of classes and taking the MCAT, I decided it wasn't the right path for me and decided to do the stuff that I loved doing, and change paths to more of a software role and try to help on the software side of things. Wanting to learn more before pushing forward, I wanted to take more time to hone my skills as a developer.

I went into my masters degree in Biomedical Engineering hoping that I would then move on to teaching students in a college level, I really enjoyed teaching programming to students and was able to convey the concepts fairly well (I thought, at least). In order to do that, I had to do research and was able to get in with the University of Iowa Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, also known as the Coordinated Laboratory for Computational Genomics (apparently their webservers and thus website are down as I write this post). This allowed me to learn more about how genomic sequencing works, how analysis of that sequencing is performed and attempt to re-create and do some research in that track.  Without too much of a large project for myself, I was quickly moved to a Health Analytics project working on attempting to leverage machine learning techniques and algorithms in order to predict the likelihood of cancer recurrence in head and neck cancer patients.

I really thoroughly enjoyed the work that I did as a graduate student, and learned a LOT about Machine Learning and just how important it is to have good data to work with. After 2 and a half years, I was told a Ph.D. was not in my future and I decided to look for a job out in the real world. I interviewed at 3 companies, surprised they took me as a software engineer for hire not having a software degree, electrical engineering degree or computer science degree (not even a minor), but I interviewed nevertheless. Today marks the 3rd year that I've been at my current company, Cerner, and I feel I've finally been able to come full circle and help people who are battling for their lives. I work on a bunch of really cool solutions where the focus is on patient care and improving outcomes for those patients. While at the hospital, the care of patients is in the hands of their caretakers, namely Nurses, and if what my job is is making the lives of nurses easier and less stressful, and to provide better care for their patients, I consider it a success.

When I would talk to prospective new hires during recruiting dinners, I would always tell about how working at Cerner is a very personal thing for me.  As diabetics, we are CONSTANTLY in the hospital, constantly trying to care for ourselves with the tools available, constantly trying to figure out how our body works, without the budgets of research groups who are looking way more in depth on the topic. I hope, one day, to write software that helps my live directly, and the lives of diabetics directly.  I've found myself wanting to contribute where I can, but also realize that my time has been much more focused on myself, trying to improve my A1c, which has been met with amazing success. My A1c during my last visit was sub-7, which is astounding given the amount of work I have to do to keep that on track. As this blog posts, I'm likely sitting in the Waiting room to the Doctor's Office waiting for my first real checkup of 2017 with my Endocrinologist, and other than the most recent few hours, (yeah, I had pizza, what are you going to do about it) My blood sugars the past few days have been amazingly good.  I'm learning more and more about how my body reacts to different foods, and different stresses.

As I look back on the last 2 years, where I've been able to get my A1c way more stable, I know what I need to focus on with respect to my health and my future. I don't want to get myself down, I don't want to stress out, but I have real changes to make in order to improve my own outcomes. All of my experience as a Software Engineer at a Healthcare IT company tell me that patient outcomes are influenced by the staff supporting the patient, but most importantly the patient themselves and having access to the tools that THEY need in order to succeed. My job has a huge reliance on myself doing what I need to do, to give myself the best outcomes that I can attain. I really look forward to improving almost everything about my life, and improving my day-to-day health, energy, and general feeling.


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