January 17, 2020

JT’s #RealT1DLyfe: Channeling the Difficulties of Chronic Disease into a Compassionate Career in Medicine

Living with Type 1 for the last 15 years has been simultaneously absolutely exhausting and a compelling/ continuous opportunity for personal growth and empathy-building with other patients of chronic diseases.

My grandmother came to live with my family when I was seven- in very poor health. Unfortunately, like many living in remote rural settings, she lacked access to routine healthcare, and her diabetes had already begun damaging her nerves, affecting her sight, and impairing her kidney function by the time she was diagnosed. My experience with diabetes became even more personal five years later when my own diagnosis was similarly delayed in rural East Texas.

After earning my BS/ MA in Biology and running track at Baylor University, I moved to California to attend Stanford Medical School, and am currently applying to attend residency in Ophthalmology.*Editor’s Note: JT has just been accepted to the program at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, congratulations JT!  During medical school, I’ve been able to start a Bay Area running group and training sessions for young and newly diagnosed diabetics to learn to manage their sugars during exercise. I am also a Dexcom Warrior and Lyfebulb Ambassador, and currently conduct research demonstrating how internet search traffic can be used to locate pockets of patients in need of diabetes-related surgical procedures or healthcare, such as diabetic retinopathy screening programs.

We all know how difficult diabetes can make everyday life – as patients, family members, significant others, across the board. Having been a patient dealing with a chronic disease that affects you every minute of every day has definitely given me a unique perspective and empathy for patients that I wish more doctors could experience. It’s very difficult to see the underlying stress, fear, and frustration that accompany a chronic illness like diabetes. In that way, being diabetic has pushed me to become a better physician and I am so grateful that I get to talk with and encourage other diabetics in the hospital regardless of which service I’m working with.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out! Jonathan Tijerina jdt2015@stanford.edu @jonathan.david.tijerina