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Living Well

Certified Diabetes Educators Make a Difference

Last updated: Jul 10, 2017

Paul Bauer knows firsthand that a diagnosis of diabetes can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Summit Medical Group has a team of coaches–known as certified diabetes educators (CDEs)–to help patients take control of their disease.

For years, the 60-year-old salesman had difficulty finding a sustainable diet and exercise plan, and the right medications, to keep his diabetes in check. Then, a few months ago, Paul’s health took a turn for the worse. He woke up with horrible foot pain–and his blood sugar was testing off the charts.

Paul decided it was time to make a serious change. He came to Rachel L. Castaneda-Parallag, MD, endocrinologist at Summit Medical Group, for advice. She suggested insulin injections and immediately connected him with Roger Warn, CDE.

“Roger changed my life. Ever since I started seeing him, my health began to turn around. I had diabetes books and took a course at a local hospital, but having that personal interaction made all the difference. Roger was a constant presence in my care,” says Paul.

“He taught me how to control my blood sugar with injectable insulin and followed up with me every couple of days. Roger was available to answer all my questions and sat with my wife, Holly, and I for hours discussing how carbs break down, how to cook the right meals, and how to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. This was so helpful, because Holly was instrumental in preparing healthy foods.”

What are Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs)?

CDEs are medical professionals, such as nurses, doctors, dietitians, or pharmacists, who receive extra years of specialized training in diabetes care, prevention, screening, and management. They augment the role of a physician in several ways, such as:

  • Educating patients and their family members to understand their disease

  • Teaching patients how to test and manage blood sugar levels

  • Providing nutrition counseling

  • Developing exercise plans

  • Overseeing oral medications

  • Training individuals how to administer insulin shots and use insulin pumps

  • Managing diabetic care plans, which include regular blood work and check-ups with their physician, and annual eye, foot, and dental care

  • Providing emotional support and motivation for patients as they make significant lifestyle changes

“More than 95 percent of diabetes care is self-managed by the patient so understandably a lot of questions come up, especially in the beginning. Most patients only see their doctor every 3 to 6 months so they need a partner who can help them with the day-to-day management of their disease,” says Margaret Eckler, MS, RD, CDE, at Summit Medical Group.

“We develop a strong relationship with the patient and the family. For example, we are available when a patient has a question about how a particular food pairing might affect their blood sugar, are confused about a reading on their glucose monitor, want advice about medication dosing, or simply need a little encouragement.”

How CDEs Motivate Patients

Ms. Eckler says some patients are reluctant to see CDEs because “they know what to do, but just aren’t doing it.” But CDEs help with more than education. They are trained to motivate and inspire patients to take charge of their health.

“In many cases, people come to us with a lot of knowledge, but they aren’t sure how to incorporate what they know they should be doing into their daily life. Motivation is a huge part of dealing with a chronic disease like diabetes. We spend time with the patient and try to understand what their barriers are and find ways to surmount them,” says Margaret.

Paul is the perfect example. With medication and a nutritious diet, he is already on the path towards a healthier life. Over the past two months, Paul has lost 13 pounds and his sugars have been consistently normal. He no longer feels lethargic or irritable.

“I still have work to do, but the important thing is that I am doing it and I feel so much better. Even though it has been a short period of time, making those changes really make all the difference. It is inspiring because I can see the results of my hard work,” says Paul.


  1. Interview with Jill Gora, MD, family physician at Summit Medical Group (5/9/17).

  2. Interview with Margaret Eckler, MS, RD, CDE, at Summit Medical Group. (5/4/17).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes. Web. 28 December 2016.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes. Web. 31 March 2015.