Marjorie's Fund Dares Type I Diabetes
By Michelle Valigursky
Imagine a world in which individuals living with type 1 diabetes are armed with the education, medicine, and resources to do far more than simply survive. Dr. Jason Baker 98C 02M envisioned just such a world when he founded Marjorie’s Fund. “The mission of Marjorie’s Fund: The Type 1 Diabetes Global Initiative is to empower people living with type 1 diabetes in the developing world to survive diagnosis and thrive into adulthood.”
Inspired by the spirit of a woman named Marjorie “who was an ardent advocate for better healthcare and education for type 1 diabetes patients in Uganda,” Marjorie’s Fund is a driving force in Baker’s life. In October, the non-profit organization launched with an event in New York City, drawing interest and support from individuals and corporations from many sectors.
“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes myself while a medical student at Emory, and have always had access to excellent care and the needed resources to manage my diabetes well. When I travel to the developing world, even with my suitcase-full of diabetes supplies, I still find it hard to avoid wide swings in my blood sugar,” Baker explains. “I thought, if I have problems managing my diabetes with all of my treatment supplies, what does it mean for people living in these countries without those supplies?”
He continues, “Marjorie’s story can and must be prevented from playing out in other people with type 1 diabetes worldwide. All people with type 1 diabetes deserve a fighting chance to not only survive after diagnosis, but to thrive into adulthood. Diabetes has enhanced my life because I have the tools to manage it well; I can better see the strength that comes from the challenges of diabetes because my energies are not devoted to suffering from its complications. Others deserve that chance too. One day we will find a cure, but until that day we must work to find strength in this struggle.”
Understanding Type 1 Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association website, type 1 diabetes “is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life.”
Baker shares sobering statistics. “While the prevalence of type 1 diabetes is difficult to assess as many people die from the illness before being diagnosed, it is estimated that over 36 million individuals worldwide suffer from type 1 diabetes. This represents roughly ten percent of the estimated 366 million world-wide who have diabetes. The prevalence of type 1 diabetes is rising globally by 3-5% each year. To date, there is no cure for this disease.”
Marjorie’s Fund is committed to furthering understanding of this disease. “While we are working to help improve better diagnosis and treatment of type 1 diabetes, we are also supporting research efforts aimed at finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. We support research projects in under-studied areas of the world in the hope of uncovering the cause of type 1 diabetes and ultimately a cure,” Baker says.
Meaningful treatment requires arming individuals with accurate information as well as medical resources. Public education plays a critical role in Marjorie’s Fund and is one core principle for their global outreach. As the fund’s mission statement reveals, “Marjorie’s Fund envisions directly impacting and enriching patient lives in areas of the world where the need is the greatest and most critical, ensuring parity in standard of care between the developed and the developing world.”
Education about the disease is critically important. “Type 1 diabetes requires a lot of brain power to manage, and demands knowledge of how medicine, nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and lifestyle impact diabetes control. Without this knowledge, people with type 1 diabetes stand little chance of understanding, and thus taking control of, their illness. Education is a sustainable and viral resource which can exponentially help people to conquer diabetes,” Baker says.
Marjorie’s Fund Vice Chairman Sandy Narayanan reports that outreach includes a 150-patient project in India with CMC and the Vellore Department of Endocrinology at the Diabetes and Metabolism Young Diabetic Clinic, a 130-patient effort in Uganda at Mulago Hospital’s Kampala Pediatric Diabetes Clinic, educational efforts at Addis Ababa University and University of Gondar in Ethiopia, and work with the Rwanda Diabetes Association. Narayanan shares, “We plan to expand domestically, as there are people with type 1 diabetes suffering from the same complications and lack of resources right here in the United States. We realize now more than ever that type 1 diabetes is truly a global struggle.”
In November, Baker traveled to Rwanda to partner with Team Type 1 (TT1) as part of a bicycle marathon there to raise awareness about type 1 diabetes. ”Professionally, this was part of an effort to partner with other organizations working to raise awareness about type 1 diabetes and to help emphasize how important diet and exercise are on the management of diabetes. Personally I find exercise to be a vital component of managing my diabetes, and applaud the efforts of TT1 in spreading this message.”
So what does the future hold for patients with type 1 diabetes? Baker is confident the outlook remains positive. “I believe a cure is on the horizon for type 1 diabetes. Until that time, everyone with type 1 diabetes deserves the chance to not only survive diagnosis, but thrive into adulthood. We at Marjorie’s Fund aim to help find that cure, and while doing so help improve the quality and quantity of life for all people living with type 1 diabetes.”