MiChelle McGarry, MSN, RN, CPNP, CUNP has provided countless hours over the past 8 years supporting families living with type 1 diabetes by fighting for fairness and safety in the school setting. MiChelle became involved with the American Diabetes Association and the Safe at School program when her own son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago. According to MiChelle, at the time, even having practiced as a pediatric nurse practitioner for many years, she didn't understand what all was available to kids with special health needs in the school system. The program was so helpful for her and her son that she wanted to support other kids and families managing diabetes, as well as the individuals caring for kids in school, by making diabetes management in school the least stressful as it could be. MiChelle now serves an essential role as an American Diabetes Association Colorado's Lead Parent Advocate and enjoys helping families realize what they can do to support kids with diabetes. According to MiChelle, it amazes her every school year when she does Safe at School trainings how many people don't understand the disease, or what a 504 plan is.
MiChelle is our go-to expert and has traveled across the state of Colorado and to Montana to educate and train families, volunteer advocates, school nurses, providers, Department of Education staff, state legislators and school administration to make positive changes in the treatment of children with type 1 diabetes. She has been instrumental not only in supporting families facing discrimination issues with a school, but also working to empower families to know their rights and work collaboratively with school personnel and their medical providers. She has been a strong voice in the Colorado Kids With Diabetes Care and Prevention Collaborative developing standardized materials and guidelines for families and school nurses (www.coloradokidswithdiabetes.org). She's established training guidelines for parent advocate volunteers and provides Safe at School workshops about 5 times a year in multiple locations, as well as ongoing trainings for school nurses around the state. She has also recently been invited by one of the largest school districts in Colorado to consult directly with their school nurses to make sure that they are adhering to the standards and requirements and provide consistent diabetes care throughout the district.
As a certified pediatric nurse practitioner she has also taught college nursing courses and recruits 100s of student volunteers to participate in our American Diabetes Association EXPO, Day at the Capitol, and to sign up as Diabetes Advocates each year, while also incorporating diabetes care into her coursework. She also volunteers with our Family Link and Camp programs and has worked to incorporate the Safe at School messaging into programs and events throughout the year. It's hard to say exactly how many people she has recruited through her various trainings and one-on-one support to families, but I would estimate that she educates and recruits about 200 new advocates each year. MiChelle's commitment to advocating for students, families and school caregivers ensures the safety of students throughout Colorado, Montana and Wyoming and allows kids with diabetes the ability to do their best in school, while making certain their diabetes is managed in the best possible way.
I'm constantly amazed and thankful for MiChelle's guidance, knowledge and expertise. Her positivity is unwavering and her commitment to this cause is inspiring. Last October, MiChelle was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and required multiple surgeries and ongoing chemo and radiation to help her survive. Throughout this time she remained committed to the American Diabetes Association, continuing to lead Safe at School workshops and work with families and schools to navigate issues and concerns despite her own health complications. Having had the privilege to briefly work with Steve Bieringer, and to now have the opportunity to work with MiChelle, she is very deserving of this award and truly embodies the tireless commitment to fight for fairness for those living with diabetes that Steve was so passionate about.