(August 2020) At the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, we have faced the pandemic with a view toward the future. As cases of the novel coronavirus began presenting and comorbidities like diabetes impacted patients at significantly higher rates, we knew that our work to find a cure was more important than ever.
Our scientists, many of whom are directly impacted by type 1 diabetes, have continued their research despite the challenges placed before them. They’re working remotely, writing research papers, following up on necessary experiments in the lab one person at a time, while continuing to collaborate with partners near and far to move us closer to a cure as quickly as possible. It reminds all of us that Hope Isn’t Quarantined, and it drives us to raise the funds necessary for this critical work to continue.
Our team has taken the time to focus on three key areas:
• Lead with empathy
• Stay the course, but focus on the essentials
• Innovate for the future
The first priority was to recognize that our community was facing the unknown – unsure of the virus, unsure of the economy, of travel, of attending school. Our team approached this uncertainty with a simple philosophy, to lead with empathy. We called our closest supporters, checked in with our community and listened. Through our efforts to connect, we learned a lot about one another. We learned that our friends and supporters wanted to hear from us. They wanted to know that the work at the Diabetes Research Institute was still moving forward. It is a message that has resonated. Simply put, people will not often remember what you say to them but they remember how you make them feel.
Last year, I logged over 120,000 miles in the air. The pandemic forced all of us to rethink our work and the way we perform it. As a diabetic myself, and a fourth generation one at that, the time working from home provided me with the perfect opportunity to review the essentials of how we operate. In any organization, its people are its most valuable asset. Good leaders recognize that and work to ensure that in times of crisis its people are taken care of. Working with the leadership team, we crafted a plan to ensure there would be no furloughs of our staff. In fact, we were and are full steam ahead. Reorganizing ourselves to ensure a focus on efficiencies while equally looking at cost containment efforts became key. We worked to put in place clear metrics for every team member. We outlined our playbook for the future with clarity of vision, focus and purpose, in an effort to achieve one goal – find a cure so we can turn the lights off at the Diabetes Research Institute.
We’re innovating in order to adapt to the new normal or as we define it, the “new new,” because normal is constantly changing these days. I’ve challenged myself and the staff to think differently about our work and how we go about it. With people unable to travel and visit the labs within the DRI, how do we tell our story to those who are interested? Soon we’ll debut a virtual tour robot that will allow guests to wander through the labs and visit with our scientists from the comfort of their home. With so many members of our community concerned about their children going back into the classroom, we organized a Back to School with T1D in a COVID World Town Hall, so that people around the country could learn from a national panel of experts. Our events are shifting from large in person gatherings to small at-home events that will have a national scale.
As I stated before and we continue to recite as a mantra, Hope Isn’t Quarantined. We are not and will not slow down our efforts to find a cure, despite COVID’s best attempt.
The Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation continue to be the best place to invest philanthropic dollars for those who want to put an end to diabetes. On behalf of our DRI scientists and our diabetes community, we invite you to join us and Be Part of the Cure. We’re excited for the future and hope that you are, as well!