College and Diabetes

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro


    Summer is a very exciting time for many young adults with diabetes. Many are transitioning to college and beginning a new chapter in their lives. Moving into a college environment can be stressful for all students, let alone for those with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. During a recent clinic visit, one of my college-bound patients praised the College Diabetes Network for helping her choose a college that was diabetes-friendly.


    According to the College Diabetes Network (CDN) website (, “The CDN is a 501c# non-profit organization, whose mission is to empower and improve the lives of students living with type 1 diabetes through peer support and access to information and resources.” My understanding is that the CDN was founded by a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009 and began as a small campus student group. That group has grown into a large national organization with several chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

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    On the CDN website, there is a tab with college chapters so that prospective students can view resources available to them at specific schools. It provides a list of schools that have a relationship with CDN. There also are tabs listing job opportunities, availability of scholarships, study abroad and nutrition tips, advocacy/student rights, sports/exercise information, and ways to connect with other students.


    Another interesting section is entitled “Don’t want to ask your doctor?”These questions were answered by Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE and his team at Integrated Diabetes Services, LLC. Of course, I would personally hope that all young adults with diabetes feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues with their healthcare provider, but that would be the ideal situation. In addition, we know that there is often poor follow-up with diabetes care providers as students matriculate and leave home. Distance and timing of student vacations adds to the difficulty of keeping in touch. However, students should be aware that they can personally communicate with their diabetes healthcare provider by phone and email to keep the lines of communication open.


    Typical questions include telling the difference between being low and intoxicated; what to do when vomiting after drinking; dealing with high blood sugars after drinking; the morning after; eating and drinking with alcohol,; exercise and alcohol; and alcohol and continuous glucose monitoring accuracy.


    Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that drinking alcohol is illegal for individuals under 21 years of age.


    It is important to have a plan if alcohol consumption does occur at any age, and CDN does provide accurate responses to these concerns.


    There is an additional tab for parental concerns that discuss care packages and keeping the peace with interesting vignettes about college students with diabetes. There also are blogs available on the site to read.


    At our Diabetes Program at Children’s National Health System, we try to work with college students directly and ask that they contact us with any concerns, issues, or for sick-day management. Most importantly, it is essential to develop a transition plan for adolescents as they become young adults to help ease them forward to the college experience. Ideally, we hope that all college students know their insulin regimen, when refills of medication are required, sick- day management, who to call for assistance,and college resources available for dealing with difficulties. Attempts to accomplish this degree of independence should begin at least one year prior to starting college in order to help students gradually assume responsibilities.


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    Websites such as the College Diabetes Network provide additional support for college students and caregivers; however, please remember that your diabetes care team is still available to support your family through this significant transition period.


Published On: August 05, 2014