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Interviewing Health Activists: Cherise, Founder of Diabetes Social Media Advocacy Chat (#DSMA)

If you check your Twitter stream as much as I do, you’ve probably seen a flurry of tweets every Wednesday evening marked with with the hashtag #dsma. If so, you’ve stumbled upon (or perhaps even participated in) the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy Chat! This week, WEGO Health had the opportunity to speak with its creator, Diabetes Health Activist Cherise Shockley about why she started the #dsma chat and what she thinks of Health Activism.

WEGO Health: Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us, Cherise! You’re doing great things for the online Diabetes community – what’s your personal background with Diabetes?

Cherise: I was diagnosed with Type 1.5/LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) in June of 2004 at the age of 23. When I was first diagnosed I was shocked. I cried. The Nurse Practitioner held me and told me it would be ok. I called my Mom and of course I cried some more. My husband was in Iraq when I was diagnosed so I had to figure out how to live with diabetes on my own; I put a lot a faith in God and the internet. I did not know a lot people with Type 2 or Type 1 and never heard of LADA. What was LADA? What can I eat? What can’t I eat? Carb counts? And the list goes on and on. Once I figured what LADA was and I could live with it. I was able to breathe! I try not to get emotional about having diabetes but every once in a while it has a way of trying to find the emotional button and turning it on but I quickly turn it off.

WEGO Health: What is “#dsma” and how did it start? What made you take this leap?

Cherise: #dsma (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) is a weekly twitter chat about diabetes.

I started #dsma based off the #hcsm chat that Dana Lewis moderates on Sunday evenings. I wanted to make a patient-based chat for the diabetes online community and I knew she would be able to offer some insight. After, I spoke with her and a few other people in the diabetes community. I knew in my heart that #dsma twitter chat would be a perfect way to show support for one another, advocate for diabetes using social media, and help spread awareness for diabetes.

WEGO Health: What was the feedback from the diabetes community? From the greater online medical community?

Cherise: I am so thankful and blessed the Diabetes Online Community (D-OC) supported #dsma from the beginning. The D-OC is what helped #dsma become what is today. I get a lot of positive feedback from the D-OC via blog postings and twitter. I have grown as a Patient and Advocate. You can edit a blog but you can’t edit a tweet; the raw emotion from someone in 140 characters is powerful and very empowering. I have not received any feedback from the greater online medical community.

WEGO Health: Yet! The #dsma chat is actually a great model for leaders of other health conditions to follow – we will certainly point anyone interested in starting a chat for their condition your way for a great example of what to do!

How important is connecting with other people with diabetes, in your opinion, and how does it help improve your own diabetes health and well-being?

Cherise: Connecting people with diabetes is very important to me because I was always the “only” one. I had support from my husband and family but there are times when they did not understand. Diabetes can be a very lonely disease; no one should have to live with diabetes alone. We all may treat our diabetes different but when it comes to the emotional, physical and mental side of diabetes someone in the diabetes community can relate.

I have learned a lot about living with diabetes from reading blogs, participating in diabetes online community and on Twitter. There are 5 things that I have taken from the community and that have helped my well being and diabetes health- 1. It’s not my fault. 2. Be patient 3. Every day is different 4. Diabetes is manageable even when it seems like it’s not. 5. I am not alone.

WEGO Health: Do you consider yourself a Health Activist? Why or why not?

Cherise: Yes, I consider myself a Health Activist. I believe in helping, supporting and advocating for people living with diabetes. I believe in educating those who do not understand diabetes and fighting for people who deny People living with Diabetes the proper care they deserve. The only difference is I do not march or picket; I will if I have too. I use social media as a tool to discuss issues around the world and around the diabetes community.

WEGO Health: How can people get involved with #dsma?

Cherise: You can participate in #dsma every Wednesday night at 9PM EST, the diabetes community, family members of PWD’s and caretakers get together once a week to participate in #dsma on twitter. The topics vary from questions on living with diabetes, media, food, infusion sites, meters, and more. If you would like to participate in Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (#dsma) it’s easy to do: follow @diabetessocmed or the hash tag #dsma, please make sure you add the #dsma to your tweets. If you have a question or a topic to submit you can visit http://www.diabetessocmed.com/ and go to the submit topic tab-you can also find previous #dsma chats and transcripts at http://www.diabetessocmed.com/.

WEGO Health: Thanks Cherise! You’re a great example of how to use Twitter to really take advantage of an awesome online community! We look forward to seeing more of the great work you’re doing for the online Diabetes community.

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