JDRF Children’s Congress Pt. 3 (Capitol Hill) – Oliver Shane 8/28/23

Hello! Welcome back to the Poetic Diabetic! In my last few blogs, I talked about the first couple days of my JDRF Children’s Congress experience. This two-part blog will serve to capstone those prior ones by discussing the final day of the event as well as my thoughts about the experience as a whole. After an early breakfast with the rest of the delegates, we rushed off to attend the 2023 Children’s Congress Senate hearing on our last day!

The hearing started promptly at 10 AM, with the T1D role models, over 106 delegates (& each of the delegate’s parent), and more than ten senators in attendance. Senator Susan Collins of Maine kicked off the hearing with a warm welcome. The panel speakers in the hearing were Director of the National Institute of Diabetes, Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, JDRF CEO, Dr. Aaron J. Kowalski, and “Jimmy Jam” (Music Producer and father to a son with diabetes). There were also Children’s Congress Delegates who were asked to share their story, and their names were Maria and Elise.

Progress in Production, as Supported By The Speakers

The speaker testimonies focused on how SDP-funded research has ushered in a new era of type 1 diabetes management. For instance, Dr. Kowalski highlighted the significance of the FDA’s approval of preventive treatments that can delay clinical diagnosis of type 1 diabetes for several years. This milestone achievement, resulting from clinical trials supported by the SDP, offers people with diabetes much needed reprieve from the immediate need for insulin and blood glucose monitoring.

Another focal point of the hearing talked about how relevant the SDP was for pioneering research. Dr. Kowalski and the other speakers highlighted the critical contributions of SDP-supported initiative: TrialNet. This research initiative has led to a paradigm-shifting understanding of type 1 diabetes progression, enabling the identification of potential therapies and the pursuit of prevention trials. The importance of ongoing research and clinical trials, such as those exploring new prevention approaches, was emphasized as a path forward.

Another highlight of the hearing centered around the success of the various SDP-supported artificial pancreas devices which have significantly improved the lives of individuals with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Kowalski proudly announced that six artificial pancreas devices are now on the market, with five of them having been supported by the SDP. These breakthroughs not only ease the burden of daily glucose management but also offer life-changing benefits for children with diabetes as young as two. With his eyes towards the future, Dr. Kowalski discussed that the development of the next generation of artificial pancreas devices hopes to include fully automated systems. The best part is that this goal of a “bionic pancreas,” is within reach! This research into further understanding of insulin-producing beta cells and developing ways to protect and replace them remains a high priority, signaling a promising future for potential cures.

Personal Anecdotes from Speakers in Attendance

At various points throughout the hearing, the testimonies took a personal turn as certain individuals shared their own journeys with type 1 diabetes. Esteemed songwriter, producer, and musician Jimmy Jam recounted his family’s experience, highlighting the challenges they faced and the crucial role that SDP-supported research played in improving their lives. The emotional impact of the testimonies heightened the urgency of needing the SDP renewal and more affordable insulin access.

Two remarkable delegates, Maria and Elise, took the stand to represent the countless young Americans living with type 1 diabetes. Maria shared her dream of a future without the disease and expressed hope for continued funding of diabetes research. Elise’s poignant testimony highlighted her journey with diabetes, the advancements in treatment, and the need for affordable insulin access to ensure the well-being of all individuals in similar situations.

The Senate’s Confirmatory Response

Following the presentations, the hearing featured a Q&A session with Senators who looked for insights and solutions from the present. Senator Jon Tester emphasized the urgency of a biological cure for diabetes, while Dr. Rogers discussed the Human Islet Research Network (HIRN), focusing on stem cells’ transformation into insulin-producing cells. Lastly, Senator John Neely Kennedy brought a moment of much-needed humor into the room, comparing “yada” ramblers to people opposing these bills.

The hearing ended with a resounding call to action from all those involved. The five speakers once more emphasized the bipartisan nature of diabetes research and urged the Senators to renew the SDP to ensure continued research. At last, the Senators went back to their chamber, and the 2023 JDRF Senate Hearing was concluded!

The Senate Hearing was full of interesting and empowering moments, and I was incredibly grateful to attend. Thankfully, though, the hearing wasn’t the only event we had on Capitol Hill that day! We also got to meet with a handful of Senators and Representatives from the regions we represented. More on that in the final blog, though, as this one’s already gone on long enough. With that, I bid you adieu.

See you next time, from one diabetic to another!