My Experience at the DTC Conference



Days after many of my fellow diabetes advocates and bloggers were at the Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum giving their valuable input, I was in Washington D.C. attending the National DTC (Direct to Consumer) Conference for the thought leaders in the healthcare marketing industry.

On Wednesday I met one of DTC’s 25 Top Marketers of 2012 and the Discuss Diabetes blog community manager, Sanofi’s Laura Kolodjeski.  She interviewed me about my diabetes and blog (and more!) and we spent the day chatting about our unique perspectives on Pharma’s role in social media and in patient communities.

The 36 hours before meeting Laura, I was so nervous and full of adrenaline and struggling with blood sugars between 250 and 300 because of my anxiety issues with public speaking and social situations in general.  But for the 36 hours after initially meeting Laura, my blood sugars hovered much closer to normal and didn’t go higher than 175.  And I have to say this is because she was so genuinely kind, humble, and interested in what I had to say.  She totally put me at ease with her friendly self.  I listened to her carefully as well and It’s my impression that she is very much aligned to the role I believe a healthcare marketer should have-and that is to listen and work to serve the needs and desires of the patient, or as she prefers to say, “healthcare consumer”.

It really was such a pleasure to meet Laura as well as her colleagues Sean Nicholson and Jeff Risley.  I also had the pleasure of meeting Ann Bartlett, whose posts I’ve been reading on Healthcare Central for some time now.  She owns a Wellness Center and has had type 1 diabetes for a long time (and though I didn’t pry into her health status, I must say, she looks fabulously healthy).

I found we all agreed that there should be a healthy integration between healthy lifestyle habits and the use of what Pharma provides.  We can work together for the benefit of all.  Is this a tough task?  You betcha.  Are there people in Pharma who don’t get this?  Loads of them.  But I was so inspired to meet a few individuals who work for the common good and for communication and understanding between both parties.  I agree with Ann Bartlett, I could never say that I will shun pharmaceuticals for they keep me alive.  But I will always do my best to rely as little on them as necessary.  And I’m proud of that.

What I went to do in D.C. was to take part on a 3 person panel alongside Laura Kolodjeski and’s Ade Adeyokunnu.  We were to talk about what we thought about 3 start up companies that WEGO Health’s Bob Brooks gathered to the conference to showcase their products.  Then the DTC crowd voted for the one they thought provided the most value.  Interestingly, It was a three way tie.  Also, I’m happy to report Bob Brooks is a really energetic, fun guy.  This showcase event was his great idea.

I will be telling you about the three start up’s in coming posts because they are genuinely awesome, awesome products that have no side effects-just side benefits-you’ll see :)

I was nervous before speaking (you all know my history with anxiety!) and yet I was shocked to discover that as soon as I sat down in front of the mic, I felt the weight of the opportunity hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wanted to speak up.  I was ready.  Laura and Bob reminded me that Ade and I had special perspectives to offer which had never really been heard before at one of these conferences and that people were seriously going to be listening.  They made the point that it was important that we represent our communities by speaking up and just being honest.

And so we did.

I went to the conference intimidated by who I was surrounded by.  Top thought leaders in Pharma.  Then I got to know a few, networked with a few others, and suddenly didn’t feel intimidated anymore.  I remembered that we’re all people.  I stand for a great varied number of specific things.  And so does Pharma.  I hope they don’t judge me on a generalization, and I’ll try not to judge them as if they were one single unit.  We should just talk about specifics and continue talking to each other.  The battle of “good vs. evil” doesn’t belong here.  And everyone agrees there is a lot of work to be done in our country’s healthcare system.  Communication is an essential part of that work.

Thanks to WEGO Health for this opportunity and for providing an honorarium for the trip.  It didn’t even cover half of my expenses but that’s not because it wasn’t generous-instead, Washington D.C. costs several month’s worth of test strips (And ya’ll know that’s a lot!)

This opportunity opened up to me for signing up at WEGO Health for the Speaker’s Bureau.  If you’re interested, do sign up, they actually utilize us health activists and provide us and our communities the platforms with which to be heard!  Awesome stuff.

Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “My Experience at the DTC Conference

  1. Jeff Risley

    It was great meeting you, too, Sysy. You’re a smart, funny and compassionate advocate for the Diabetes community. You’re right…we’re all just people, and you, Laura and Ann are great examples of how “just people” can work so well together for the common good.

  2. Scully

    This was awesome to read! you are a superstar and I’m so glad you are out there speaking up. I know you are speaking with all of us in mind and I appreciate that!
    great news.

  3. Laura K.


    I want to thank you, sincerely, for such a thoughtful post on your experience. Having had the opportunity to spend time with me, I suspect this will not come as a surprise to you… but, you choked me up with your references to me personally.

    I, too, had an exceptional experience at the conference. Yes, I was pleased to participate on the Panel and was certainly humbled by the Top 25 DTC Marketer of the Year recognition; but, it was our time together that truly left me glowing.

    You are an inspiration. You have the wisdom to cultivate change. And, you’re activism is to be applauded. Please don’t ever lose sight of the value you bring to the community.

    My very best, Laura

  4. Laura P.

    I have been so eager to read about your experience! Thank you, thank you for being our voice. You are a great candidate for the job. Glad you’re home safe and am looking forward to hearing about these products and all your other adventures!

  5. AnnBartlett


    You made my week with that comment!!!! Let’s put it this way, I’m a lot closer to 50 then I am to forty and since I don’t look like I’m either, I don’t act like either! ;)

    To your point, I need insulin (and better insulin too), but we can do so much more to reduce the amount we need and that is the name of THIS game! With the empowered patient movement and expanding conversations between patients, doctors and pharma, at conferences like DTC, I think it will shape the future of our own healthcare and that is what shifts the healthcare paradigm.

    Awesome job Sysy!

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