Vivir Con Diabetes
May 25, 2021
by Global Initiatives Team
By Stephanie Gomez-Rubalcava and Liz Rivera
Professional Master’s students
Vivir Con Diabetes (in English: “Living With Diabetes”) is a community service project that we have been hosting as a part of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. This fellowship requires students to collaborate with a community site and create a project that caters to the needs of an underserved population. Our project was tailored to service individuals in the local, Spanish-speaking community of Boyle Heights who have been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type II diabetes. We believe that there is an increased need for healthcare providers who can implement culturally-sensitive interventions.
This program was started in 2018 by an occupational therapy student in the Chan Division, David Saldana. It was then continued the following year by Daniel Padilla Vega and Cecilia Garcia. We began as volunteers for the program in 2019 and were awarded the Schweitzer Fellowship in 2020. With USC OT students receiving this fellowship for the third year, it provided us the opportunity to continue expanding this amazing work. Our sessions covered topics related to lifestyle modifications to improve diabetes management such as: stress management, mental health, sleep hygiene, and increasing understanding of what it means to be diagnosed with diabetes. We really wanted to focus on prevention for those diagnosed with prediabetes and on modifying the habits and routines of those diagnosed with diabetes. In previous years, these sessions were hosted in person at our project site, the LAC+USC Wellness Center, but due to the global pandemic, we had to host the sessions virtually.
Although over the last year we faced several challenges in delivering the diabetes management content via Zoom, there were some great benefits to conducting this program virtually. Some of the challenges included making the program accessible for our target population, participant difficulties navigating Zoom, and internet connectivity issues. The silver lining to all of these challenges was that over the weeks, we created a family-like, virtual community and provided participants with space to reflect on their health goals. Many of them mentioned that our Saturday sessions were the only time they dedicated to themselves, and so we decided to incorporate at least 10 minutes of mindfulness/yoga activities to each session. We also provided every participant with at least one free, at-home hemoglobin A1c test to screen for diabetes.
Although a couple of weeks ago we celebrated our final Vivir Con Diabetes session, we are truly grateful for the opportunity to learn with and from our participants. As soon-to-be Latina graduates of occupational therapy, we are excited to continue working with our Latinx community in our future careers and helping them bring about positive and meaningful change in their lives. Lastly, Stephanie Perez, a previous volunteer of Vivir Con Diabetes, has recently been awarded a 2021-2022 Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (see contact information below). We are excited for her to bring innovative ideas to the program, and we encourage current or incoming students to contact her for an opportunity to volunteer with her project during the Fall and Spring semesters. Thank you to our mentor Dr. Jesus Diaz, Daniel, Cecilia, and all of our 2020-2021 student volunteers for making this program possible. Fight on Trojans!