Did you know that the new CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has type 1? Aaron Kowlaski rose up through the ranks of the foundation to become its first ever CEO with type 1 diabetes.
About type 1
Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes (T1D) affects more than 3 million Americans. Only 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, but the disease is a chronic illness which requires lifelong management. The average age of diagnosis is 14, though a type 1 diabetes diagnosis can happen as early as age 5. Type 1 diabetes can be caused by genetics or a virus that attacks the pancreas, and is sometimes accompanied by other autoimmune diseases.
How type 1 diabetes works
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas creates little to no insulin for the body to convert sugar into energy. When this happens, sugar builds up in the bloodstream and can damage blood vessels throughout the body. Keeping blood sugar within a healthy range is crucial for type 1 diabetes, and people with type 1 diabetes will have to take insulin through injections or a pump.
JDRF was founded in 1970 by parents of children with T1D to fund diabetes research and find a cure for type 1. It began as the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, but since 85 percent of those with type 1 are adults, they later changed their name. JDRF raises money to help make better type 1 therapies available. Their mission is to “improve lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent, and treat T1D and its complications.”
6 things to know about Aaron Kowalski
- Kowalksi was diagnosed with type 1 at age 13 in 1984. His younger brother Steve also has type 1, and was diagnosed at age 3.
- He is the first ever person with type 1 to be CEO of JDRF.
- He holds a PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics from Rutgers University, and he began working at JDRF in 2004 as a Scientific Program Manager.
- He has high hopes for cell and immunotherapy treatments for type 1 in the future.
- To manage his type 1, Kowalski uses a DIY closed-loop system.
- He believes that treatment solutions for type 1 must be affordable and accessible to all.