Interview with Ms. Mengyu Li, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, Leading Diabetes Educator
Mengyu Li is a distinguished Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist whose academic journey began at Cornell University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences in 2014. She further honed her expertise with a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition from New York University in 2017. Over the past six years, Mengyu has specialized in Medical Nutrition Therapy, Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support, and Diabetes Technologies Training, such as insulin pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitors.
In 2022, she embarked on a visionary project, SweetWisdom Academy, to democratize diabetes care through comprehensive online nutrition and diabetes education. Her efforts are dedicated to improving healthcare accessibility and affordability in the United States, where diabetes remains a formidable challenge. We sat down with Ms. Li to discuss the importance of DSMES and the evolving role of diabetes educators in 2024.
Thank you for joining us, Ms. Li. For our readers who may not be familiar, could you start by explaining what DSMES is and why it’s essential?
Ms. Li: Absolutely. DSMES, or Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support, is a critical element in the care of people with diabetes. It’s a comprehensive program that empowers individuals with diabetes to navigate their daily decisions and activities. DSMES is often provided by healthcare professionals who specialize in diabetes care in various settings like hospitals, clinics and community center, and usually encompasses education on different topics like nutrition, exercise, medication management, monitoring blood sugar levels, and coping strategies. The goal of DSMES is to help individuals understand and manage their diabetes effectively, improving their health outcomes and quality of life.
That’s quite comprehensive. In your experience, how has DSMES changed the outcomes for people with diabetes?
Ms. Li: The impact has been significant. Patients who actively participate in DSMES programs often have better glycemic control, are more confident in managing their diabetes, and have a reduced need for emergency care. There’s also a psychological benefit – feeling more in control of their condition and less overwhelmed.
How significant is DSMES in the current diabetes care landscape?
Ms. Li: DSMES is crucial. It’s not just about managing diabetes; it’s about integrating management into daily life. With the rise in diabetes prevalence, effective self-management is key to reducing complications, hospitalizations, and overall healthcare costs. It improves quality of life and clinical outcomes significantly.
What changes have you seen in the role of diabetes educators, or CDCES, over the years?
Ms. Li: The role has evolved remarkably. We’re not just educators; we’re coaches, advocates, and often a bridge between patients and healthcare providers. With technological advancements, we’re also integrating digital tools into education and support, making it more accessible and personalized.
Speaking of technology, it has indeed changed many aspects of healthcare. Can you elaborate on how has techonology impacted DSMES, or how digital tools have transformed DSMES?
Ms. Li: Technology has been a game-changer. The rise of digital health tools, like mobile apps that help track food intake and physical activity, wearable devices that continuously monitor blood sugar 24/7, smart insulin pens, and different types of Insulin Pumps, has made diabetes self-management more personalized, precised and managable. On the other hand, to be able to taking advantage of these fantastic diabetes technologies safely and effectively, comprehensive education and continuous support from knowledgeble diabetes educators is essential. This underscores the importance of ongoing DSMES. These diabetes technologies also make it possible to allow us monitor patients’ diabetes data remotely, whcih can be integrated into Telehealth services. Telehealth has also expanded our reach, allowing us to support patients remotely, especially for those in remote or underserved areas.
Talking about Telehealth, how do you see the role of telehealth evolving post-COVID in diabetes education?
Ms. Li: In the wake of COVID-19, I believe telehealth will or have already become an integral part of diabetes education in the United States. The pandemic has already accelerated the adoption of telehealth services, demonstrating its effectiveness and convenience. In the future, I see a seamless blend of in-person and virtual care. This will not only enhance access to personalized diabetes management but also allow for continuous monitoring and support, especially in remote or underserved areas. Additionally, telehealth will likely facilitate a more collaborative approach between patients and healthcare providers, fostering better disease management and education.
What are the current challenges in DSMES?
Ms. Li: One major challenge is accessibility. Despite its proven benefits, not everyone has equal access to DSMES due to factors like location, socio-economic status, and insurance coverage. Another challenge is keeping up with the rapid pace of technological advancements and ensuring that all healthcare professionals and educators are adequately trained to utilize these new tools.
Follow up on that, with the constant evolution of medical science, how do you keep DSMES content up-to-date and relevant in your current role or practice?
Ms. Li: It’s a continuous process. We regularly review and update our curriculum to reflect the latest research and best practices. This includes new medications, dietary guidelines, and technological advancements like continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps. We also adapt our teaching methods to cater to different learning styles and cultural backgrounds.
Looking ahead, what innovations or trends do you anticipate in the field of diabetes education and management?
Ms. Li: I believe we’ll see more personalized approaches, driven by advancements in genomics and AI. These technologies could predict individual risks and tailor management plans accordingly. Also, I expect to see a stronger emphasis on preventive education and lifestyle interventions, targeting populations at risk before the onset of diabetes. Furthermore, the rise of online DSMES education programs will likely play a significant role in reducing the healthcare burden in the United States.
For our readers who might be struggling with their diabetes management, what advice would you offer?
Ms. Li: First and foremost, know that you are not alone in this journey. It’s important to seek support and education early. Be open to learning new ways to manage your diabetes and don’t hesitate to ask for help from professionals. Small, consistent changes in your lifestyle can make a significant difference. Stay informed, stay engaged, and remember, your healthcare team is here to support you every step of the way.
Thank you, Ms. Li, for your time and invaluable insights. Your expertise sheds light on the critical role of DSMES and diabetes educators in enhancing the lives of individuals living with diabetes.
Ms. Mengyu Li’s perspective underscores the critical importance of DSMES and the evolving role of diabetes educators in managing this pervasive disease. As the landscape of diabetes care continues to evolve, the integration of education, support, and technology will be paramount in enhancing the lives of those living with diabetes. You can follow up with Ms. Li at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mengyuelaineli17/
Nancy Cole has over 15 years experience as a educator and health practitioner. She has a B.S. from Brock, and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Guelph . Nancy has worked as a special medical consultant for a major insurance provider before becoming a freelance health author and public speaker.