Riva Greenberg and the Diabetes Mentoring Imperative

Through the wonder of the Internet, it was hard to tell, but I was in New York last week –  visitingNew_york_christmas my various publishers (for our new KYN book, plus dLife and HealthCentral).  It was cold and crisp and holiday-sparkly and shopping heaven.  I have so much to report!  Where to begin?  Allow me to start with Riva Greenberg, please.

Riva’s been a Type 1 for 35 years. She’s a writer and an illustrator and an intermittent contributor for diabetes consultancy Close Concerns. She contacted me not long ago for a book she’s working on that will compile the personal testimonies of a great array of people living with diabetes.  The two of us discovered we have parallel lives: both T1s who write (nowadays mostly about the Big D) for a living, both Jewish and married to Europeans (her’s a Dutchman, mine a German), both our families had a hard time swallowing that choice.

In any case, I met Riva at a swanky Mediterranean bistro in midtown Manhatten for what was supposed to be coffee, but at her suggestion, turned into a savory glass of Pinot Grigio. I liked her Photo_riva_1_1 immediately!  She showed me her vibrant, naive-art-style illustrations for another new book she’s compiling, The ABC’s of Loving Yourself with Diabetes, a whimsical yet inspirational little volume that will be unlike anything on offer for adults with diabetes to date.   

(While we were talking, Riva began to sweat. At first I thought it was just our 2-inch proximity to the bistro’s blasting heater.  But when she whipped out Starburst and began to chew, I could feel myself break out in a wild grin.  Oh yes, we have parallel lives!  Oh no, I am not the only one!)

What we spent most of our time discussing, in fact, was Riva’s new status as an official Diabetes Mentor.  She was recently trained by the Patient Mentor Institute to give presentations to fellow PWDs around the country as part of the Sanofi-Aventis-sponsored A1c Champions program. 

“The essence of the program is simply to have people hear from someone with diabetes who’s ‘making it’ — who’s doing well.  There’s nothing so powerful as that for people to hear,” she tells me.  I couldn’t agree more, and I’m fascinated about how a formal mentoring structure works and how the rest of us can get involved.

Riva explains: for the A1c Champions, Sanofi pays for a one-month training in which volunteers (who have to have an A1c under 7.0) learn a 24-slide presentation with script.  They are all flown out to the St. Louis Patient Mentor Institute for a final weekend run-through.  Sanofi reps then work with local CDEs to set up the talks with small-group patient audiences.  This certainly isn’t the one-on-one assistance I’d imagined.  And Riva puzzles over why she’s asked to travel out of state, with hardly any sessions being organized at home in New York, where everyone knows diabetes is rampant.

“This mentoring thing is new,” Riva says. “There are only a few programs trying to organize it, and right now, they’re making it up as they go along.”

Two new ones are in early development stages at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, and at Dr. Polonski’s Behavioral Diabetes Institute (BDI) in San Diego.  The A1c Champions website appears to be under construction, but if you’re interested, you can call their toll-free number, (866) 741-7047, to learn more.

According to Riva, the Champions program has 3 basic themes:
* Actions create consequences
* It’s up to you
* You’re not alone

Dead-on, of course, but I like Riva’s Personal Gems for motivating fellow PWDs:
- Every day is a new day.
- Learn everything you can.
- Be gentle on yourself.

Thank you, Riva!


5 Responses

  1. Bernard Farrell
    Bernard Farrell December 11, 2006 at 3:16 pm | | Reply


    This Riva sounds pretty special. When are you going to get her started on blogging? :-)

  2. George Simmons
    George Simmons December 11, 2006 at 3:54 pm | | Reply

    That sounds like a very beneficial program. Looks like another reason to get that A1C down below a 7%!

  3. Paula Orkin
    Paula Orkin December 11, 2006 at 6:04 pm | | Reply

    Keep up the good work, Riva! The world needs more people like you.

  4. Scott K. Johnson
    Scott K. Johnson December 11, 2006 at 10:26 pm | | Reply

    I love her personal gems! Great messages to get out there.

    Thanks for bringing it to our attention Amy! And way to go Riva!

  5. Chrissie in Belgium
    Chrissie in Belgium December 11, 2006 at 10:51 pm | | Reply

    Wow, great idea. I am wondering if mentoring facilities exist in Europe.

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