Gretchen Youssef, MS, RDN, CDE, ADA President, Health Care & Education, is a fierce advocate for her patients. Her goals in her year as president revolve around improving the lives of patients with diabetes, including access to diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) and affordable health care.
“Patients with diabetes aren’t receiving diabetes self-management education and support to learn the skills and the knowledge they need to self-manage their diabetes every day,” said Ms. Youssef, noting how challenging it can be to manage diabetes. “I see many patients with diabetes who come into our clinic with an A1C greater than 9 percent and multiple diabetes-related complications. I believe that if they had received DSMES at diagnosis and consistently throughout their lives, and had access to affordable diabetes medications in conjunction with quality health care, they may have had better health outcomes and quality of life.”
Ms. Youssef will present the President, Health Care & Education Address—It’s All about Access! at 10:15 a.m. Saturday in W-3001 (West, Level 3).
Even though Medicare has covered DSMES since 2002, only 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries utilize the services in the first year of diagnosis. That’s why Ms. Youssef is also a strong advocate for the Expanding Access to the Diabetes Self-Management Training Act, legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate designed to remove barriers to access and improve access to telehealth. While telehealth education is covered for patients in rural communities, many of Ms. Yousef’s patients who live in Washington, D.C., and take multiple city buses to receive DSMES do not qualify for telehealth benefits.
“Access is critical. We’ve worked for years on telehealth, and it’s just really frustrating if we can’t get to the point where we can make it easier for patients to receive the service,” said Ms. Youssef, Program Director of the MedStar Diabetes Institute at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Youssef has always loved impacting lives and helping patients achieve positive outcomes. As a Pennsylvania native and a Penn State University legacy student, she majored in nutrition before earning a degree in health promotion at Marymount University.
She started volunteering with a local ADA chapter in 1994 and with the Diabetes Recognition Program in 2002. That was the same year her friend, Melissa, who had type 1 diabetes, died after having a kidney-pancreas transplant.
“We all have our ‘Melissas,’ the people in the back of our minds who drive you,” she said. “I also get inspiration from my patients because I am amazed by what they can do with the little resources they sometimes have, and how they can improve their outcomes.”
Ms. Youssef has spent more than two decades with the ADA. She served as Vice President of the ADA Montgomery, Maryland, chapter in 1994, was Chair of the Education Recognition Committee from 2008 to 2009, a member of the Professional Practice Committee from 2010 to 2012, and a member of the national Board of Directors from 2010 to 2012.
Her first job at MedStar was as an investigator for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).
“It was an honor to participate in this landmark study, working with researchers from across the U.S. and the dedicated participants, many of whom continue to participate in the DPPOS (Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study),” she said. “I had the opportunity to be involved in the development and implementation of a national clinical trial, which was a great learning experience. I look forward to seeing my DPP colleagues at the Scientific Sessions every year and catching up on their professional and personal lives.”
As Program Director of the MedStar Diabetes Institute, Ms. Youssef’s work focuses on health service research for programs designed to improve quality care in MedStar hospitals, emergency rooms, and across the health system.
As ADA President, Health Care & Education, she is able to amplify her voice on behalf of her patients and shape her collaborative leadership style.
“I can identify the strengths of our team members and find out what they’re good at so I can put them in places where they do well,” she said. “And if they do have challenges, then I ensure they get the training and support needed.”
Ms. Youssef is looking forward to a rewarding 79th Scientific Sessions in San Francisco.
“I’m excited to see all of my colleagues from across the United States, and I’m very excited for all of the study results,” she said. “I’m anxious to hear about the D2d (Vitamin D and Type 2 Diabetes) study results, and the many other study results that are going to be released that look exciting. And if they’re positive, that would be a great thing for patients with diabetes.”
For Ms. Youssef, it always comes back to the patients.