The Blog

Diabetes Talk: Phil Southerland, Founder of Team Type 1

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Phil Southerland, Person with Type 1 Diabetes, Founder of Team Type 1, Diabetes Advocate


To inspire and motivate people living with diabetes around the world that they can overcome obstacles and thrive


What is your mission with Team Type 1?

My mission is to instill hope in people with diabetes with the proper use of insulin technology and to motivate them into believing that anything is possible. Team Type 1 is about taking control of your diabetes. We do sporting examples around the world where different athletes show their struggles and how they overcome them. They still manage to succeed in spite of the many odds they were told were against them, which is the core mission of our group.

Cycling is my personal preference. I’ve been doing it for a number of years now, and we’ve expanded it into a number of divisions. We focus on endurance sports, because it takes some time to see how diabetes will react but once you figure that out, it’s much easier to control. I’m hoping to get the Team Type 1 to do the Tour de France in 2013.

What motivated you to start Team Type 1?

I started it over 7 years ago because I was motivated to take control. One day a friend in college said I was his hero, and it felt so good to realize I could help somebody without realizing it. I got involved in more support groups, and became motivated to start my own group. I love cycling, so I started Team Type 1 with a group of athletes. We just kept breaking down barriers. From there we came up with the idea to do the race across America for people with diabetes. A lot of people said we couldn’t do that. That motivates me to prove it’s not true, to set an example for kids with diabetes that they can overcome barriers. We had such a huge impact on children when we did the race, and was a reminder to myself to be the best we can be. For many years that was the sole purpose of what we were doing.

What do you see as the biggest problem for Americans with diabetes?

In America the number one problem is empowerment. Diabetes is a full time job, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a challenge. But when we go to different parts of the world we see people who don’t have the ability to check their insulin, or get the care we can get here. I want to make sure that as many people as possible don’t die from this. We were able to go into Macedonia and see huge results. The goal is to ensure everyone has access to insulin and test strips and put it all together to ensure everyone achieves their dreams.

What is the most moving moment you’ve had with Team Type 1?

The first time I was in Rwanda we didn’t do so well in the bike race, so we were a bit down. The president of the Rwanda diabetes association said that until you came it was common knowledge that everyone dies of diabetes. For the first time since your team has been here, our kids have hope. Hope is really a very important piece of living a good life.

Fast forward a year, and we won the tour of Rwanda. We brought over 700 meters and test strips. A 22 year old kid said to me that all his friends felt sorry for him. But after our team was there, we changed the way his entire country looks at diabetes. It’s moving, but it’s also a call to obtain sustainability. We have to help them ensure that they can be prepared for that.

How can people here learn from them?

I think it’s important to know that there are people in the world who would do anything to get a blood glucose meter. We can honor them by using the tools we have and not taking them for granted. The fact that these tools work, and we have to make noise. People have to be loud, they have to make noise for their fellow diabetes brethren across the world.

What do you think of the Fit4D Pathways as a way to reach more people on a global scale?

I think it’s great. I’d like to walk through it step by step to see what I thought of it. Education is one of the lacking pieces. We need to do a better job translating it on a global scale.

How is your book, Not Dead Yet, doing?

The book is doing phenomenal. I get notes daily about how it’s changed people’s lives. I was diagnosed at 7 months old with Type 1 and the doctors said I would be dead at 25. I’m now 30. Everyday is a bonus day for me.

How has your mother influenced your journey so far?

My mother was always focused on a healthy life and exercise. For a child, setting that kind of example was extremely key for any child with or without diabetes. She was a shining example to me throughout my life. Now she is my number one fan on Facebook, and shares with all her friends. She is my number one fan. She’s 40 again, but I don’t think my mom will ever get past that age by the way she lives her life. She still teaches aerobics and still has the number one class.

How are you involved with Sanofi as a partner?

They’ve been our main partner in empowerment for the last six years. We’ve probably seen over 2000 doctors one to one through their partnership in trying to educate them on how to take control. We’re now getting into communities across the country. I love their tools, technology and their innovation. They’ve sponsored us everywhere in the world, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

What is your take on the incredible social media outreach Sanofi is focused on for the diabetes community?

Their social media focus could be the future of health care. Laura Kolodjeski’s group especially are trying to understand what people with diabetes need and want to take control. It’s a way to say what do you want, and how can we help you. It’s innovative, cool and I love what they’re doing. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Interviewed by Alexis Fedor, Fit4D Online Marketing Manager


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