My name is Zoe Heineman. I am participating in the 2018 Disrupt Diabetes Design Challenge as a person with diabetes. I live in Edison, NJ since 2017 with my husband Alex. Both of our families are from Maryland and we met in 2014 while living in New York City. I am the US Head of Commercial Operations for Thrombogenics, Inc., a biotech company whose mission is to develop treatments to address unmet needs in diabetic eye disorders.
You could say I have been trying to get rid of diabetes or at least minimize its impact on my life since I was diagnosed in 1990 (when I was 24), while attending graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and also working at a summer camp in Baltimore. My mom diagnosed me over the phone when I told her I was drinking water and peeing simultaneously whenever I could take a break at work. I was losing weight while eating more than ever. Mom knew the symptoms for diabetes and made me promise to go see a doctor the next day. My BG was off the charts high. Due to the fact that diabetes supplies like syringes and test strips were not covered by insurance in Maryland at the time, I quickly became an advocate for better access to care and coverage. I went to work for the coalition that testified in the Maryland state house for a mandate to cover diabetes and to cover pre-existing conditions. And we succeeded. What I learned from that advocacy experience was that elected officials can become insulated from the reality of their individual constituents. They need to hear from you to make the best decisions. I soon became inspired to leave teaching for diabetes work. Since 1993 I've worked for several companies in the diabetes industry and consulted to many emerging diabetes technology companies as a consultant.
My proudest accomplishment is the leadership role I played in changing Medicare policy to add new coverage for insulin pumps and supplies. Prior to that, people using pumps lost their insurance coverage for pump therapy as soon as they became Medicare beneficiaries. As soon as Medicare started covering insulin pump therapy, other health plans followed their example. That change came about largely as a result of a letter-writing campaign from patients, caregivers, diabetes educators and endocrinologists to members of the US House of Representatives and Senate, along with industry efforts to document the need and health economic benefits.
To be candid, after 28 years of type 1, diabetes management doesn’t get any easier. In some ways it gets harder, like feeling symptoms of low blood glucose, a.k.a. hypoglycemia, which can happen randomly and unpredictably. I constantly live in fear of hypoglycemia and am grateful for my CGM waking me up during sleep when I am below the safe range. In 2014 I started a public awareness education initiative to train first responders to recognize and respond to the symptoms of severe hypoglycemia, "Hypoglycemia Awareness" also known as "Ha!"™. Through it I encourage people with diabetes to show their friends and co-workers where they keep and carry Glucagon, glucose gels or tablets and other sources of glucose. Ask me to "show you my G" when we meet.
Through diabetes I have learned much more than I ever would have without it. I have made a positive difference to millions of people with diabetes and their families. I've become more determined to accomplish goals on both a professional as well as a personal basis. I have completed four New York City marathons since 2013. Last year I started the challenge of Triathlons and completed my second one on March 18 indoors at Chelsea Piers in NYC. Currently I am training for the Paris marathon on April 8.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Wise, loyal, caring