Megan Cory, a third-year biochemistry student, launched UCLA’s first Diabetes Day, inspired by her own experiences with the disease.
Daily Bruin (By Angela Cosme): At 14 years old, Megan Cory was eating much more than her age would suggest, but losing an alarming amount of weight. She remembers always being thirsty and being fatigued.
After smelling the sweetness on her breath and hearing about her other symptoms, Cory’s physician was able to diagnose her with diabetes.
Cory, now the student life chair of American Medical Students Association Premedical Chapter at UCLA, organized the first Diabetes Day in Bruin Plaza earlier this month.
“People hear all of these things, like in the movies (about diabetes), and they don’t take the time to look into it,” said Cory, a third-year biochemistry student. “I want people to learn that, yes, diabetes is a serious disease, but it is manageable.”
Megan Cory (Credit: Brandon Choe/Daily Bruin)
Every six seconds a person dies from diabetes, and about 382 million people in the world suffer from the disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
Cory has type 1 diabetes, which means her body does not produce enough insulin. Those with type 2 diabetes do not respond properly to insulin.
Cory planned activities and games for the event, such as spin the wheel and word searches, with tips for type 2 prevention and type 1 management. The games included suggestions for an active lifestyle and blood glucose monitoring.
Through the event, Cory educated people about the disease and how to manage it. They also raised money through a raffle and donations that will go to the Larry Hillblom Islet Research Center, a UCLA diabetes research center.
Melinda Ng, a second-year biochemistry student who also helped organize the event, volunteered during Diabetes Day.
“My grandmother has diabetes, so I have personal reasons (for helping),” Ng said. “I always thought there was a lot of research for diabetes, but after working on this I realized that there is not much funding and that it is decreasing.”
A large painting made by a high school student Cory tutors was displayed for people who donated money or have loved ones with diabetes to sign, she said.
“The painting is supposed to represent how when we all come together, we can make a difference,” Cory said.
Rebecca Bucher, a fourth-year English student, helped to organize a flash mob for the event. She got involved with the event because she knows several people with the disease and wanted to do something proactive to help.
“In going to the event, you are actually helping and not just staring at a big problem that can’t be solved,” Bucher said. “You’re actually making a difference because awareness is the most important way to help prevent and manage the disease.”
The event, which cost $200, was funded by Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Staples and other sponsors, Cory said.
Eventually, she wants to establish a student group on campus called Diabeaters at UCLA, and is planning to use Diabetes Day as a platform to launch it. So far, she has a website set up for up-to-date diabetes research developments under the group’s name.
Because of her diagnosis, Cory said she is passionate about diabetes research. She remembers how scared she was when she was first diagnosed.
“But after that moment, I didn’t want to get upset until I learned more about it,” Cory said. “I wanted to learn how to use it to my advantage.”
She asked her doctors about the disease and discovered how little changes to her lifestyle can help manage her health.
Upon hearing the news of Cory’s diagnosis, her mother fainted and her brother cried at the hospital, her mother Samar Khoury said.
Her family learned to embrace and incorporate it into their own lives as well by picking up all of the same habits, such as calorie counting and exercising, Khoury said.
The family moved to Los Angeles from Texas to be near Cory and worked alongside her to make the event a success. They helped to make her goal of putting on this event a reality by making copies of fliers and calling sponsors for her when she was in class.
“People with diabetes aren’t held back,” Cory said. “You are the one who holds you back, not the disease.”