A few weeks ago, I was invited to join some of my advocacy colleagues for a meeting in Los Angeles, CA at the Medtronic Diabetes headquarters.  This event was put on by the teams at Medtronic and Bayer, and they covered travel, lodging, and expenses for attendees.  (Disclosure out of the way.)  The agenda included “interactive sessions on the latest diabetes technology, more time to pick the brains of our executives, and a long discussion about diabetes social media advocacy.”  The meeting took place this past Friday and Saturday.

The beginning of the summit was admittedly not my favorite, but felt like a marketing necessity.  There were presentations by Katie M. Szyman (President, Medtronic Diabetes) and Marc O’Donnell (Vice President, Regulatory Affairs at Medtronic) that, despite the accessibility of the presenters and how they made themselves available to a group of advocates, felt somewhat sales-pitchy and on occasion, defensive.  I understand that sales need to be pitched and regulatory discussions need to be carefully had, but hearing about the new Enlite sensor or hearing about people with diabetes talked about in marketing terms (for better or for worse) is not my personal mission.

Even though I’d been invited to the previous two summits, I wasn’t able to attend due to work, so this year was my first time.  The fact that the team at Medtronic kept me on the invitation roster spoke volumes to me, because they didn’t let my existing competitor relationships [disclosures] preclude me from being part of an advocacy discussion.  Representatives from Medtronic encouraged attendees to voice concerns of all kinds (good and bad) and didn’t shy away from difficult conversation topics (like “Calling the 530G an ‘artificial pancreas’ was misleading,” and “Your sensor hasn’t been a good fit for me.”)

But meaning quickly trumped marketing, and that remained the theme of the event.

What cemented this meeting as one of the most powerful ones I’ve attended in some time, was the discussion lead by Dr. Francine Kaufman.  When she started talking about the needs outside of our privileged bubble, highlighting how diabetes is managed in different countries, a heavy cloak of awareness and responsibility seemed to fall over the attendees.  Boxes of Kleenex were passed around as we were reminded, as a group, how “perspective” is defined by “access.”

What happened later in the afternoon was nothing short of amazing, when the room full of advocates took the conversation that Fran started and owned it.  A discussion about Spare a Rose efforts for 2014 became an exercise in implementation as people brought their advocacy strengths and assets to the table and offered them up.  All voices were heard and a group oft-frustrated by a lack of forward movement at meetings like this took action to ensure that more action would be taken. In short, a plan was needed and a plan was put into place, with details (and THANK YOU’s) to be issued in the coming days.

This summed up the entire summit for me, in one Tweetable-bite.

It was a privilege to be in the room, for many reasons, but largely because it was a privilege to try and make the voices heard of those who weren’t in the room.  It can be scary to speak up.  It can be intimidating to try and make a difference.  And the endless threats of rules and regulations can keep ideas from blooming out of fear.

But honestly?  We should fear inaction more than action.

Thanks you to Medtronic and Bayer for hosting these discussions, and to the DOC for having them.