Monday, April 16, 2012

The Joslin Medalist Program

Dr. Eliott P.Joslin  "....most often referred to as 'EPJ' is considered the pioneer in diabetes. He was the first doctor in the U.S. to specialize in the disease, and this distinction is the one of many 'firsts' associated with him. Everyone who works in the diabetes field at some point learns about EPJ. What makes him unique is both his early interest in a little known disease and his vision as to how to treat it." The link below gives his story.

Dr. Joslin once stated, "If a diabetic with his disease can live longer than his neighbor of the same age without it, I consider that he has attained a distinction, and should be recognized as outstanding." The Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston awards medals to type 1 diabetics when they have completed 50 and 75 years with their diabetes. The first medal was for 25 years, and was awarded in 1948. Other 25 year medals were awarded, but it eventually became commonplace for people to live 25 years with type 1, so now there is a certificate awarded, but no medal. There are both certificates and medals awarded for 50 and 75 years. These medals are presented to type 1 diabetics all over the world. An 80-year medal is currently being designed, and the first recipient is expected to receive that medal in June, 2012.

Since 1970, several thousand 50-year medals have been awarded. There have  been 50 distinctive 75-year medals awarded for the  years 1996-2012. Medals have also been presented to type 1 diabetics in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South America, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

I was diagnosed in 1945 and was eligible for the 50 years medal in 1995, but I had never heard of the medalist program at that time. It was not until 2006 that I first heard of the program. I found information on my computer and thought I could not apply since proof of my date of diagnosis was required. My parents and the doctors from my early years had died, and the hospital does not keep patient information for more than 10 years. Then a medalist read my message online and sent me an email. She explained that I could have people who knew me from my very early years write letters, and that would be accepted as proof. The letters told things they remembered about my diabetes during those years. My sister and a first cousin sent letters to me, and I included the letters with my application. I received my medal in 2009, and will be eligible for the 75 year medal in 2020. My 50 year medal is shown below.

One of the most rewarding benefits of having the medal is getting to attend meetings with other medalists in Boston. It is so wonderful to be with other long term diabetics who have lived through the same experiences that I have had. The most recent meeting was in June, 2011. There were more than 100 medalists there that day. The picture shows the medalists at that meeting. I am the taller fellow in the middle of the back row. The younger people in the picture are doctors and others associated with Joslin.

I have met many long term type 1 diabetics in the online support groups, and on Facebook. I am pleased that I was able to make many people aware of the medalist program, and was able to help them with the application procedure. So many people have not heard of the Joslin medalist program. More should be done to advertise these medals, the application procedure, and the wonderful meetings that are held in Boston every two years.

Another benefit of being a medalist is that it makes them eligible to participate in the Joslin Medalist Study. The purpose of the study is to determine what factors make the medalists different. What has enabled these long term diabetics to live so many years with type 1 diabetes, and remain healthy with no serious complications? I will be blogging about the study in the near future.


  1. Great post, Richard. I love reading these and hearing the inspiring stories of those like yourself who've reached that 50-year milestone. My mom has received a Joslin Medal and Lilly award a few years ago, about the same time I hit the 25-year mark. Hoping to make it to the next quarter-century mark myself in a couple decades (hitting the 30-year mark in 2014). Thanks for sharing your story here!

  2. Thanks Michael. I wonder what the medalist program will be like in another 20 years or so. Living 50 years with T1 will probably not be so unusual then. Maybe there will not be a 50 year medal at that time? I have read that the life expectancy of T1D's is almost as great as that of non diabetics.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story Richard! I agree that more people should be sharing. I hope that you are wrong that they won't be giving a 50 year old medal! I am at the same time-frame as Mike and hit 28 year this year so I really want that 50 year one! I was going to do what you did with the letters, but I found my first Medic alert card that said what insulin I took so I was able to get my certificate that way.

  4. Hello Kelly! I'm glad you found that Medic alert card. I know many type 1 diabetics would be disappointed if the 50 year medal is discontinued. It would probably take a very long time before that happens.

  5. It made the process easier Richard! I was going to get letters from family members. Fortunately, I won a Super Bowl bet that year and thought I couldn't collect my case of beer I won. That has been a running joke in my family so at least I had something news worthy they could remember about it! I do hope that they don't stop doing it.

  6. Kelly, it is just a hunch on my part. The 25 year medal was discontinued when there were so many T1Ds living that long. Joslin has certainly not said anything at all about discontinuing the 50 year medal.