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Diabetes Educators

By David Mendosa

Last Update: January 19, 2006

Wouldn't it be great to have lots of fancy initials after your name! For example, some people might think this column would have more credibility if I were David Mendosa, Ph.D., CDE.

A CDE diploma is not something that you can buy.

Once I was even been tempted to buy one of those papermill Ph.D. degrees for $400 or so in order to appear more creditable. But it did seem like a lot of money for a piece of paper. The only initials I could legitimately add after my name are B.A. and M.A., which together with my experience as a person with diabetes and a journalist are the credentials that I offer.

Even better than a Ph.D. degree for this line of work are the initials CDE. They stand for Certified Diabetes Educator. But like an MD degree, a CDE diploma is not something that you can just buy. It seems that you have to work pretty hard for it.

I had assumed that the American Association of Diabetes Educators was where you went to get a CDE diploma. So I called Executive Director Jim Balija, CAE.

CAE? Jim says he is a Certified Association Executive. He's not a CDE because he's not a health care professional, he explains.

In fact, I was surprised to learn that his association isn't even the one that gives out the CDE certificates. That organization is the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. While his organization helped establish the NCBDE back in the 1980s, Jim says, "it was never intended to be wholly owned or controlled by the AADE."

It actually costs less to get a CDE certificate than a papermill Ph.D., just $250. The catch is that money is the least of the requirements.

You have to be a health care professional with at least two years of of professional practice experience in diabetes self-management training and more than 1,000 hours of diabetes self-management training. And you have to be doing that at the time you apply.

The best part of the AADE's site is "Find an Educator," where you can search by name, state, or city for diabetes educators. It lists all of the AADE's members, whether they are certified or not. You can search by last name, state, or city for the organization's members.

The initials after their names tell you what certifications they have. The listings also generally include their title, employer, work phone and fax, and, if they have one, an e-mail address.

The AADE currently has 10,699 members. "About 52 percent of our members are certified," Jim says. The other 48 percent are not full time and don't have the time to do the hours. They may be doing other types of education too."

Of the association's members, 60 percent are nurses, 25 percent are dietitians, and 4-5 percent are pharmacists. The rest are in a variety of health care fields.

A potentially valuable part of the site isn't there quite yet. The AADE's journal, Diabetes Educator, isn't on-line.

The organization has been concerned that putting it on-line would cause it to lose print readership. But they've decided to put up abstracts of its articles later this year and eventually put up the articles that could be downloaded for a fee.

Also coming to the AADE's Web site, Jim says, are on-line articles of interest to the lay reader. The association would cull these articles from programs of their annual meetings and charge a small fee to cover expense.

"For instance, this year we had programs focusing on alternative medicine and how it impacts diabetes," Jim says. "Techniques for proper foot care and gestational diabetes might be other areas of interest." While these Web sites are addressed primarily to health professionals, it doesn't mean that people with diabetes can't benefit from them directly. And although you and I may not be eligible to become Certified Diabetes Educators, we can use the material here to help educate ourselves. 


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


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