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Taking diabetes fight to national stage

Marjorie Cypress is the new president of Health Care and Education for the American Diabetes Association. “I want people to see that diabetes is serious,” says Cypress, a longtime nurse practitioner at ABQ Health Partners. (Courtesy of Marjorie Cypress)

Marjorie Cypress is the new president of Health Care and Education for the American Diabetes Association. “I want people to see that diabetes is serious,” says Cypress, a longtime nurse practitioner at ABQ Health Partners. (Courtesy of Marjorie Cypress)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Marjorie Cypress has worked for years as a certified diabetes educator and nurse practitioner in the Endocrinology Center of ABQ Health Partners, teaching people with tricky cases of diabetes to how to best take care of themselves.

Now, she has something more to do.

As of Jan. 1, she added the role of president of Health Care and Education for the American Diabetes Association, based in Alexandria, Va.

“I want people to see that diabetes is serious,” said Cypress, 62. “This is a disease people (who have it) have to think about every day.”

In New Mexico, at least one person in 10 – about 11 percent of the state’s population – has the disease, a disorder of the metabolism in which the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body, which then loses its main source of fuel, according to WebMD.com.

About 90 percent to 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2, which is associated with older age, obesity, family history, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and ethnicity; about 80 percent of people with it are overweight, according the site.

In her unpaid role with the ADA, Cypress will either work by phone – sometimes by conference call – or travel to ADA offices, to be part of setting policy for programs targeting people in high-risk groups, certifying that the education being offered is up to standard, and promoting the 26th annual Alert Day, March 25, which advocates for people to test their risk for diabetes. (Find the test at diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test.)

Cypress returned to her job at ABQ Health Partners about five years ago, after previously holding a similar full-time position then taking some time off to complete her doctorate, she said during an interview at ABQ Health Partners on Gibson SE. She is now a part of a team with two endocrinologists, another nurse practitioner and three diabetes educators.

One of her main focuses, both at ABQ Health Partners and in her new role, is taking away some of the stigma around Type 2 diabetes.

“A lot of people think, ‘You brought it on yourself,'” she said. “There’s plenty of people who don’t eat right and don’t exercise and don’t have diabetes.”

Originally from New York, Cypress relocated to New Mexico after a bicycle vacation in the 1990s. She got interested in diabetes education when she was a registered nurse working with a nurse practitioner who did diabetes education and counseling. “That’s what I wanted to do. It became something I loved doing. I love seeing patients.”

Her team is convinced she can help patients one-on-one here in Albuquerque, while also taking on her new national role.

“Marjorie will take the extra step and go the extra mile to help her patients understand where they’re struggling. She understands the behavioral piece, and that’s not a cookbook approach,” said Donna Tomky, the department’s other nurse practitioner, who has worked with Cypress for about 14 years. “You have to individualize the care in education. Marjorie tries to meet people on their level so they can better (integrate) those self-care behaviors to better manage their diabetes.”

Dr. Jeremy Gleeson, an endocrinologists who has been chair of the Endocrinology Center in which Cypress works for about two decades, said Cypress will be a good national advocate while continuing to be a patient motivator.

“I can’t recall anybody else from New Mexico ever being in this position,” said Gleeson of Cypress’s new role. “Her schedule here can be worked around her schedule elsewhere, and she can do both effectively. She has been a great resource for us, and I think she’ll be very effective at the national level.”

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