Staff Spotlight: Helping patients help themselves

Diabetes care is not just new treatments, it’s management

Spollett (center) and Silvio Inzucchi, MD, discuss maintenance strategies with a patient.

Geralynn Spollett, APRN, associate director of the Yale Diabetes Center, is a teacher at heart. “For me, it’s all about the patients. I like teaching people how to take care of themselves. This has always been right up my alley,” she said.

The Yale Diabetes Center cares for more than 1,500 adult patients. Spollett specializes in playing coach and cheerleader for these patients as she teaches them “effective self-management” to achieve the best possible glucose control for that individual. “Living the diabetes lifestyle is not easy,” she noted, ticking off its nonstop and never-ending requirements: checking glucose, injecting insulin, taking medication, sticking to a proper diet and exercise regime. “My patients are my heroes.”

Spollett has worked at Yale since 1991, after starting her career in the 1970s at Boston Deaconess Hospital’s Joslin Diabetes Foundation and the Joslin Diabetes Center, where the patient-as-partner approach to diabetes was pioneered. By the millennium, new and effective medications were becoming available, and there was irrefutable scientific evidence that blood sugar control could reduce the likelihood of eye, kidney and nerve complications by more than 50 percent. “We now have hard data that gives patients the impetus to do the right things, and we are beginning to get better tools, such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose sensors, to help them manage this disease,” she said.

Geralynn Spollett, APRN

It takes a talented caregiver to make the most of these tools and strategies. “Geri is, in a word, spectacular,” said endocrinologist and Yale Diabetes Center Director Silvio Inzucchi, MD, about his long-time colleague. “She combines an international reputation as a diabetes expert, a deep knowledge of practical diabetes therapy, and a compassion for the real problems that real patients have, day-in and day-out, dealing with this disease. She also always seems to cut through the noise to get at what is actually troubling patients, and standing between them and achieving control of their diabetes. It's amazing to watch.”

In addition to her clinical work, Spollett was an associate professor at the Yale School of Nursing, and recently completed a term as the American Diabetes Association’s president for health care and education.

At home, Spollett, whose two children are grown, often works with her husband, David, the pastor of the First Church Congregational of Fairfield, on parish business. But she is always ready to go back to work. “At the Yale Diabetes Center, I see myself as the glue, the constant that keeps patients connected to our doctors and helps them improve care between visits,” said Spollett.