JDRF’s Transition to a new CEO: A busy day in the communications department

With only two weeks left in my internship with JDRF, I am sad, excited, and extremely grateful all at once. I am sad that in two weeks I will no longer be working for JDRF (though of course I will always be a part of JDRF’s work through my own fundraising and advocacy efforts). I am excited to go home for one week and spend some quality (but sadly brief)  time with my loved ones before moving back to campus for fall semester. And I am so grateful that I was given this huge opportunity to learn and gain experience at a company like JDRF, who is on the forefront of type 1 diabetes research to find a cure for all of us who live with T1D.

It’s only Monday of my second last week, and I already know this week will be a crazy one. Last night, my T1D friend and fellow intern Jenni Maizel, texted me with a screenshot of Jeffrey Brewer’s (as of today, former President & CEO of JDRF) facebook announcing that he will no longer hold the same position at JDRF. I had no idea why, how, when, or any specifics about this transition, but I knew that my next day at work would likely be a busy one with such a huge transition happening. And how crazy is it that I happen to be interning with JDRF at such an important time??  I love experiencing such big happenings such as this one!

I arrived at work early this morning (about 8:40 am) to find that there were already three others who had arrived early as well: Anne (VP of Strategic Communications), Paige, and Brian. Paige came to my desk and asked if I’d like anything from Starbucks, as she was going to get breakfast since the three of them had been in the office since 6:30 this morning. WHOA. Cue the beginning of a hectic day in the communications department.

I opened my email to find two “urgent” emails in my inbox about the transition from Jeffrey Brewer to Derek Rapp, JDRF’s new President & CEO. Finally, it all began to make sense. Jeffrey has left his role at JDRF after having done some amazing work resetting JDRF’s research strategy, fundraising strategy, and management and governance systems. Now, after accomplishing this important work, he has left his position as President & CEO and it is time for a transition to new leadership. Derek Rapp, who’s son Turner (fellow SWD intern!) has T1D, will be JDRF’s new President & CEO. He has served on JDRF’s International Board of Directors since 2010 and has been actively involved in JDRF’s mission and work. Jeffrey has set JDRF on the right course for research, and Derek will continue to propel JDRF’s work turning Type One to Type None.

At 9:30, the communications department had a quick meeting in Anne’s office to discuss the transition and how we would be communicating this information to different audiences. I could tell right away that today would be an important (and crazily fast-paced and busy) one. There were so many things to do and take care of! How do we communicate the transition to staff? To donors? To volunteers? What language do we use? How do we answer questions about the transition?

At 9:00 am, we posted a press release regarding JDRF’s CEO transition, which has certainly gained attention from various media outlets. As I was working on T1D in the News, I saw links to our press release pop up throughout my news searches of the day. At first they trickled in slowly, and then all at once I saw dozens! News sure does spread quickly thanks to the Internet!

Having the experience of being in the office on a day like today has certainly given me an appreciation for what the communications department does every day! They handled a very big, important transition with style and poise to ensure that audiences everywhere understand the transition accurately and correctly.  I’m really excited to see the progress that JDRF continues to make toward finding a cure while under new leadership.  So much progress has been made in the past few years, and it will only get better from here!

For example – One of JDRF’s research concentrations has gotten some special attention in the media lately: encapsulation.  Here’s the idea behind encapsulation: “New beta cells are created and wrapped in a permeable, protective barrier which is implanted in the body. The new beta cells release insulin when needed while the barrier protects them from being destroyed by the autoimmune attack.” (quotes from JDRF’s website) “Encapsulated cell therapy has the potential to virtually eliminate the relentless daily management burden for those living with T1D: no need for multiple daily insulin injections or pump therapy, no more constant blood testing and no more carb counting. People with T1D would just go about their daily lives for extended periods of time as if they didn’t even have the disease.”

Last week, ViaCyte announced that they will soon be moving ahead to human trials for encapsulation.  SO EXCITING!

JDRF is making huge strides in creating a world without T1D, and I love being a part of it all.  Personally and professionally.  Personally, encapsulation could change my life.  The idea of having a simple outpatient surgery to implant new beta cells every few years seems miles better than daily finger pricks, site changes, sensors, carb counting, and the like.  Professionally, it’s been so fascinating to be a part of media tracking what JDRF releases to the media.  Last week I tracked our press release about ViaCyte’s announcement and BOY did it get a lot of coverage.  I helped Christopher, our Director of Public Relations, create a list of all the media outlets that had picked up our release.  There was over 8 pages worth – and I didn’t even get them all!  Like I said, I’m gaining a growing appreciation for what the communications department does at JDRF.  It’s incredible.

Aside from those two very exciting announcements, today’s tasks at work were fairly normal.  I am working on compiling lists of donors, Walk Team captains, and Riders who have donated or raised $50,000 or more in the past year in order to send them research progress reports throughout the year.  We like to keep our donors and fundraisers in the know about how their funds are being used to turn Type One into Type None!  It’s been an interesting process of pulling lists from different departments and compiling/streamlining them into one cumulative list.  It’s tedious, but very enlightening!  There are so many dedicated donors that I am personally so very thankful for.  Without the generosity of donors and the leadership like Jeffrey Brewer and now Derek Rapp, who knows where JDRF would be!  I sure don’t, but I am thankful for where we are and where we’re heading in the future.

Exciting times for the T1D community, people, exciting times 🙂

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