For Fe Vorderlandwehr, things have come full circle.
Several years ago, Vorderlandwehr was a college intern at the Wichita chapter of the American Diabetes Association while trying to figure out her career path as she attended Wichita State University.
Now she’s director of the local chapter.
Vorderlandwehr started her new position at the beginning of December after spending 13 years at McConnell Air Force Base. While at McConnell, she served as marketing director and then director of the base’s community center, planning activities for the troops, reservists and their families.
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The Wichita native is also active in the American Cancer Society, the Kansas Aviation Museum, Exploration Place and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Vorderlandwehr and her husband, James, have been married 11 years and have an 8-year-old son.
“My husband and son were very active in base activities and helping me plan events, so I told (the American Diabetes Association), ‘When you hire me, you hire them as well,’ ” she said.
She says diabetes has become more prevalent in the U.S., which has led to an increased need for awareness of the disease and its risk factors.
“They say in the next several years that one in three people will have diabetes. Statistically you either have it or know somebody that does,” Vorderlandwehr said.
Q. Do you have a personal connection to diabetes?
A. My father-in-law has type two diabetes and he has struggled with it for as long as I’ve known my husband. He was on dialysis and then he had a kidney transplant and he has lost his left leg from the knee down due to complications. On my side, my uncle has diabetes and he currently does dialysis. It was amazing when I made the announcement on base (about my new position), how many people I knew on base that were affected by diabetes that I didn’t know about.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges the association faces in trying to educate people about the disease?
A. One of the biggest challenges education-wise is just letting people know what the risk factors are. I think a lot of people know they need to eat more healthy, but it’s also just letting them know that it’s not taboo. People don’t tend to share it as much, but let’s share our stories. I think the best thing is that we can all learn from each other.
Q. What has led to the number of people with diabetes growing?
A. A lot of it has to do with diet and activity. … It’s no secret we’ve become a sedentary society. That’s not to say that if you exercise and diet you will never get diabetes. You may get it. It also has to do with heredity.
There are higher risk factors in the elderly and some ethnic minority groups. I’m part Filipino, and it’s prevalent in the Asian and African-American communities. So one of my goals is to really reach out to those communities.
Q. What are some of your other goals?
A. One of my goals is really to bring this association to the forefront to where, when we have events, people hear about it and think, “That’s where I need to be.” I want to bring all of our events to the greater attention of the community, so that when you say “Tour de Cure,” people automatically know it’s part of the American Diabetes Association. People know that we’re here for them, that diabetes doesn’t discriminate.
March 25 is Diabetes Alert Day, and that day we encourage people to take the risk test and you can see where you stand for type two diabetes. It’s a one-page questionnaire, and it will tell you if you’re at high risk, medium and low risk. We also have information on how to build your plate with protein and carbs and things like that. Just staying healthy and proactive. It’s available on our website ( http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test/).
Q. Do you do outreach with employers as well?
A. We have a Stop Diabetes at Work program where we can do Lunch and Learns and other activities in the workplace, and we have all kinds of reading materials. The well-being of their employees is something that can really impact employers, with people having to take sick days and increased health care costs.