Joslin Medalists and the Medals

The Joslin Medalists are people who have completed 50 years with type 1 diabetes, and who have been awarded a medal for that accomplishment. There are more than 5000 individuals who have this medal. The picture below shows medalists who attended a meeting in Boston in 2011. I am the taller fellow in the center of the back row. There are also 75 and 80 year medals. If you know any long term type 1 diabetics in any part of the world, and they do not have the medal, be sure to tell them to apply. The medals shown are, from left to right, for living 50, 75 and 80 years with type 1.

The Joslin Medalist Study in Boston examined 1000 medalists during the period 2005-2015. It was funded by JDRF, NIH, and private donations. I participated in 2009 and again in 2017. The examination was very thorough, and my past history was required, in detail. Many tests were performed while I was at the Joslin Center.

Many very interesting things were found during the study, including the fact that many of us still produce some of our own insulin. Dr. George L. King is the head of the Joslin Medalist Study in Boston. His area of expertise involves researching the causes of, and preventions for, diabetes complications. Here is an article, about three years old, about the research. The quotes are Dr. King’s own words.

“The major fears of the diabetic patient are blindness, renal failure, or hypoglycemia—all of which are complications of type one diabetes. Focus groups have shown that, if not for the complications, diabetic patients could tolerate the disease quite well.” King is one of the world’s leading researchers into diabetes complications. He is Director of Research and Head of the Section on Vascular Cell Biology at Joslin, as well as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and he has been at both Joslin and Harvard since 1981. “My area of expertise is how insulin interacts with the blood vessels,” King says. Specifically, King is examining the effects of insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, on the molecular mechanisms that could lead to degeneration of vascular systems in the body. In 1989, Dr. King spearheaded breakthrough research postulating that activation of protein kinase C is the primary pathway in which hyperglycemia causes loss of function, and other complications, in the retina, kidney and cardiovascular systems. Following this, King showed in a series of studies using vascular cells from the retina, kidneys, and arteries specifically how hyperglycemia contributed to causing various diabetes complications. King’s research into understanding the causes of diabetes complications, so he can help to find ways of preventing them through treatments and lifestyle changes, extends far beyond the confines of a lab or a petri dish. He is working with more than 800 people in the Joslin Diabetes Medalist program —people who have been awarded medals for living with type 1 diabetes for 50, even 75 years —to uncover how they have managed to avoid many diabetic complications through the decades.“They are very interesting people,” King says about his study group. “Some of them built their own glucose meters in the 1960s and 70s, before they were widely available to the public. ”Aside from being avid do it yourselfers, King found other shared traits of those who have minimized the complications from diabetes, despite living with the condition for many years. After discounting genetic factors, King’s research so far reveals that most of the Medalists exercise regularly. They are also very careful with their diets. But, more than this, King noted another shared trait that, although fairly abstract, is very important. “They are very good advocates for themselves,” King says of his subjects. “The are always on the lookout for new treatments. They are definitely a proactive group. They’re not sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to be done for them. They’ll do it for themselves first, if they have to.” King, and other researchers, also discovered that hdl levels, the so-called “good cholesterol,” is high in Medalists without complications.“We are looking into that,” King says about the implications of the hdl levels. By examining the Medalists King hopes to uncover the specific, if not the actual molecular ways in which they are protected from complications. Is it lifestyle? Genetics? Life choices? Or, is it something else? “The hope is we look at humans who are protected, then see why they’re protected, and come up with answers about lifestyle,” King says. “Then, by looking at their tissue and biochemistry (after death) we can perhaps develop medications to simulate the biochemistry that protected them. ”On that front, King says they have discovered a way that naturally produced human insulin prevents arteriosclerosis. “Can we design an insulin to prevent arteriosclerosis?” King says. “I think this may be possible in the next five years." Because up to 30 percent of people with type 2 diabetes use insulin, such a breakthrough would be good news for more than just for type 1 diabetics, he points out. Meanwhile, as researchers like King work to understand the factors that protect some people from the complications caused by diabetes, and until the development, and testing of medications as a result of those findings come to market, there are things diabetics can do to help themselves avoid retinopathy, neuropathy, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.“Don’t smoke, watch your diet, and exercise,” King advises. “Also, advocate for yourself. Be proactive. That’s the main trait of the Medalists—they stick up for themselves.”


@Richard157, what a great post, and a fabulous set of pictures!!! I loved the group picture in particular, really inspiring!

That was a great quote. I can’t help thinking how close this is to what we here at FUD all believe: we are UNLIMITED by diabetes, and we are the ones in control of our destiny.

My T1D son would love to meet more Joslin Medalists btw.




@Richard157, this brought tears to my eyes, especially the photo of all the medalists in 2011. Thank you so much for sharing!


Thanks for sharing this @Richard157. As always, you’re inspiring to us all! It’s exciting to read about the research Dr. George L. King is doing. I’m going to see if I can find some more information on it.

I think this quote is very interesting. We discussed a study about the increased heart disease risk in people with Type 1 D awhile back. I wonder if this attribute of naturally produced human insulin is the major contributor.


@Katers87, thanks for the link about increased heart risk. That info is very alarming, but it is something we need to know.


Maybe we can meet up when you return to US.

My 54 year diaversary is this week!.
I have 50 year medal from Joslin and Lily.


@MM2, the only “foreign” country I have visited is Canada, Ha! I will not be leaving the US unless I visit Canada again.
I’m glad you have the 50 year medals. Congrats on your 54’th diaversary!


I assume some of the people standing in the front to the right and left must not be medalists but workers at Joslin? The pic is kind of small, but I can’t imagine them being 50 years old, let alone 50 years with diabetes.


@jag1, you are are correct. There were a few Joslin employees and at least two doctors in the picture. In a more recent picture, when I did not attend, the employees were excluded . I think Dr King was the only non diabetic included. I showed the older pic, dated 2011, since I was in that one.


Joslin is easy for me to get to - in fact I started seeing an endo there a few months ago. I’ll have 50 years only six years from now. So I want you to attend that meeting for sure! I’m tall too, so we can be the two tall guys standing in the back.


My 50th diaversary is coming up in October. I’m curious to see what happens when I call Sinai hospital in Baltimore to see if they have an records. It’s amazing to remember that I as admitted for a 10 day stay them to stabilize me.

I might be short one relative who could write letters since my two older sisters are about the remaining ones who could document when it happened. I was just looking up my pediatrician and found a 2017 blogged obituary by the son another doctor in the office and it mentioned in a comment that Dr Kramer was still alive.

I wonder too about records from the diabetic summer camp I attended (Camp Glyndon in Maryland) and maybe records from studies I was part of for years at the Wilmer Eye Clinic.

Kind of fun to chase down this old info,


Congrats on the 50th diaversary, that is quite an achievement! You deserve more than a medal in my eyes!


I got mine a few years ago, Joslin is pretty flexible. I had letter from my parents (they recalled events from 1965). I also found obit of dr I went to from childhood, so no official record there. But current and 1985-1990 medical records were accepted, with notes that stated self reported diagnosis date. My parents remembered it due to it being on holiday weekend, and grandparents visiting for extra help while I was in hospital. Eye complications documented from mid 1980s was pretty convincing too.


I received my 50 year Joslin medal in 2009, but I was eligible in 1995 since I was diagnosed in 1945. I had not heard of medals in 1995. I applied 14 years after that. The only living people in 2009 who could
help me were my sister and a cousin. They could remember 50 years prior to the date I applied, but they would not have remembered in 1995. My sister was 2 years old when I was diagnosed.
In Sept of this year I will complete 75 years of T1D. I do not know anyone who can remember my diagnosis date. I don’t think I can show the proof I need to get the 75 year medal.


Congratulations, @cogdog! That’s a great accomplishment. :blossom: