To commemorate this year’s Diabetes Week (Sunday 12 June – Saturday 18 June), we take a look at five diabetes heroes of 2016 so far.

The old adage “heroes come in different shapes and sizes” is particularly applicable to a condition such as diabetes, which can affect people of all ages and sizes.

Managing the condition can be heroic in itself – regular blood tests and watching what you eat is a big part of most people’s days – and while a hero may not always be acknowledged as much as they should, their impact can still be felt.

As we approach the half-way point of the year, here are five heroes who have excelled in various aspects of diabetes management.

*Editor’s note: This is by no means a “top five” list and does not serve to distinguish any significance between our heroes’ achievements.

5. Chris Gray, Diabetes Scotland Inspire Award

Chris Gray, from Hamilton, won the national Diabetes Scotland Inspire Award for launching a free running group for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The group is called DB12Run and inspires people with diabetes to become more active. Chris, 28, was selected ahead of 17 other nominees in the Supporting Others category.

Chris told the Daily Record: “I’ve come a long way since I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and found that running really helped me to maintain a healthy lifestyle and also help manage my blood sugars. I wanted to help other people with diabetes to be able to live well with the condition and understand that it doesn’t have to hold you back.”

4. Barbara B. Kahn, 2016 Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement

Barbara B. Khan is an international pioneer in diabetes research. This year she was awarded the 2016 Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement, the highest scientific honour from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), to celebrate her achievements in the field of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Kahn holds positions at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and Harvard Medical School. “Her extraordinary work has led the way for novel strategies to prevent and treat obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Desmond Schatz, MD, President, Science and Medicine for the American Diabetes Association.

Kahn will receive the award at the ADA Scientific Sessions in June.

3. Claire O’Connor, Queen’s Nurse award

Claire O’Connor was awarded the Queen’s Nurse title following her work on a project which focused on education for young people with type 1 diabetes.

The Queen’s Nurse title recognises a commitment to high standards of patient care, learning and leadership.

Her project, Sugar3, used videos, games and educational materials to help young children and families manage type 1 diabetes.

Claire, a diabetes specialist at Bury Children’s Community Nursing Team, also received an innovation and leadership award from charity The Queens’ Nursing Institute.

2. Barrie Smith, Diabetes UK’s Inspire Award

Barrie Smith lost a leg to type 2 diabetes in 2007, and then a toe on his right foot had to be removed in 2012. During this time, he has been raising awareness of diabetes-related amputation to try and ensure patients regularly see their doctor and can identify warning signs.

Barrie, 75, had his efforts recognised by Diabetes UK earlier this year when he won two awards, including Outstanding Individual Volunteer, as part as the Inspire Awards.

“As an organisation, we couldn’t do what we do without brilliant and dedicated volunteers like Barrie”, said Diabetes UK.

1. Dr David Unwin, NHS Innovator of the Year

Dr David Unwin has long championed the low-carb diet as a means of improving diabetes management, and in March he became the first GP to be named NHS Innovator of the Year.

Unwin, a Southport GP, has published four studies on the benefits of the low-carb diet for people with diabetes, and one of his papers is classed in the top five per cent of the BMJ’s most popular articles.

Unwin posted on the Diabetes Forum: “Winning NHS Innovator of the Year last night has got to be the high point of my medical career. I just hope it marks a step on the road to a broader acceptance of our low carb approach. I suspect it unlikely I would have been the lucky winner only a few years ago!!”

Do you have your own diabetes hero of 2016? Has someone particularly inspired you with your own diabetes management? Share your stories in the comments section below, or you can post on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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