Celebrating International Women’s Day – 6 pioneers of the diabetes community

International Women’s Day celebrates making a positive difference for women, and the diabetes community is a fundamental example of women not letting diabetes stand in their way.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #Pressforprogress, with the focus on encouraging gender inclusivity. We therefore decided to celebrate some of the inspirational women past and present from the diabetes community who have helped to inspire and influence others.

Theresa May

Irrespective of your political allegiance, Prime Minister Theresa May is the first world leader with type 1 diabetes, and that is a big deal. It’s not always easy managing type 1 diabetes, especially in such a high-profile environment. In fact Mrs May had to break the House of Commons’ rules on not eating in the Chamber in order to treat a hypo when she was Home Secretary. She has been the UK’s Prime Minister for nearly two years and has supported charity work such as JDRF’s #CountMeIn petition during her time as a politician.

Eva Saxl

A true diabetes pioneer, Eva Saxl made her own insulin during World War II when access to insulin was sparse. She purchased water buffalo pancreases, and despite being unclear of the risks, made and tested the insulin on herself. Eva was able to save her own life, and proceeded to generously distribute her creation to around 400 people in the Shanghai ghetto she had fled to.

Dr Zoe Harcombe

Dr Zoe Harcormbe, PhD has been a leading figure in debunking the 1980s low fat guidelines that became official in the UK. In 2015 she released a paper detailing why they should never have been introduced and continues to campaign for improved guidelines. Her research has been instrumental in opening eyes about the benefits of low carb, healthy fat diets and clearing up misconceptions about saturated fat.

Chaka Khan

We love Chaka Khan. The Queen of Funk was one of the 517 people who sent us selfies as part of our #BloodSugarSelfie campaign in 2014. She put her type 2 diabetes into remission in 2012 after losing 60 pounds (27kg) and normalising her blood sugar and blood pressure. Chaka has sold 70 million records worldwide and after spending 40 years in the music business continues to record and perform.

Halle Berry

While her diabetes type has long been a mystery, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry has built up a remarkable film career, with her enduring roles including Storm from the X-Men films and Catwoman. In 2017 she revealed she was following a ketogenic diet to manage her diabetes.

Priscilla White

You may not have heard of Priscilla White, but her research into diabetes in pregnancy led to a groundbreaking classification that is still used today. The White Classification helps to distinguish between gestational diabetes and existing diabetes before pregnancy, which she developed while working for Dr. Elliot Proctor Joslin in the 1920s. In 1960, Priscilla became the first women to be awarded the Banting Medal, the highest scientific award of the American Diabetes Association.

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About the author

Jack Woodfield

Jack is Editorial Manager of Diabetes.co.uk. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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