We are extremly honored to present Max Szadek as a featured inspiration in the diabetes community. I have had the pleasure to work with Max on various projects and I am so inspired by his commitment, creativity and devotion to our diabetes world. Thanks Max for all that you do!
My name is Max Szadek. I'm founder of the national nonprofit
organization, Divabetic (www.divabetic.org). I'm also known as Mr.
Divabetic. It's true I've been called the 'happy healthcare host' and
a 'cult figure for diabetes' but to be chosen as a 'Inspiration for
the World Of Diabetes' by Pumpwear Inc. is an amazing honor.
I am not living with diabetes. I am not a doctor. I'm not a celebrity.
And I'm obviously not a woman but none of this stop me from forming a
diabetes organization to empower women to manage their diabetes with
confidence, knowledge and inspiration. (If I can do it, so can you!)
I am affected by diabetes. My grandmother, Mary Zinni had diabetes. My
older brother is living with type 1 diabetes. Many of my relatives
have and/or had type 2 diabetes. Because of my family history, I
consider myself to be a 'man at high risk' and I do everything I can
to delay and/or prevent a diagnosis in my lifetime.
If you consider me to be inspiring then it must be because I was
inspired. I managed to turned a tragedy into "two-lips" to raise
awareness for diabetes in a fun, new way because of my inspiration.
I worked for R & B legend, Luther Vandross for 13 years. He was an
amazing performer, singer, songwriter and mentor. One day I went to
work and I found him lying on the floor of his apartment after he
suffered a stroke (related to his type 2 diabetes.) In a moment my
life was destroyed by diabetes. That fact that Luther's stroke could
have been avoided is what motivated me to give up my career in
entertainment and get involved in diabetes outreach. It's this
painful, heartbreaking shame and regret that inspires me to help
others affected by diabetes keep their 'house a home' by learning how
to prevent diabetes health-related complications from occurring.
The word "Divabetic" popped into my head while I was watching Patti
LaBelle perform at a Tribute Concert to Luther Vandross. She stopped
in the middle of one of her songs and admitted she was living with
diabetes. She said, 'diabetes doesn't control me, I control my
diabetes." I looked up at the stage and thought to myself she's not a
diabetic, she's a DIVA and that's when "DIVABETIC" popped into my
Although one of Divabetic's many slogans is 'laugh a little, learn a
lot', the fact is that I take my work at Divabetic very seriously. My
goal is to help comfort, connect and cheer on women and men throughout
their journey of accepting their diabetes. I refer to this as going
from 'diagnosis to diva' or 'diagnosis to dude.' If you plan ahead,
you accept your diabetes. If you run out of the house without any
self-care supplies and without eating breakfast you don't accept your
diabetes. It's as simple as that.
I don't choose to use scare tactics to educate people about diabetes
and the importance of diabetes self-care instead I prefer to use glitz
and glamour. I host large-scale theatrical events that I fondly refer
to as "Beyonce concerts about blood sugars", empowering fashion shows,
upbeat monthly podcasts and crazy videos from around the country. To
date, I have presented diabetes educational programming in over 20
major US cities as well as over 100 free podcasts reaching over 4,000
listeners on a monthly basis. I even presented three major diabetes
outreach programs in one week: Diabetes Fairytales at the American
Diabetes Association Expo in Pittsburgh, PA, the Plate Poetry Project
at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY and Divabetic - Victory
Over Your Diabetes in Philadelphia, PA. (I still don't know how I did
I've created quite a few diabetes educational games including Carb
Kitty, Diabetes Numerology, Diabetes Time Machine and Serve, Taster or
Trash! I think games are a great way to learn.
I'm proud to partner with the American Diabetes Association, JDRF,
dLife, Taking Control Of Your Diabetes and healthcare centers such as
Mount Sinai Medical Center, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and
the Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland among others to present free
diabetes education in an entertaining way.
I don't shy away from talking about the real issues that concern
people living with diabetes either. Sex, eating disorders, emotional
eating issues, depression, alcohol abuse are topics on my blog,
podcasts and live outreach programs. I created the 'Don't Let Diabetes
Kill Romance' campaign to raise awareness about diabetes sexual
health-related issues and partnered with several best-selling romance
novel and women's fiction writers to reach a wider audience.
Yes, I dress up in a fruit suit, play educational games and lead crazy
workouts to get people excited about being healthy. Fortunately I feel
blessed to know that I have inspired many women and men to live well
with diabetes. Thank you.