People to Know 2013: Jason Baker
Jason Baker, MD, is uniquely positioned to shed light on questions regarding what is required to manage type 1 diabetes—he's both an endocrinologist and a patient with type 1 diabetes. Jason was diagnosed with the disease in his third year in medical school after a harrowing illness and a near brush with death. Rather than bemoan his fate, he used the diagnosis to decide on a career in endocrinology, devoting himself professionally to the care of others living with diabetes.
Jason spent a good portion of his early career on international projects and teaching assignments. During one trip, he met Marjorie Namayanja, a young Ugandan woman who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 3. Even though she had access to more insulin and glucose-testing supplies than most people in Uganda, it was not enough to keep diabetes-related complications at bay—and she ultimately succumbed to kidney failure at age 29. Jason was especially touched and moved by the positive advocacy and extraordinary spirit demonstrated by Marjorie, a woman in a poor country who was facing a slow and painful death.
Inspired by Marjorie and guided by an enduring faith as well as a strong social support system, he founded the nonprofit Marjorie's Fund to empower people living in resource-poor settings to survive their diagnosis and thrive into adulthood.
I met Jason through Marjorie's Fund when flooding in Uganda washed away the few resources they had. He suggested teaming up—my nonprofit, Insulin for Life, collects unused and unneeded diabetes supplies, while Marjorie's Fund does not. Within two weeks, we had sent supplies and Jason had sent funds. Since then, Jason and I have kept in touch, sharing information and insight and encouraging each other. I've learned we share the same values, placing an emphasis on the relationships we make through our respective nonprofits.
Through his leadership with Marjorie's Fund, Jason has not only opened new doors for Insulin for Life to operate but provided a tremendous example for others on how to achieve the seemingly unachievable.
Mark Atkinson, PhD, is a type 1 diabetes researcher at the University of Florida and president of Insulin for Life, which he runs with his wife, Carol.