Jane Kadohiro's Healthy Approach to Diabetes
In honor of Diabetes Forecast magazine’s 70th anniversary, we’re profiling people whose lives have been touched by diabetes—and who have touched the diabetes community.
When Jane Kadohiro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1955, doctors still took a bleak view of life with diabetes. “They told me I probably wouldn’t live past my 30s and I should never ever get pregnant,” says Kadohiro, now 71. Even then, she took the news in stride. “I grew up determined that if I was going to have a short life, I was going to pack everything into it and do what I could for myself and for others.”
She credits her parents’ attitude with helping her learn how to cope with diabetes. “[They] looked out for me but didn’t overprotect me,” she says. “I was allowed to visit my grandparents in a different part of the country, stay overnight with friends, and go with the Girl Scouts.” In other words, she was allowed to be a regular kid.
As a teenager, Kadohiro underwent foot surgery unrelated to her diabetes. She was struck not just by her nurse’s compassion but also by the way she taught Kadohiro how to make informed decisions about her diabetes. The experience inspired Kadohiro to pursue a career in nursing. Not all of the health care professionals she’s met along the way have had the same bedside manner. During that same hospital stay, “I remember the anesthesiologist saying, ‘Oh God, a diabetic. She’ll never make it,’ ” says Kadohiro. A few years later, at the University of Hawaii School of Nursing, a campus doctor told her, “You shouldn’t be here. You should be at home managing your diabetes.” His grim admonition only spurred her on. “I ended up having six college degrees,” she says. “Don’t tell me I can’t do something.”
Kadohiro worked as a hospital nurse for a year before moving into the public health field, working with the Hawaii State Department of Health. “You can make an even bigger impact when you’re changing public laws and educating people,” she says. “Your client or your patient is the whole state.” Although she initially planned to run a public health program for people with diabetes, her responsibilities grew beyond that; in 2002, she was appointed deputy director of health for the state of Hawaii. “A lot of responsibilities with that position were working with the state legislature,” she says. “I could definitely influence more people that way to get more attention on diabetes.”
Working with individuals with diabetes as well as the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other diabetes organizations, Kadohiro advocated for several important laws to help people in Hawaii who have the disease, among them a 2000 law that provides reimbursement for diabetes supplies and education and a 2015 law that protects the rights of students with diabetes.
As a public health nurse, Kadohiro works to empower people with diabetes in the same way that her heroes empowered her. “The reason I’ve lived 63 years with diabetes is because my parents and [other] people in my life never told me there was anything I couldn’t do,” she says. “They gave me the encouragement and support to find my own life.”