In a small room, brightly painted with a forest scene off the waiting room area in the Care Ring Low-Cost Clinic, sits volunteer Judith Wood. Since 2016, Judith has been here every Wednesday from 9 am to Noon, using her 40 years of experience as a diabetes educator to help our patients learn more about their diagnosis and how to properly manage it.
Judith first learned about Care Ring when a friend spotted the volunteer opportunity for a diabetes educator on a website. Judith had retired a few months earlier from her 50-year career as a public health educator, which included a two-year service to the Peace Corps in India in the mid-1960's, five years of service at Mecklenburg County Health Department working on their Model Cities program, and
culminated with over four decades with Atrium Health working with patients in the Internal Medicine Residency program as a certified diabetes and asthma educator.
Judith was excited about the prospect of continuing to give back to her community, and to make an important difference in the health of patients. She said that often times patients come in with little understanding of diabetes, and feel fearful and hopeless about their situation. Her goal is to have them leave feeling more educated and confident that they can get their diabetes under control and still live a normal, healthy life.
Her approach consists of first getting to know the patients and listening to what their concerns are, as well as finding out what barriers they may have to complying with the recommendations for managing their diabetes. "Sometimes patients are living in areas where it's not safe to go for a walk to exercise, or they can't afford their medicine. That's important to know so that we can come up with an alternative plan or get them extra resources," she said. Judith also uses tools such as an illustrated educational booklet, available in English and Spanish, and a professional interpreter (when needed) to ensure patients have an easy-to-understand roadmap of what to do.
Judith shares that the number one challenge she hears from patients on managing their diabetes is eating healthy. Reasons range from coming up in a family or culture that doesn't eat many vegetables, living in a part of the city that doesn't have many fresh or healthy food options, or limited financial means, Judith works with each patient to make small,
achievable changes to their eating habits that add up over time.
When asked what she liked best about volunteering with Care Ring, Judith said that "I really enjoy working with the patient population - sometimes they teach me a thing or two! And the staff here go out of their way to ensure patients have what they need and are mindful of the challenges our patients face."
Dr. Kaaren Sailer, Care Ring's Medical Director, said about Judith: "Care Ring clinic staff and clients have been incredibly fortunate to have her volunteering her time weekly for many years. Her many years of experience providing diabetes education have been invaluable to helping our clients to understand what they can do to improve their diabetes control. I am personally thankful to have the opportunity to know and work with such a wonderful person!"
When Judith isn't volunteering, she enjoys yoga and is an aspiring meditation practitioner. She also calls herself a "serious hobbyist" in pottery-making, and rents space at Clayworks, a Charlotte nonprofit that offers classes and artist space. Judith has donated many of her beautiful pottery pieces over the years to Care Ring fundraisers, and is also a loyal financial contributor to our mission.
We celebrate her many years of incredible service and devotion to making a big difference in the lives and health of our patients. Thank you Judith!