Woman honored for diabetes education efforts

ROCHESTER — Priscilla DeJesus lives with diabetes every day.

She was diagnosed with the condition three years ago, said DeJesus, a pastoral minister for St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish. Her husband, Deacon Bienvenido DeJesus, has been struggling with the disease for a decade, she said. He is not only on dialysis but is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, she explained.

Because of those personal connections, DeJesus said that she was extremely honored upon receiving the "Por Tu Familia" award during the first Mission Recognition Breakfast — one of six community awards presented Nov. 29 by the American Diabetes Association of Upstate New York.

She was honored for her dedication to increasing community awareness about diabetes management and prevention, said Kelly Mueller, the association’s director of programs.

"Priscilla has been involved for a long with the ADA," Mueller said. "And she was a standout with all the different things she’s done, and the ways she has helped."

Father Bob Werth, copastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, was among several parish staff members who attended the breakfast to support DeJesus for all her efforts.

"She’s great," he said. "She and (fellow staff Martha Montes) are off the charts. They don’t stop helping."

The ADA is a volunteer-driven organization, and DeJesus led by example through networking and recruiting of others to help spread the message of education and prevention through nutrition and exercise, added Mueller.

"She made great things happen," Mueller said.

When approached by the ADA to provide diabetes information at the parish, DeJesus was not only willing to help, she wanted to be trained as a Por Tu Familia Ambassador, which is a volunteer educator, remarked Nancy Zawacki, director of the George Eastman Circle who also is an ADA board member.

DeJesus said she and several other parishioners went through the program to offer community workshops during the fall of last year. Soon after, the group began outreach to the residents at St. Michael Apartments and Buena Vista Apartments in northeast Rochester, as well as at the parish, DeJesus explained, .

"Knowing how we (Hispanics) are … they needed to learn how to take better care of themselves," she added. "We will continue offering that (help)."

DeJesus also partnered with Project HOPE, an initiative to improve the health of northeast Rochester residents, to create a Healthy Living program offered through the University of Rochester, she said.

Such training also has taught DeJesus how to modify her family’s diet and take better care of her and her husband’s health. Two of her sisters also have diabetes, she said.

"This also helped me a lot," she said. "We didn’t realize…the care we needed for ourselves."

For example, she learned how important it is for a person with diabetes to check their feet for spots, which can prevent amputations, DeJesus said.

Amputations also were prevented when area practices’ primary-care doctors received financial and technical assistance as part of the Rochester Regional Quality Improvement Initiative (RQI) for Diabetes Care, explained Dr. Joseph Stankaitis, chief medical officer for the Monroe Plan for Medical Care and a ADA board member. RQI is a collaborative effort between health plans, state and county health departments and other community agencies, according to www.chcs.org/publications3960/publications_show.htm?doc_id=1013902

"For the individual, that’s a life-changing situation," said Stankaitis, who also was honored during the breakfast with the "Stop Diabetes Award for Clinical Care."

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about the Por Tu Familia, visit www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/programs/latino-programs/?loc=DropDownIMC-latino.

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