My name is Samantha Willner and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in 1991 when I was just one year old. Nearly 25 years later, I am not only healthy, but my career and creative endeavors have since been dedicated to helping others with T1D around the world.
My journey toward health and acceptance, however, has not been easy. As a teenager, I struggled with depression and the relentless daily requirements of managing diabetes. Lacking a solid support system, I often hid my disease from those closest to me, preferring to give insulin surreptitiously in bathroom stalls or–more often–not at all. It was not until 2013 when I nearly lost my eyesight to diabetic complications that things in my life began to change.
Unwilling to accept life as a blind person, I reached out to the T1D research organization, JDRF, and was overwhelmed by the supportive response I received. Seemingly overnight, I was thrown into the type 1 world and began volunteering in the community. I was connected to a new team of doctors and the latest medical technology. In between laser treatments and eye surgeries, I chaired JDRF’s Mentoring Program in New York City, pairing newly diagnosed T1D patients with mentors and resources. I then began work full time as a Development Manager for JDRF, and eventually became Development Director for JDRF International. Since 2013, I have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for T1D medical research–and in the process, regained my eyesight and control over my disease.
Today, I am a Global Ambassador and contributing writer for the advocacy organization Beyond Type 1, and also serve on their Global Ambassador Council. Additionally, I am a graduate student at Yale University, currently working toward a Master of Public Health. My hope is to become a public health leader capable of affecting positive change for those with T1D around the globe–from improving access to insulin to expanding psychosocial support programs until, eventually, a cure is found.
Outside of work and school, I am a passionate world traveler. I have conquered countries like Turkey, Indonesia, and Iceland all with an insulin pump strapped to my waistband. Above all, I am a writer. This website–once a travel blog–is now a culmination of my favorite pieces related to travel, diabetes, and much more.
In addition to this website, I also maintain a second blog titled Hack Diabetes dedicated exclusively to T1D news, information, and stories.
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @SamanthaWillner.
To a cure,