Being told you have Type 1 diabetes can be frightening and bewildering for anyone, but especially for a child.
Christina Nagle was 15 when she received her diagnosis. Type 1 diabetes comes with a lifetime of treatment and management, a lifetime of doctor office visits and consults.
“It was in a meeting back then with all the doctors and other healthcare professionals, both good and bad, that I realized what I wanted to do,” she recalled. She wants to go into pediatric endocrinology. She wants to work with children, particularly children dealing with the confusion and fear of a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
It’s why she’s at Carroll now, studying to be a physician assistant (PA).
She is several years removed from her undergraduate degree, in molecular and cellular biology, from a school in Michigan. After graduating, she took a job as an orthopedic surgery research engineer at a hospital in Michigan. All the time, she was thinking about her future, about her goal. It’s also where several colleagues urged her to consider becoming a PA.
Researching PA programs during a visit with a cousin in Milwaukee, Nagle came across Carroll and decided to visit. She was impressed by the facilities, especially the Michael and Mary Jaharis Science Laboratories with the new cadaver dissection lab.
“I researched all the PA programs in the area and interviewed at Carroll and I just loved it,” she said. “During the interview process, the people here made me feel very comfortable. I just felt as though they weren’t going to let me fail.” Moving here from Michigan, an eight-hour drive from home, would be a big leap, but she felt reassured. “I knew I’d get a lot of support here.”
“The first summer I was here was a big change. It took a couple of months to transition. But with the support of Carrol staff and my classmates, it worked out. Once you get past that first semester, it gets smoother.”
In a way, she noted, it was almost helpful having her old social circle and family eight hours away. It removed temptation and forced her to rely more on classmates for her social life. “It does test your mental strength.” Nagle found the first year of the program, which focused more on classroom learning, more challenging. The second year, which is packed with rotations at medical facilities and more hands-on experiences, fits her style of learning much better.
And after the eight rotations, on May 9, 2020, comes graduation. She has the date committed to memory. It’s the culmination of a long dream, after all.
“Having Type 1 diabetes yourself gives you empathy as a caregiver,” she said. “When I started seeing a clinician who actually had Type 1 himself, I knew he understood what I was feeling and experiencing.” Diabetes, she knows all too well, has a mind of its own and can be unpredictable. Caregivers who didn’t have diabetes themselves, well, they just didn’t seem to understand.
“I want to be able to look at the parents and the kids and say trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve experienced that."