Co-workers and clients alike say that Emily Casciano’s positive attitude and boundless enthusiasm for her job at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center are what make her a great pediatric Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Her interest in kids with diabetes goes back to an internship she did as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut in Dietetics, (currently she’s a part-time student in a master’s program at Columbia in Healthcare Administration) and during the five years she has been at the Berrie Center, Emily has become an indispensable resource to the Center and her patients—and their families.
Now, her outstanding work with children with diabetes is being supported by a generous new gift to the Berrie Center that makes Emily the William R. Berkley III Pediatric Diabetes Educator. With this title comes an important work focus for Emily on the Center’s most vulnerable children with diabetes, the youngest patients.
Recently, during a typical, hectic day in the life, Emily Casciano found time to talk about being a pediatric CDE and Registered Dietician (RD) at the Berrie Center.
How little are our youngest patients?
We define youngest as 5 and under. My youngest patient is a year-and-a-half old.
What are the challenges of working with very young children?
Very young children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) have much different insulin requirements than our older kids, and often need adjustments to dosing every one to two weeks during growth spurts or a change in schedule. Also, the little ones are often very sensitive to exercise, and activity that looks like minimal exercise to an adult could be strenuous for the child—resulting in wide glucose fluctuations.
What are the special rewards that come with working with very young children?
The parents of our youngest Berrie Center patients are very engaged and incredibly motivated. They soak up information like a sponge and are empowered to learn as much as possible about caring for a child with T1D. The parents and kids are so brave during the pump and sensor training. The training appointments can be very emotional but also inspiring and rewarding knowing that the family is equipped with tools to help ease the day to day management of diabetes.
In general, what do you like about working with kids with diabetes
It’s challenging, fast-paced and extremely rewarding. You can make a big difference in someone’s life in a relatively short period of time. What I love the most is getting kids interested in eating healthy, as young as possible. Diabetes is such a huge part of their lives—kids have to find ways to be involved and enthusiastic about their own nutrition.
What is the job of a CDE?
To teach patients how to fully take care of their own diabetes and to empower them to really understand how to live well with diabetes. There’s a lot to that. I will always have some new little bit of information to teach a family and deliver on a level they can absorb and take home and put into practice. Each stage of development presents new challenges, and parents don’t always know what to expect. We try to educate patients and their families what to expect.
How has the job of a CDE changed over the years you’ve been at the Berrie Center?
Technology is constantly changing the scope of the job. It seems like every day there’s something new—either coming to market or in development—and it can be challenging to keep up with everything. Our patients always seem to know what is going on, so that pushes us to try and stay one step ahead. We formed a technology committee where adult diabetes educators—Amanda Kirpitch and Courtney Melrose and I—stay up to date on all the latest technology and disseminate information to clinicians and staff, so we’re always in the know and on the same page. We’re all motivated to stay on top of what’s going on.
What influenced you growing up?
I’m the daughter of a career naval officer and I spent my early life moving from base to base with my family. Someone in that situation really knows how to make friends, cope with different situations and adapt and be flexible. That is who I am.