dLife is proud to bring you an exclusive conversation with prominent executive, Carl S. Armato, in which he shares with us details about his personal journey with diabetes.
Armato, now the president and CEO of Novant Health, also tells us more about his inspiring book, A Future with Hope, in which he describes his personal struggle living with diabetes.
In his book, Armato weaves together an inspiring narrative of how he has learned to live with the disease and conquer it, over the past 50 years.
He recounts with detail, what processing the diagnosis was like for him and his young parents during the mid-’60s in rural Louisiana, and how his family worked to optimize their lifestyle for his health.
Through his story, Armato provides a candid look at what motivates him, and how he has succeeded in providing more outstanding screening protocols within his own health system that spans four states including North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.
The book has inspired us, and we hope it will inspire and encourage anyone battling a new diagnosis, as well as those who have been managing it for many years.
What was it like living with diabetes from such an early age?
Living with a chronic disease is all I’ve ever known having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 18 months of age. Throughout my adolescence, I learned that my disease would have an impact on all aspects of my life – from my involvement in sports and relationships with girls to focusing on what I eat and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s helped shape me into who I am today.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my journey with diabetes is the importance of maintaining a positive outlook despite the challenges that come with my condition.
Diabetes studies have shown that positive feelings are associated with better control of blood sugar, an increase in physical activity and healthy eating, ultimately lowering the risk of dying.
This message of positive thinking is what I hope to share with others experiencing similar battles of managing lifelong illnesses, and why I decided to write my book.
Did you ever think you’d write a book to inspire others?
Looking back, I never thought I’d share my personal story outside of the notes I jotted down for my future grandkids, in case they ever received a similar fate.
For most of my life, I was reluctant to tell people outside of my family and close friends about my condition. I worried it might change the way they treated me, just like it did with my middle school basketball coach who significantly limited my playing time when he found out about my diagnosis.
It’s not that he considered me incapable of playing, instead, he thought he was protecting me. After that experience, I never wanted my peers or adults to think any differently of me, so when it came to anyone outside of my circle, diabetes was not discussed.
What led you to become more open about having diabetes?
As I pursued a career in healthcare, this guarded perspective on sharing my story began to change. I realized that as the president and CEO of Novant Health, I was in a unique position to look at the healthcare industry not just as an administrator, but through the eyes of a patient to improve care delivery systems.
How did you do it?
In January of 2014, after about 15 years at Novant Health, I finally gained the courage to share my story with the entire Novant Health team through a blog post.
It was my way of communicating my disease with my colleagues in a real and honest way. Although I was unsure how my story would be perceived, the encouraging feedback across the 26,000-member team was incredible.
Why is it important to have a conversation about diabetes?
There is a new meaning to uncovering patients living with diabetes who may not know they have the disease.
Of the 30.3 million American adults with diabetes, 7.2 million are undiagnosed. That’s why we launched our “search and rescue” initiative, testing the vast majority of hospital admissions to find people who had diabetes but weren’t diagnosed.
Over a three-year period, we found and diagnosed more than 6,000 cases of the disease. Thanks to the diagnosis, these patients can now get the education and treatment they need to manage their disease.
At Novant Health, we remain committed to finding people with undiagnosed diabetes by continuing to host community screenings at events across our multi-state footprint.
In addition to these patient-focused efforts, Novant Health also provides insulin pumps and testing supplies to all employees living with diabetes through our durable medical equipment supplier, covered at 100 percent.
Carl S. Armato, President, and CEO, Novant Health.
What inspired you to write your book?
With my story finally out to the Novant Health team, I became empowered to share my journey with patients and their families. I remember speaking at a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation event when a young girl came up to me with tears in her eyes.
She told me that she had never heard anyone talk so positively about living with diabetes and that my story had inspired her.
Little did she know, she was the one that inspired me to write the book. It was after speaking to her that I decided to take the notes out of my personal journal, chronicling how I’ve gained resilience from disheartening moments by maintaining positivity, weaving them into what is now A Future with Hope.
Throughout my 50-plus years, I’ve learned that a lifelong illness can negatively impact a person, or it can make them strive for change. For me, it’s the latter. Because of my own experience with diabetes and my willingness to embrace it, I have been able to uncover opportunities to improve care for diabetes across the regions Novant Health serves.
For more about Armato’s journey with Type 1 diabetes, check out A Future with Hope.