Christopher Saudek, MD
On October 6, 2010, the Association lost one of its most indefatigable and inspirational leaders in the cause for protecting the rights of people with diabetes when Dr. Christopher Saudek died following a short battle with cancer. Dr. Saudek was President, Science and Medicine of the American Diabetes Association in 2001-02, and was a former chair of the Association’s National Advocacy Committee.
Dr. Saudek was a true leader in developing effective ways to protect the employment rights of people with diabetes, helping to ensure that relevant public and private policies are based on a sound understanding of the medicine and science of diabetes. For instance, Dr. Saudek was a member of an expert panel that advised the U.S. Department of Transportation on the feasibility of an exemption program to allow insulin-treated individuals to be commercial truck drivers based on a showing that they can drive safely – and it is largely due to his efforts that today more than 1,600 drivers with diabetes have safely returned to the road. Dr. Saudek’s work to get truck drivers a fair shake and an individual assessment didn’t stop with the establishment of the diabetes exemption program, as he continued to advocate for improvements to the program. In 2006, he was interviewed by National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” about the then-newly established exemption program, stating, “Everyone ought to be evaluated on their own merits individually. I think there should not be blanket discrimination.” (see “Diabetics May Get Second Chance to Drive Big Rigs”).
In 2008, Dr. Saudek helped develop the Association’s revised position statement on diabetes and employment, and it is because of his guidance and deft hand in crafting a well-balanced statement that this document is so strong in promoting the rights of people with diabetes and is widely relied upon. Also, in recent years, he educated the public about diabetes discrimination by blogging for Yahoo Health about employment discrimination, and wrote a compelling editorial in the Baltimore Sun about the nomination of the first Supreme Court jurist with type 1 diabetes, Justice Sonia Sotomayor (see “A Judgment Against Health-related Bias”).
Dr. Saudek advocated on behalf of his patients and others who wanted to work for the Pennsylvania State Police when he learned that they were being kept out of law enforcement jobs simply because they had diabetes. His work on behalf of people with diabetes who wanted to work in the law enforcement community had begun years before, when he tried to persuade the Federal Bureau of Investigation to employ people with diabetes as special agents or investigative specialists. Shortly before he died, Dr. Saudek urged the State Department to consider amending its medical standards for Foreign Service officer applicants with insulin-treated diabetes to permit an individualized assessment.
Beyond his dedication to advocacy for the rights of people with diabetes, Dr. Saudek was simply a wonderful, kind person who tirelessly devoted himself to helping others. Mike Greene, past chair of the American Diabetes Association, observed that “Chris was beloved by all of us who work in diabetes advocacy. He was our champion and our inspiration. His spirit will always be a part of that work.”
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