Published August 2008
“The local American Diabetes Association in Hawaii has become 'my baby,’” says Laurie Tom, MD.
Indeed it has, as Dr. Tom has been a volunteer for the Association for over 15 years. In that time span, she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Diabetes Association and its Research Foundation and encouraged the local affiliate in Honolulu to embrace the notion of ‘community.’
“With Hawaii being so small, we have to support each other,” says Dr. Tom, an endocrinologist.
A Responsibility to Help
With a high Asian American and Pacific Island population, the prevalence of diabetes in her area is particularly high. As a native Hawaiian, Dr. Tom feels a responsibility to help support her community both professionally and philanthropically.
When she started serving on the Hawaii affiliate board in 1992, Dr. Tom became a principal fundraiser of local, special events, despite her time constraints as a practicing physician.
“It’s not that I had free time to do all these things, but there was such a great need to raise dollars to support our local Association office and its programs,” says Dr. Tom.
The local Hawaii office grew, and in turn, she was touched by the generosity of friends, family and individuals she had never met who wanted to make a difference in diabetes in their community.
Consequently, Dr. Tom took fundraising on as a personal challenge. “I felt an obligation to make a deeper commitment at a bigger level to support the broader organization mission,” Dr. Tom remembers.
Rather than simply “talk the talk,” she became a member of the Pinnacle Society as well, joining the ranks of high-level donors who help support the Association on a national level. Dr. Tom’s gifts to the Research Foundation go directly to the heart of her ultimate goal: to find a cure for diabetes.
“Perhaps by just setting an example, others will follow,” she muses.
Even while being thousands of miles away from the Mainland and caring for a diverse local community, she finds great importance in connecting with a national organization like the Association. “Since diabetes is one of my areas of expertise, I feel I have the biggest impact working with an organization dedicated to this illness,” says Dr. Tom.
In the future, Dr. Tom hopes to see more research attention paid to the populations represented in her local Hawaii. This and a heightened focus on prevention and management are her major concerns regarding diabetes.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tom continues to be impressed and honored by the generosity of others, motivating her to do more. “I am always inspired by the passion, commitment and dedication of volunteers and donors from all across the country who come together for the cause of diabetes,” says Dr. Tom.
“This kind of contagious enthusiasm continues to renew my commitment to the American Diabetes Association.”