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IN THE NEWS: Alumna Helps Children Manage Type 1 Diabetes

The following feature on Mary Oyos, class of 1983, was included in the March 27 issue of the Argus Leader:

Beginning this week, schoolchildren across eastern South Dakota will receive help in managing their Type 1 diabetes.

And, in a program that appears to be the first of its kind, they won't have to leave school grounds.

Mary Oyos, a clinical nurse specialist who served as diabetes program manager with the Avera McKennan Diabetes Center, created the Virtual Nurse Project.

The four nurses in her department are equipped with a laptop and camera, and so are selected schools that chose to participate in this program.

School employees underwent training in diabetes care for children, learning how to give insulin or count carbohydrates, help with a child's diabetes pump or treat low blood sugar.

Now, Oyos' staff will interact with school staff and students regularly, providing the nursing care the children need and assisting staff.

"It's an exciting project to be part of," says Oyos, who has been involved in diabetes education for almost all of her 28-year career at Avera McKennan Hospital.

"As far as we know, it's an innovative-type design that has not been done anyplace else in the country. It will be exciting to see the outcomes and if it is successful."

Oyos, a graduate of Brandon Valley High School, Augustana College and South Dakota State University, knows how critical her work with diabetes education is.

Diabetes affects more than 8 percent of the U.S. population. In 2009, 7.2 percent of South Dakotans older than 17 had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

One in three children born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Being a successful diabetes educator means having empathy for the people you work with, Oyos says.

It also means teaching people that they can prevent or delay diabetes by eating healthful food, being active and maintaining a normal weight.

"I loved the patient education part of being a nurse, and so that's what attracted me to this position," Oyos says. "At the time, it was a department of one. (Today) we have four nurses, three dietitians and two secretaries."