Dr. Spiegel (L) and Tommy Thompson
Photo: Camera One
"We will never accept diabetes as inevitable," said Tommy Thompson, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, facing an audience of Children's Congress delegates and C-SPAN cameras.
Secretary Thompson and Dr. Allen Spiegel, director of the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, responded to delegates who came to get answers to questions such as "Where does diabetes rank in priority in research?" (Ryan Beda) and "Are more stem cells going to be made available for researchers?" (Ryan McClatchey).
Secretary Thompson and Dr. Spiegel answered delegates' questions willingly and passionately. It's clear the two panelists work hard to find a cure for diabetes.
In the Hot Seat
In a large ballroom filled with chairs, the delegates waited patiently until the meeting began. Some of the questions had to do with very technical research. And while other questions where simple, they were questions we all want answered.
Jennifer and Sarah Roth, 15-year-old twins from Texas, asked the first question of the meeting. They asked Secretary Thompson, "Why in other countries, such as Great Britain and Israel, do they seem to spend more money on research, while in the U.S. they seem to spend it on trying to get permission to do the research?"
Secretary Thompson responded, "No country spends nearly as much money as the U.S. does on research. The U.S. has lots of responsibilities around the world. I would like to see more money spent on research. The U.S. is the best government system but does have some problems. You're going to have different ideas and beliefs, as not everyone believes as strongly as you do about research."
Lauren Stanford, 11, Massachusetts, asked, "Would researchers do anything to find a cure?" She was reassured that researchers are fully committed to finding a cure for diabetes.
Later, Andrew Fallone, 6, of Wisconsin, asked Secretary Thompson a question that was direct and to the point. Andrew bravely stood up and said, "Why doesn't President Bush support stem cell research?" Secretary Thompson said, "President Bush does support stem cell research. We're going to do everything we can. We've got to get more researchers, so we can then get more projects started."
As the final question, Patrick Finan asked Dr. Spiegel, "When a cure is found, will it take a long time for everyone to be cured? If not, how do you plan to distribute it quickly?"
Dr. Spiegel responded, "Before insulin, diabetes was a fatal disease. Once insulin was discovered its use spread rapidly. At one time, the insulin pump was as big as a [stereo] speaker, but now it is miniature and easy to wear." Once there's a cure, we need to work so there's an inexhaustible supply, he said.
The Town Hall Meeting was a great experience. Many delegates came out feeling more educated about their disease. After the meeting, Tiffany Arnold, 12, of New York, said, "I thought it was very educational. I learned a lot about research and my diabetes." Nic Carullo, 15, of Indiana, said, "The Town Hall Meeting was good. The information gave me background on what is going on with research." And, finally, Secretary Thompson said, "After listening to you, I am even more dedicated to finding a cure."