Sam Grossman is the coordinator for a grassroots diabetes education program being delivered to the residents of Newark, NJ, and has hopes to expand the program to others in need.

By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator,

During a cold, wintry evening in Newark, NJ people file into a local community health center and find a place to sit. It’s the kind of night where people would rather stay home than venture out. However, the people filing into the community center all have diabetes and they are here to learn disease management skills to improve their health and find additional support.

The people are missing the necessary information to help them control their diabetes. They are not only in need of getting a good overview of making lifestyle changes, but also address their individual needs. The coordinator for the evening’s session is Sam Grossman, BS Pharm, Pharm.D, CDE. Grossman has rolled up his sleeves and is delivering education to people using a grassroots approach in Newark, an underserved community.  He not only coordinates the evening’s itinerary, he finds the speakers, communicates with attendees’ healthcare providers, and even drives around Newark to see firsthand what type of markets and restaurants are in the community.

During the day, Grossman is a diabetes educator at the Department of Veterans Affairs within the New York Harbor Health Care System. He also is the president and clinical coordinator of Diabetes Care On-The-Go Inc., a diabetes education center that serves the diabetes population of NY and NJ. 

And it’s through this work where he got the idea to provide education to urban areas because Grossman knows there is a disparity in care and a lack of understanding about the importance of lifestyle education in the inner cities. 

Having just begun in November, this pilot program is in its earliest stages, but Grossman sees great potential in it. He is working in collaboration with the Diabetes Foundation.

The foundation is based in Paramus, NJ  and is a not-for-profit organization which is “dedicated to improving the care and quality of life for children and adults living day-to-day with diabetes in the New Jersey/New York Metropolitan area.”  The foundation is funding the pilot program, handling its administrative paperwork, and has performed a whole host of activities for it including: having identified the site and secured the permissions and contacts within the site; done outreach to local pharmacies, restaurants, supermarkets, caterers and pharmaceutical companies to gain interest in donating healthy dinner meals (which are provided at the education sessions) and diabetes testing supplies; developed giveaways to assist them in the program such as recipes, healthy snacks, and binders to maintain their educational materials; connected with the attendees monthly to remind them to come to sessions and address any health concerns they may have had that month. The foundation also maintains all the patient information and will provide reporting and analyze trends in health improvement as the months go on. Bonnie Starr is the foundation’s manager for the program.   While the program is very much a grassroots program, it has been publicized in the Newark area through news and press releases, and the foundation has advertised the program to the patients they serve in Newark.  

In addition to the Diabetes Foundation major involvement in the program, Liss Pharmacy is a program partner and provides additional support and encouragement for Spanish-speaking attendees, and provides language translation services each month at the meetings.  

From the City of Newark’s Dept. of Child & Family Well-Being Health Center, where the program is run, Therese Wynn, senior administrative analyst and medication access coordinator, has handled logistics, recruited new patients, followed up with them, and motivated them to return to the program monthly. Thomas Ortiz, MD, is the medical director at the health center, and has been instrumental to the program as well. spoke with Grossman about the program’s specifics and how he would like to see it expand.
Why the decision to get involved in this program?  

I presented a poster at last year’s AADE conference, discussing a model approach to delivering diabetes education I was using in Brooklyn, NY. After the presentation, I was approached by the Diabetes Foundation. They were looking for a program that would provide measureable outcomes that showed an improvement in blood sugar numbers, weight reduction, and overall health after a year.
Seeing the benefit of what we brought to people in the Brooklyn area, I thought why not bring it to New Jersey?
What do you typically discuss in these diabetes education classes?

We discuss the usual lifestyle items including, diet, exercise, diabetes medications, and getting over obstacles, but we have a variety of speakers who are specialists who can meet the needs of the individual participants. We try to empower the attendees and talk about issues that bother them. With most diabetes education programs, you typically have one speaker that talks generally about a variety of diabetes topics. I have recruited specialists, psychologists, social workers, and others to talk on specific topics. Liss Pharmacy provides a Spanish-speaking person who translates for our Spanish-speaking population. 

In addition, we have a close relationship with the healthcare teams of the individuals who attend the program. We inform their healthcare teams about what the patients have learned and talk about how we are trying to improve their care.















Left to right: Along with a recent group of attendees, are Dr. Thomas Ortiz, the Newark center medical director (first on the left); Roberta Schmidt, executive director, Diabetes Foundation (third from left); Dr. Sam Grossman (seventh from the left); and Bonnie Starr, program manager, Diabetes Foundation (fifth from the right).
How are people getting referred into the program?

By their physicians, but what’s nice is that these people who are being referred by their physicians are also bringing their friends and neighbors.
How do you believe this can help people with diabetes?

This program is unique because it’s geared for the population we are seeing. They not only learn about the disease, but they learn what they can do in their environment and how to eat the foods they have and use it to their advantage.

Acknowledging the reality that people may be socio-economically challenged and working within those parameters is important.    

We are looking to do more than deliver education; we want to help them. For example, we have had cases where people lack testing strips and I’m working with Bonnie to see where we can get strips for these patients. [Editor’s note: The Diabetes Foundation has provided those in need with a 2-month supply of testing supplies through their medication assistance program, and they are looking to find a longer term solution for them so they can continue to test daily.]
What is your hope for this program long-term?

I spoke to Bonnie [Starr] recently, and she shares news about our expansion efforts. For example, we are going to be teaming  up with CarePoint Health, which is a hospital system in northern New Jersey.  

They love our program and would like to learn how to use it.  

I spoke to the person who is in charge of diabetes education at a hospital in Newark. The city of Newark doesn’t have any programs like this. Therefore, I believe the program touches the community. We would like to spread it throughout all of New Jersey, but as our first step, it’s easier to target patients in inner cities. The problem in NJ as well as the rest of the rest of the United States is there are very few diabetes programs and especially ones that address the needs of its attendees. What’s out there is more of a cookie-cutter way of delivering education on general topics. I believe once we see success in Newark, we will be able to expand it outward.