Teachers College, Columbia University, recently received  approval for its Graduate Certificate in Advanced Diabetes Topics program to complement its existing Master of Science degree in Diabetes Education and Management. Program Coordinator Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE talks about the advantages of the certificate and master’s programs, and how they can advance the knowledge and careers of health care professionals.

By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator, DiabetesCare.net

teachers-collegeTeachers College, the Graduate and Professional School of Education at Columbia University, launched the world’s first solely online  master’s degree program for diabetes care providers in 2011. The  Diabetes Education and Management Program has a comprehensive, competency-based curriculum that includes the following courses: Pathophysiology of Diabetes and its Complications; Behavior Change Strategies for Diabetes Prevention and Control; Assessment of the Person with Diabetes; Preventive & Therapeutic Interventions in Diabetes Management; and Diabetes Self Management Education (DSME) Programs: Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

The program’s coordinator, Jane K. Dickinson, points out the asynchronous master’s degree program allows students to participate  around their schedule, so for busy professionals who have work, family, and other obligations, this can be a valuable consideration when deciding to apply for the program.

In addition, Teachers College recently received approval for its Certificate in Advance Diabetes Topics. This program allows health care professionals who already hold a master’s degree or higher  to expand their diabetes knowledge base, according to Dickinson.

Before becoming the program’s coordinator, Dickinson (pictured here) developed a hospital-based diabetes education program where she has provided in- and out-patient care for over 12 years. She is also the author of two diabetes-related books, writes an ongoing diabetes blog, and has had type 1 diabetes for 40 years this upcoming June. Dickinson came to Teachers College at the inception of the program and has enjoyed seeing people graduate and go on to bigger things. (Read an interview with Dickinson from a few years ago about the beginning of the program.

DiabetesCare.net spoke to Dickinson and she provided some insights into the master’s and certificate programs and the types of opportunities they afford graduates.

DiabetesCare.net: For those who may not be familiar with the Diabetes Education and Management Master of Science program, can you provide an overview of what the program is?

Dickinson: Teachers College is the graduate school of education for Columbia University. Most people know of Columbia University as an Ivy League school that is located in New York City. Teachers College has provided graduate programs in  education  for over one hundred years, and they also have programs in health education, psychology, nutrition education, nursing education, and more recently diabetes education. It was a logical fit for Teachers College to develop the very first academic program in diabetes education and management.

In 2011, Teachers College launched the world’s first solely online master’s degree in diabetes education and management; there are no in-person, or on campus requirements. The courses are asynchronous, which means students and faculty log in to their computers at their convenience. And we meet in cyber space to have discussions—although not necessarily everyone is online at the same time.

There are five core diabetes courses that are part of both the master’s degree program [The Diabetes Education and Management Master of Science program] and the Certificate in Advanced Diabetes Topics program. The Certificate Program was approved in December and includes a total of 16 credits.

After completing  the core courses, students in the master’s degree program then take Determinants of Health Behavior, Multicultural Competency, and Research Methods, and another 11 credits in elective courses. Elective courses can be selected from any of the programs offered at Teachers College.  

DiabetesCare.net: What makes this program unique, and who is eligible to become part of the program?

Dickinson: In addition to being solely online, the program at Teachers College is interdisciplinary or interprofessional, which means anyone from a clinical background that is approved for the certified diabetes educator (CDE) credential, can apply for the program. Our students and graduates currently represent  nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, optometry, medicine, and  exercise physiology. We are excited to have such a well-rounded group and we hope to expand that even further to include more health-related disciplines.

As I mentioned earlier, our courses are discussion based and everyone brings their experience to the discussion board. The students themselves report how beneficial it is to learn from each other and the various professional disciplines represented in the program.

DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about what some of your graduates are doing now?

Dickinson: We currently have five graduates, and several more planning to graduate this spring. Most of our students are taking the program part-time, so we are seeing students complete it in anywhere from 18 months to four years.

Our graduates tell us that the program has helped them attain advanced positions,  gain leadership roles in their current positions, and feel more respected by their colleagues. Others are pursuing or considering a doctoral degree.

Our students and graduates are helping to pave the way for diabetes education in the future.

DiabetesCare.net: As we discussed briefly, Teachers College recently had its certificate program approved. Can you explain more about this potential opportunity for providers?

Dickinson: It became obvious that there was a need for some type of program where people who already have a graduate degree could get the course work that we offer in this program. We receive calls from people who have their master’s or doctorate and are interested in the core courses because they want to either take on more of a leadership position, or they want to be more prepared for the diabetes population that they work with, or maybe they want to start working with people who have diabetes. In general, health care professionals are recognizing the urgent need for more diabetes expertise, and therefore wanting to pursue academic preparation in the specialty. We decided to meet this need by putting together an academic certificate program.

DiabetesCare.net: Do you have an official timeline for when the Advanced Diabetes Topics certificate program will get rolled out?

Dickinson:Information about the certificate program is now on the Teachers College site, and our plan is to review applications starting now for a summer 2015 start. Like we do with our master’s degree program, we accept applications on a rolling basis, which means anyone can apply at any time during the year and admitted applicants will start the next term—whether it be spring, summer, or fall. 

DiabetesCare.net: Do you have any other additional long-term goals or hopes for the program?

Dickinson: The idea of an academic preparation in diabetes education and management is still a novel one. I hope we can get the word out that this opportunity exists, and the more people who participate the better off people with diabetes will be. It has been a long time coming and it is an important step in strengthening the future of diabetes education because diabetes is a challenge in our country and the world. I hope we will continue to see students join us from around the world.  Currently, we have students from the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong.

I am confident that academic programs in diabetes education and management will change the face of diabetes going forward. We are focusing on reaching more people and providing the best possible care in the most effective ways in order to help those who have diabetes live well and experience healthy outcomes.