Get to know us – Mandy Wäldchen

And on we go with our OPEN team introduction series – with Mandy Wäldchen. She will tell us about her struggle with beta cells and about more prosperous events in her life.

Hi everyone,

my name is Mandy Wäldchen. I was born in Berlin but grew up in a rural area close to Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Having always been fascinated by the beauty of nature and interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms of life, I studied Biology (B.Sc.) at Leipzig University and subsequently continued my Master’s studies in Biochemistry with focus Biomedicine (M.Sc.).
During my studies, I performed a Research Traineeship at Stockholm University and fell in love with Scandinavia.
Because of my interest in diabetes research I worked with pancreatic alpha and beta-cells for my Master’s thesis. Unfortunately, experiments didn’t go well, since my beta-cell cultures always died during the experiments (because they had already been contaminated in the stock – as we found out… later). Accepting that I obviously have bad karma with beta-cells (my personal beta-cells died, too), I switched to a more technological approach in diabetes therapy and worked as a technical consultant for insulin pumps, glucose sensors and sensor-augmented pump therapy at Medtronic.

A further education in Life Science Management provided me with insights into the Life Science Industry sector of pharmaceutical and medical technology companies; more specifically the conduct of clinical studies and the required regulatory pathways of drug and medical device approval.

Currently, I am a researcher in the OPEN project, mainly affiliated with work package 1 that aims to investigate the clinical outcomes of DIY-Artificial Pancreas Systems (DIYAPS). Here, I found the perfect fit for my interests in diabetes research and a project that indeed has a positive impact on everyday’s life of people with diabetes.

But what I enjoy most about being part of OPEN is the enthusiastic team driven by the common intrinsic motivation to improve lives of people with diabetes. Furthermore, I appreciate the interdisciplinarity of the team allowing different perspectives and a holistic view on living with this complex disease.

Above all, I am really impressed by the DIYAPS technology and movement proving what can be achieved when such engaged people collaborate in a community in order to ease the burden of living with their disease, support their beloved ones and offer peer support. Thus, I feel honored and grateful for being part of this movement.

Personally, I love nature, books, coffee, good company, music, dancing and running (without any emphasis on the order and preferably in various combinations 😊).

During my semester in Sweden, a roommate took me to my first folk session in a very mysigt (cozy) club in Gamla Stan where I fell in love with Scandinavian folk music. Back to Leipzig, I stumbled into the Balfolk community which combines folk sessions with dancing to a potpourri of dances from all over the world (particularly from France, but more broadly also from Scandinavia, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Israel – just to name a few).

Besides discovering the musical culture and rhythms of the world by Balfolk dancing, I love to travel different countries and get to know various cultures and landscapes of this beautiful planet.

Additionally, I am a passionate runner. For me, running is a good source of endorphins and helps to keep my blood sugars in range. I started with half marathons in Leipzig and Stockholm, then I continued with running several marathons in Leipzig and Berlin.

However, the most special one was the marathon taking place on my 30th birthday in the city of my birth, Berlin (kairos-like magic timing 😊). It was a great experience to pass through Brandenburg Gate after 42km – where there had been a wall at the time of my birth in Berlin and which fortunately isn’t there anymore. So, please do not build walls again and be OPEN-minded 😊

Thank you, Mandy, for your interesting bio and your inspiring words! We are happy that those dying beta cells never got you down and that, instead, we have you with us!

Get to know us – Saskia Wolf

Hello everybody,

I am Saskia Wolf and as a communication and dissemination manager at OPEN. I grew up in a rural area of Lower Saxony in Germany. During school I spent one year as an exchange student in the eastern part of Washington State, USA, where I got my high school diploma. After finishing my school back in Germany, I studied law for six years, and after my first state exam, I continued with the legal clerkship where you switch between educational institutions – different courts and governmental authorities, lawyer and public prosecutor –  every three to six months. Meanwhile, my life had changed completely as I became a mother, and after I completed my education with the second state exam – with distinction, I had my second child. I then decided to stay at home and take care of my family.

Two years later, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After dealing with the first shock, things went pretty well – at least during the first years which also were my first in Berlin. Once my beta cells stopped working altogether, things got more complicated. An insulin pump helped a lot, but hormones gave me an increasingly hard time. Even my – very good – doctor wasn’t able to help because the amount of insulin I needed varied from day to day and there was no regularity to be identified. I felt increasingly helpless with my diabetes management and finally slipped into a very depressive condition which made me hardly take care of my diabetes. This lasted a few years, but finally I managed to reach out for help – in a type 1 community.

Long story short, I became an early and very proud adopter of DIYAPS, looper (n=1)*64 since May 2016. This has changed my life dramatically – to the best since diagnosis. I am very grateful to Dana Lewis and the other people from the DIY community who made this possible, and I intensively follow Dana´s wishes to “pay it forward” and “spread the word”. So in 2017, I founded and initialized meet-ups all over Germany in order to show people, who – just like me – don’t feel so technology-savvy, that it is, nevertheless, possible to build your own system, and in order to give them peer-to-peer support in case they need help with technological issues, and to give them an opportunity to get together and meet people who will understand better. As soon as I realized that the language of the documentations might be a bigger problem in the process of building one’s own system, I helped with translating into German and made someone found a German-speaking Facebook group. For spreading the word, I give talks to people with T1D, HCPs, industry and whomever might be interested, interviews to local TV channels, write articles about DIYAPS, teach certified diabetes instructors to-be – I try to inform everyone and to connect them all.

Since last summer, I am part of the OPEN team – as a communication and dissemination manager. I am very happy to have such wonderful colleagues and to intensify my work for the open source community by helping with the research about this topic.

After having stayed at home for so many years, I enjoy travelling and in my spare time, clear my head walking through the woods, spend time with my kids – which got rare as they don´t live at home anymore, read books, nothing sophisticated – mostly crime novels, meet my non-looping friends, close the loop with a crochet needle (e.g. hats) or I knit. But sometimes, when the world gets too rough for me, I just do nothing but watch love stories on TV with a hot cocoa in my hand. This brings back the energy to continue being a DIYAPS users´ advocate!

OPEN at #FH19

Once again, Berlin has been the place where people come together to learn, get inspired and exchange:

Frontiers Health 2019 welcomed health innovators from around the globe in the “Axica Kongress- und Tagungszentrum” – just a few steps away from the Brandenburg Gate.

Frontiers Health gives a platform to a variety of conference activities – talks, panels, interactive sessions, workshops and more – about the newest healthcare trends and innovations. And here especially start-ups get the chance to present their ideas, and for all, new partnerships can be formatted. This year, news and trends in digital health were on the programme. 600+ people came to speak, listen and discuss: innovators, scientists, physicians, large companies’ executives, investors, leading CEOs of start-up companies – and OPEN.

Denise Silber, Doctors 2.0 & You, explored “Patient Centricity and Digital Innovation” in a session with different panelists. In her opinion, one can only improve patients´ lives when there is a deep understanding of the patients´ needs and experiences.

One of our OPEN team members, Saskia Wolf, explained to the audience what makes type 1 diabetes such a hard job, how patients manage/d to help themselves with DIYAPS and how the OPEN project is investigating various aspects of these DIY solutions.

Frontiers Health 2019

Saskias take-home messages were:
1. Put the patients in the centre where they belong.
2. Stop talking about the patient and start talking and working with the patient. They know what makes them feel better – proven by the open source community for diabetes.
3. OPEN as a patient-led, international and intersectoral research project shows how academia, industry and people with diabetes can learn from each other how to reduce the burden of diabetes.

Frontiers Health 2019