Isaac Heiman

Senior Project Advisor

Tristan Goldman

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022


Type 1 diabetes, COVID-19 pandemic, college students, public health research, qualitative research, personal reflection


The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought novel challenges for many people, and college students with type 1 diabetes were no exception. College students with type 1 diabetes must manage their blood sugar levels unlike their non-diabetic peers. Also, conducting a public health qualitative research project is an extensive process that follows a non-linear path to completion. The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of college students with type 1 diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic with the intention to inspire changes on college campuses to better support this student population. In addition, the reflections throughout this paper are designed to help future student-researchers better understand the process of conducting a public health qualitative research study. In this study, the principal investigator conducted ten semi-structured interviews with students from the College Diabetes Network (CDN) club at Western Washington University (WWU). Each interview lasted approximately 30-45 minutes in length and was transcribed verbatim. The researchers applied the six-phase thematic analysis to describe the emerging themes. The researchers found that the type 1 diabetic students experienced key challenges related to diabetes management, academics, and healthcare. Type 1 diabetes also impacted these students by limiting activities and career choices among other impacts. Other major themes are the implementation of effective management strategies including the use of technology, the importance of support from others, and the role of the university. In addition, the participants experienced heightened stress associated with the fear of COVID-19 infection due to their vulnerability. With reduced physical activity during COVID-19 lockdowns, participants suffered increased difficulties in glycemic control as well. To conclude, this population faces unique challenges, especially within the context of a global pandemic. Upon reflection, the experience of conducting this study gave the principal investigator greater appreciation for the dedication of career researchers, a better understanding of the human experience, and tangible lessons of communication and empathy that are applicable to a future career in medicine.



Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Diabetics--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Interviews; College students--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Interviews; COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020-; Public health--Research--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Subjects - Names (LCNAF)

Western Washington University

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)


essays; interviews




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