By Wendy Sarubbi | February 22, 2016 11:52 am

The challenges of living with diabetes – the high and low blood sugars, diet restrictions and constant monitoring – aren’t just something UCF medical student Sienmi Du studies. She’s lived with them for the past decade, and her first year of medical school has brought more experience in how diabetes impacts well-being, fatigue, concentration and stress. That’s why Du is leading the college’s bicycling team for the American Diabetes Association’s upcoming Tour de Cure in Orlando. The March 13 bicycle trek includes rides of 10, 25, 50, 63 and 100 miles with money raised going to diabetes research, education and advocacy.

About 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. Du was diagnosed at age 24. She doesn’t have the antibodies indicating she is a Type 1 diabetic. And she doesn’t have the common attributes that often lead to Type 2 diabetes, including obesity and lack of physical activity. So Du said she doesn’t really fit into either disease category. She makes some insulin but not enough. She began insulin injections shortly after her diagnosis and this year switched to a computerized insulin pump to help manage her blood sugars in light of a grueling medical school schedule. That means she must count the carbohydrates in everything she eats to determine how to set her pump. She works with a patient educator on dosage levels, meal planning and dealing with how stress and a lack of sleep affect her condition.

Du is hardly a person who shies away from challenges. Before coming to medical school last August, she earned a Ph.D. in physiology at UCLA and conducted research on multiple sclerosis. She says she decided to go to medical school as an extension of her love of science and research – and to make a deeper connection with people impacted by disease.

“Through Tour de Cure I want people to be more aware of the difficulties people with diabetes face,” Du said. “People hear a lot about diabetes because there are so many of us with the disease. But I don’t think they’re aware of the struggles we go through.”

You don’t have to be a great athlete to participate in the Tour de Cure, she explains. The ride’s multiple trails are good for people of all fitness types, and Du is working to get triathletes and medical school faculty, staff, family and friends to participate.

Du said she chose to attend UCF’s young medical school because of the opportunity to help build a new kind of M.D. program for the 21st century. Since arriving to her new Medical City home, she’s become involved in global health initiatives, serves on the medical school’s curriculum committee and is now leading the Tour de Cure team. “I definitely like the College of Medicine’s pioneering spirit,” she said. “UCF is helping teach me to be a leader and is giving me the opportunity to be part of affecting change.”

If you wish to ride, registration is 50 percent off, at $12.50, by using the code TOUR2016HALF.

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