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Tampa VA Helps Veteran Take Control of Diabetes Diagnosis

Tampa VA Dr. Ashleigh Joseph, women’s health clinical pharmacy specialist speaks with U.S. Army Veteran Leketia Webb.

U.S. Army Veteran Leketia Webb has been on a 10-year journey to control her diabetes.

She first noticed symptoms of always feeling thirsty and frequent urination, which are typical in a diabetic patient. She was initially diagnosed with insulin resistance and placed on medications, but her blood sugar levels did not improve leading to her diabetes diagnosis.

In the beginning, Leketia was in denial about her disease. Even though she had a family history of diabetes, she did not change her lifestyle. Due to a doctor’s recommendation for her husband to try a 90-day plant-based diet, she witnessed that her levels decreased dramatically. This is when she realized her diet was a key factor in managing her diabetes.

She began using the services of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Women’s Center for her health care approximately five years ago and says coming to the VA helped her tremendously. Prior to enrolling, she only saw her health care provider every 90 days. The Women’s Center monitored her much more closely, her A1C monthly and adjusted as necessary. Her primary care physician recommended further investigation with diabetic specialists, classes, and regularly scheduled appointments to begin the process of managing the disease.

Dr. Ashleigh Joseph, a Women’s Health Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, began working with Leketia. They discussed diet and exercise, and Leketia focused more on what was helping. Dr. Joseph describes her relationship with Leketia as a journey. “We began with a medication approach, but with time that changed to a multifaceted approach adding lifestyle changes to get to the point where Ms. Webb is now successfully controlling the disease,” said Joseph.

Leketia felt the turning point for her was when she met Dr. Joseph. “I felt that it all changed when I met her. She heard me. The conversation changed from ‘Just take this medication or this medication and follow the standard regimen,’ to my doctor listening to me,” she said.

Providers that pay attention and listen make a big difference. “This is what helped me the most. It made me stop and reflect. It is a manageable disease if I do what I need to do,” she said.

Leketia now exercises and prepares all her food at home. She also has cut out all processed foods and preps a lot of food when she knows she will be on the go.

Dr. Joseph says this journey has been a lesson for her as well. “I met someone where they are in life and when they are ready to make changes,” said Joseph. “She listens to her body more, being mindful of the cues her body gives her. It is great to see her look inward. The ultimate self-care.”

Joseph continues, it has been wonderful to witness the transformation.

Everything finally clicked for Leketia when with her clinicians, they found some sustainable lifestyle and nutrition habits that work well for her and her entire family. She and her family enjoy cooking and eating together. These habits can last for a lifetime. Finally, Leketia says, “If you use the resources that the VA provides and you work together with your providers, it will work for you.”

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