November 2, 2018

Carol Wolfenbarger: Mission Hospital McDowell Helps Community Tackle Diabetes on Several Fronts

By Carol Wolfenbarger
President/CNO, Mission Hospital McDowell

As we enter the holiday season, we’re sure to be faced with tempting, yummy treats. For those who have diabetes or are watching their weight, this can be an especially challenging time of year. November is American Diabetes Month, and unfortunately, the number of persons in our community with diabetes is growing.

North Carolina has one of the highest diabetes rates in the country: 1 in 10 residents have been diagnosed, while 1 in 3 may have pre-diabetes, an early indicator of diabetes where blood glucose levels are elevated, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes -yet. Locally, the prevalence of diabetes in McDowell County is well above both the state and national averages. What’s more, diabetes robs people of both quality and length of life. It can lead to many other serious conditions, including vision problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and loss of limbs.

Mission Hospital McDowell (MHM) is fighting diabetes and its devastating effects on our community in several ways. Kimberly Freeman, RN, CDE, CTTS, NBC-HWC, serves as our Diabetes Educator, and she is heavily invested in empowering patients to become partners in their care. “We don’t even use the term ‘diabetic’ anymore, because that implies that the patient is their disease; instead, we teach people with diabetes that their condition is 100 percent manageable, that they have choices and that they can plan their eating to support their health – without feeling deprived – to feel their best. Patients often feel a sense of loss after their diagnosis, but we let them know that diabetes isn’t only about what you can’t do and can’t have,” Freeman explains. She shares that practical information is provided during the hospital’s five-week course – what servings of carbohydrates looks like, or how to grocery shop and plan menus from a place of confidence. “We give them a self-care toolbox they can take with them wherever they go,” adds Freeman.

An innovative diabetes management program offered in our community is Taking Control of Type 2 (TCT2), a nationally recognized, collaborative program between MHM and the Corpening YMCA. This one year program provides ample time for Freeman and the YMCA staff to assist participants in making intentional behavioral changes, as well as allowing them to apply what they learn “in real life.”

Participants are taught about the medical management of the disease (monitoring blood sugar levels, taking insulin or non-insulin medications, weight control and more), the importance of healthy eating and the critical role of physical activity. Freeman notes also that “this award-winning program supports better relationships between patients and their care teams by focusing on wellness.”

Positive outcomes of TCT2 are plentiful, including the fact that after six years of programming, more than half of participants either decreased or eliminated their need for diabetes medications, blood pressure and cholesterol medications; and only one out of 200 (0.5 percent) individuals had a diabetes-related ED visit, compared to the national average of 20 percent.

We are blessed to have this impactful program available right here, and we are thrilled to see our community members take advantage of the life-changing education offered by Kimberly Freeman and the Corpening YMCA as, together, we work to slash diabetes. Please join me in making your family, friends and neighbors aware of this important program. The health of our community depends upon you!

Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is President of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

To learn more about Mission Hospital McDowell, visit