Victoria diabetes advocate named chair of American Diabetes Association

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Jan. 12, 2011 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 16, 2011 at 7:17 p.m.

John W. Griffin Jr. has been named the chairman of the board for the national American Diabetes Association - and it was a long time coming.

The Victoria lawyer has known that he was up for the position for about two years because the leadership process is a lengthy one, he said.

Griffin, who took his seat on Jan. 1, said he is excited about his new role and looks at it as him going up to bat at home plate.

"I want to have the bat in my hand to make a difference with the disease," said Griffin, who has been a diabetic for about 14 years. "There are some real opportunities, both in terms of prevention treatment and cure, that we can make a serious dent in the process of this disease."

Griffin served as the vice chairman of the association in 2009 and as the chairman elect in 2010.

Now, the gavel has been passed on to him and he plans to use it responsibly, he said.

As chairman, he will oversee the association's business affairs. He will be away from Victoria for at least three business trips each month throughout his year as chairman.

Griffin has been a member of the association for about 20 years, prior to any of his leadership positions with the association.

"It becomes very personal to you, and you become very committed to try and end the ravages of the disease," he said.

Griffin is a Type 2 diabetic, and has been insulin-dependent for the past 10 years.

This experience, and his push for diabetic advocacy, will help him reach goals he's set this year as chairman, he said.

In the long-term, Griffin wants to continue the research needed to find a cure for the disease. Short-term, his primary focus is disease prevention changes in the school's nutrition and the push for healthy living for people of all ages.

The latest statistics, from 2007, show that 23.6 million children and adults have diabetes, according to the association.

"Every time I see a small child who has been told by his or her parents or their doctor they have diabetes, it just makes our blood boil," he said about the organization's view of diabetes in the U.S.' younger generations. "It makes us committed to curing this disease."

As that number keeps growing, it's the mission of Griffin, the association, and everyday people to continue diabetes education and the search for a cure.

"We cannot afford health care for 50 million people with diabetes," he said.

Jeff Kapche, a Ford Bend County senior investigator, believes having Griffin at the helm of the association is a huge benefit for diabetes sufferers everywhere.

Griffin and Kapche had celebrated a federal court ruling in 2009 after the jury found Kapche was discriminated against when he was denied employment as a special agent with the FBI because of his insulin-dependent diabetes.

"He never gave up," Kapche said, adding it is still hard not getting emotional over the win. "He continued to fight when he knew something was wrong with justice - no matter what the odds or obstacles were that both of us had to overcome."

Kapche had not known of Griffin's recent role change with the association, but was excited to call and congratulate him, he said.

"He would bring honor to the position. He has everyone's best interest at heart," he said. "He is very passionate about what he does for the greater good."

Griffin has several goals in mind already, like joining First Lady Michelle Obama in "Let's Move" an initiative to combat childhood obesity. On the local level, he plans to start a diabetes awareness march.

"There are enough tools in the tool chest to control and manage diabetes," Griffin said.

Corrected: Jan. 15, 2011



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