Meg Wilson is helping veterans in the Albany Diocese tackle their diabetes.

A parishioner at Mater Christi Church in Albany, Mrs. Wilson has 28 years of experience working as a registered dietitian and 18 years as a certified diabetes educator.  

In 2005, Mrs. Wilson brought her talents to the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center to help assist local veterans battling diabetes.

“I come from a [family] of veterans,” she told The Evangelist. “When the opportunity came up to come here, I jumped on it.”
In her work, Mrs. Wilson teaches veteran patients about Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME), a program that helps veterans to better handle their diabetes.

Mrs. Wilson treats patients from the Albany Stratton VA, as well as patients in VA primary care facilities from upstate New York, western Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

Worthwhile work

“It can be stressful, but there’s a lot of need here,” explained Mrs. Wilson. “I feel I’m doing something worthwhile.”

In 2015, approximately 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in patients 18 and older, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC report also stated that diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015.

“Diabetes is a huge problem,” said Mrs. Wilson. “One in ten Americans have diabetes,” including a “large percentage” of veteran patients at the Albany VA hospital.

As part of the DSME program, patients learn nutritional management, physical activity benefits and precautions, medication use and safety, how to self-monitor their blood glucose levels, understanding the results, strategies to cope with psychosocial issues and more.

Mrs. Wilson said that, during initial meetings, some patients really open up to her about their lives and their struggles with diabetes. Being there to comfort them, she said, makes her feel like she’s helping them get to a better mental and physical state.

Getting there

Growing up, Mrs. Wilson always wanted to go into health care, but didn’t know precisely what area. Her mother was a nurse, and getting to see someone in the field made her want to learn more about it.

In 1981, Mrs. Wilson was in ninth grade at Mohonasen High school when she began taking faith formation classes at St. Gabriel’s parish in Rotterdam. The teacher was Rev. Donald Rutherford, now moderator of the curia for the Albany Diocese. At the time, Father Rutherford had just begun as associate pastor for St. Gabriel’s.

Years later, Mrs. Wilson went off to college to study dietetics at SUNY Oneonta; Father Rutherford happened to be assigned to nearby St. Mary’s parish. The two would see each other at Mass, and they stayed in touch over the years as good friends.

“She shines great Christian compassion,” Father Rutherford remarked. “I guess she learned something in that class some 37 years ago.”

After earning her degree, Mrs. Wilson began a dietetic internship at the Indiana University Medical Center. She completed that in 1990 and began working in various dietitian positions for hospitals across northeastern New York and in Florida.

In 2002, Mrs. Wilson began studying for her master’s degree in health education from Russell Sage College in Troy. She decided to focus more on diabetes and diabetes education, so she became a certified diabetes educator a year later.

Good results

It intrigued her that patients can have more control over the disease based on their own choices: “If [the patients] are willing to make the changes” to their lifestyles, they can see improvement in their overall well-being, she said.

Mrs. Wilson recalled when one patient told her he would have killed himself had he not met her and been able to get his blood sugar levels under control.

Another patient had not seen Mrs. Wilson in three years, but since her last appointment, had lost weight, looked happier and felt better after listening to Mrs. Wilson’s guidance.

Feeling better and having more energy is something Mrs. Wilson prays for all of her patients. “I pray all the time,” she said: to find the best approach to help her patients, and for the patients themselves.

“Meg is very caring and has a great rapport with the veterans she works with,” said Father Rutherford. “She treats them all with the same kindness and compassion. She has a special gift.”