Empowering educators receive Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes outstanding contributions and service to AADE and honors individuals who exemplify the proud history of diabetes education while serving as extraordinary role models. This year, AADE salutes two people who have worked together for decades and fundamentally changed the field.


Robert M. Anderson, BS, M.Ed, Ed.D and Martha (Marti) Mitchell Funnell, MS, RN, CDE, FAADE

Robert M. Anderson, BS, M.Ed, Ed.D, and Martha (Marti) Mitchell Funnell, MS, RN, CDE, FAADE, transformed diabetes education forever with their innovative patient-based ideas. Their creation and development of the empowerment approach in the 1980s has significantly improved diabetes education. Their approach emphasizes listening to the patient and working together on goal-setting, problem-solving, and overcoming challenges to achieve success.

In 2003, they co-authored The Art of Empowerment: Stories and Strategies for Diabetes Educators.

Robert M. Anderson
In the 1980s, when diabetes education used a compliance-based medical model, Dr. Anderson advocated for a patient-centered model. As the decade progressed, his concept evolved into patient empowerment.

His research and ongoing promotion of this concept revolutionized diabetes care, showing that the patient provides almost all their own care, so empowerment is the only effective model for diabetes self-management education. He traveled the world to present on empowerment.

Dr. Anderson also has examined how race affects diabetes health disparities in Detroit and other urban areas and developed evidence-based methods in the 1990s to help diabetes educators overcome those disparities. Later in the decade, his efforts led to several presentations and publications for professionals about the effects of racism on diabetes care, called Into the Heart of Darkness.

He was a consistent presence at the AADE Annual Conference until his 2010 retirement, most often invited to present at education sessions or as a keynote speaker about empowerment and self-management education models.
Dr. Anderson served on the AADE Board of Directors and was chair of the Educational Research Committee from 1988-91 and chaired the Core Curriculum Advisory Committee in 1987–88.

“Bob challenged diabetes educators to make a fundamental paradigm shift; to enter the patient’s world and view diabetes self-management and the education we provide through the eyes of the patient,” Funnell said in a letter nominating Anderson for the award. “Although it sounds relatively simple in hindsight, the difference was and continues to be profound.”

Dr. Anderson graduated from Boston State College with a degree in psychology, then received his master’s of education and doctorate of education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

After starting his academic teaching career in Massachusetts, Maine and Virginia, he arrived at the University of Michigan Medical School in 1987. For the final 14 years at Michigan, he was a professor and senior research scientist.

Martha Mitchell Funnell
Martha (Marti) Mitchell Funnell, MS, RN, CDE, FAADE, has dedicated her career to improving diabetes education with her efforts in developing the empowerment approach.

Today, she’s an associate research scientist in the Department of Learning Health Sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School and co-chair of the Diabetes Healthsense Workgroup. She also represents diabetes educators on several large global research studies and on editorial boards for several journals.

Funnell served several terms as chair of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), the first diabetes educator to serve in this position. During her term, she called attention to self-management education and the psychosocial needs of the person living with a chronic disease. That leadership helped NDEP create tools and resources that addressed behavior change and diabetes distress.

Funnell served on the AADE Board of Directors from 1992-95 and as secretary from 1995-96. She chaired the Task Force to Revise National DSME Standards in 2006-07 and belonged to the 2015 Joint Task Force to Develop the DSME/S Position Statement.

She joined AADE in 1983, the same year she became a clinical nurse specialist at the Michigan Diabetes Research & Training Center, where she was responsible for developing and evaluating the patient education curriculum, providing professional education, training local, national, and international diabetes educators, and participating in research.

Funnell has been an investigator in 12 diabetes educational and behavioral community-based studies, primarily among African-Americans, designed to better understand and improve diabetes education and patient empowerment. This approach resulted in a paradigm shift that significantly impacts both diabetes educators and people with diabetes.

She received her bachelor’s in field nursing from Lenoir Rhyne (NC) College and master’s in nursing (medical-surgical) from the University of Michigan.

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