Phil Southerland is the founder and CEO of Team Type 1. A tireless global ambassador for diabetes, Southerland is committed to the education and empowerment of people with diabetes throughout the world. Diagnosed at just seven-months-old with Type 1 diabetes, doctors told his mother he would probably go blind, suffer organ failure, and likely not live past the age of 25. Now 29 and actively in control of his diabetes through diet, exercise and a disciplined insulin regimen, Southerland has turned what was once considered a death sentence into a global movement to positively affect the lives of people with diabetes through managed care and control of the disease. Today, a thought leader in diabetes and sports, the social entrepreneur is redefining boundaries for those living with diabetes.
An avid cyclist with a vision of using his bike as a tool for empowerment, Southerland merged his passion for the sport and his mission of raising awareness to establish Team Type 1 in 2005, creating the world’s first professional cycling team to include athletes with diabetes. Under his leadership, the dynamic squad rapidly grew into an enterprise of over 100 athletes from 11 countries, spanning the globe to inspire and unite people affected with diabetes. The team’s ultimate goal is to race on the sports largest stage, the Tour de France.
The groundbreaking organization is now a global enterprise comprised of seven competitive squads of athletes, including the 21-member professional men's team racing, which is supported by one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi. As partners with a shared 360 degree view of diabetes, Team Type 1 and Sanofi are redefining the possibilities of a better quality of life for diabetics through managed control and appropriate diet, exercise, treatment and technology.
In early 2011, Southerland sought the services of two of the world’s leading endocrinologists, Dr. Juan P. Frias and Dr. Bruce Bode, to develop and launch a diabetes research platform. With their help, he has established the TT1 Diabetes Sports Research Institute to evaluate diabetic athletic performance and examine disease management and its control in high-level competition.
Southerland also spearheaded Team Type 1’s 2010 alliance with the International Diabetes Federation to bring donated supplies to children with Type 1 diabetes in Rwanda. Last November, as Team Type 1 raced in the Tour of Rwanda, he presented the Rwanda Diabetes Association with more than 35,000 test strips and 400 blood glucose meters, all donated by fans and supporters of Team Type 1. Southerland and Team Type 1 will be returning to Rwanda throughout the year to deliver additional supplies with the goal of delivering 900,000 test strips to the country by year-end and will be participating in the 2011 Tour of Rwanda.
Rwanda represents a first step in Southerland’s ultimate quest to develop a sustainable scalable platform to ensure all children with diabetes have access to tools they need to manage and control their disease. This is part of what motivates him to spend over 250 days on the road each year to spread the Team Type 1 message to thought leaders, decision makers, scientists, doctors and patients around the world.
As a result of his work with governments around the world and experience influencing policy to provide the necessary services and supplies for children with diabetes, Southerland was recently appointed the Director of Health Care Policy, Planning and Patient Advocacy for the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center, International Diabetes Center and Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, MN. In this role, he is assisting WHO efforts around the world to improve patient self-care and help governments align their policies to ensure people with diabetes enjoy the same rights and opportunities as all individuals within their countries.
In May 2011, Southerland released a memoir titled Not Dead Yet. The book chronicles his life from an early diagnosis of diabetes and doctors’ predictions of death by the age of 25 to his life as a professional cyclist and his mission to change the face of diabetes on a global scale.
For more information on Phil Southerland and Team Type 1, visit www.teamtype1.org. To read the first two chapters of “Not Dead Yet” go to www.teamtype1.org/book/.