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Staff Spotlight: Fernanda Costa, RN, Diabetes Educator



Fernanda Costa, RN, joins the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE) Diabetes Education team with years of experience serving the Hispanic type 2 diabetes (T2D) community.  In addition to English, she’s fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese. 

Fernanda and her husband do not have children.  They enjoy outdoor activities and spontaneous day trip adventures.  They’re very involved in their church.  She likes the symphony and attending Boston Pops concerts – and learned to play the violin as a child.  As a couple they frequently dine out to try new restaurants including Indian, Mediterranean and Mexican food.

“Fernanda brings a fresh new perspective to our education program,” said Cheryl Barry, RN, MS, CDE, Manager of Diabetes Education at the UMass Memorial DCOE.  “She’s able to educate our Spanish and Portuguese patients in their native languages.” 

Increased diabetes risk for the Hispanic and Latino population

There’s a high prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Hispanic and Latino population, and they’re at greater risk for T2D, according to The American Diabetes Association.

Costa takes pride in the fact that she’s successfully educated many in this high-risk population, helping them lower their A1c’s and control their blood sugars.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 50 percent of Hispanic Americans will develop diabetes. 

Engaging patients to achieve results

“Those who want to change and apply themselves, are able to modify their habits and put a plan into action,” said Costa.  “It all starts with education and making small changes.  Once they’re engaged and begin to see results, people become motivated to make the necessary lifestyle changes to get and stay healthy.”

People feel comfortable speaking to Fernanda in their native tongue.  In addition to engaging in a seamless conversation, it eliminates the possibility of words and terms getting lost in translation.

“Every patient is different and comes in with their own needs,” said Costa.  “I start by evaluating where they are [with blood sugar and overall health] and then listen to what their goals are.” 

Setting realistic goals

She starts off slowly with realistic goals and educates people as to why the changes are necessary.  When educating people about carbohydrates and how they affect blood sugar, she makes them aware that cultural norms such as a high carb diet of rice and beans, fried foods and plantains, raises blood glucose.  It’s unrealistic to cut those items out of their diet, so they begin with a portion control plan.        

“Explaining why it’s important to regularly check blood sugar, take a certain medication or adding physical activity into their routine, puts it into context for people,” she said.  “If they’re not engaged and willing to make changes, it doesn’t work.”

Why she chose to work at the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence

While working at United Healthcare and Worcester’s Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center (EMK), Costa helped countless patients with uncontrolled diabetes.  Many of them had developed or were at serious risk of developing complications from diabetes including heart and/or kidney disease, nerve damage/neuropathy, and diabetic eye diseases.

EMK often refers patients to the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence based on the reputation of quality patient care with a care team that spans all aspects of diabetes management and treatment.  She decided that she wanted to focus her attention on helping people manage their diabetes.”  

“The big picture is to get their [patient’s] blood sugars under control, which will decrease their risk of the serious health complications that diabetes can lead to,” Costa said. “I’m very excited to be doing it here at such a comprehensive and well-respected Center of Excellence.”

Diabetes Education Resources