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Gary Hall's Toughest Competitor: Diabetes

The Olympic Hall of Fame swimmer advocates for more research, better treatment for type 1 diabetes.

Gary Hall and JDRF

These days, Hall remains every bit as driven, but his focus has shifted. Now, his goal is to improve the lives of people with diabetes. "I'll challenge you to find a more active advocate in the world of diabetes," he says, the same kind of pride audible in his voice as when he talks about his swimming career.

As a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Government Relations Committee, Hall travels around the country advocating new therapies for the estimated 3 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 do not produce enough insulin, a hormone needed by the body to use blood sugar (glucose) for energy. Though type 1 used to be known as juvenile diabetes, it can be diagnosed in adults, like Hall, too.

One of his pet projects is the artificial pancreas, a breakthrough system that continuously monitors blood sugar levels and automatically releases insulin to accommodate changing blood sugar levels. He wants to work with insurance companies to get this product to patients who need it. "We need to get this out there as quickly as possible," he says. Hall has also testified before the Senate, encouraging lawmakers to renew the Special Diabetes Program, which funds diabetes research as well as treatment and prevention programs for Native Americans.

Gary Hall Teams Up With Sanford Health

When he's not focusing on advocacy, Hall serves on the Sanford Children's International Board, a part of Sanford Health, the nation's largest nonprofit health care system, which provides medical services to rural communities. Sanford has several diabetes clinics and is engaged in research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Hall also promotes a line of nutritional supplements designed to enhance athletic performance. And he's a consultant for a diabetes documentary tentatively titled Big Shots, profiling famous athletes and musicians with the disease, to highlight the realities of living with type 1 diabetes. Hall says the goal is to release the film in November, coinciding with American Diabetes Month.

These days, what time Hall does spend in the pool is usually in the company of his two children, ages 4 and 6. Yet he's not pushing them to follow him into the Olympic record books. "I'm more interested in teaching them the proper form of the cannonball," he says.

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Reviewed on April 15, 2012

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