American Diabetes Association’s CEO hopes to highlight health care disparities in Black communities

Diabetes has always been a silent killer, but it can be especially deadly when paired with the coronavirus. One D.C.-area woman is bringing awareness to how diabetes can impact a person following a COVID-19 diagnosis and the health care disparities in Black and brown communities.

After giving birth to her daughter, Tracey D. Brown was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She was in denial about the diagnosis, Brown said, until her then-5-year-old asked her a question that would change her life: Her daughter asked if she was going to die from diabetes.

“That was the lightning bolt that caused me to take a harder look at, ‘What am I doing?'” Brown said.

Brown took those words to heart and found fulfillment in volunteering for the American Diabetes Association. She quickly became the nonprofit’s first African American woman CEO and the first diabetic to hold that position.

Brown had earned enough accolades to earn high praise. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia Business School. She spent 25 years working in the business world, joining multiple national brands, such as Exxon and American Express.

She climbed the corporate ladder at Sam’s Club to become the senior vice president of operations and chief experience officer in 2017.

However, Brown said she didn’t feel fulfilled. Following her diagnosis, Brown began serving as a volunteer and fundraiser for a local American Diabetes Association branch in Arkansas. She then joined its national board of directors in 2018 before becoming its CEO.  

“It became very apparent to me that this was my purpose,” Brown said.

Residing in the D.C. area, Brown said she continues to fulfill her purpose through programs like the ADA’s Health Equity Now platform, an effort to ensure 122 million Americans living with diabetes and prediabetes get equal access to health care, regardless of race, income or gender.

“Health and good health care [is] a human right,” Brown said.

The coronavirus pandemic is shining a light on health inequities in this country, Brown said. As a Black voice, she said she tries to make a difference as an advocate for healthy living.

Brown said she is a living example of how you can “thrive while living with diabetes and how it doesn’t have to stop you.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant is an Anchor and Reporter for WTOP. Over the past 20 years, Stephanie has worked in several markets, including Baltimore, Washington, Houston and Charleston, holding positions ranging from newscaster to morning show co-host.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up