Saying Goodbye to Diabetes Advocate David Mendosa
We referred to him as a "father of the Diabetes Online Community," and anyone who’d ever known or connected with him felt the passion to help that burned beneath his kind and gentle spirit.
It’s no exaggeration to say that David Mendosa was one of the top diabetes writers in the world, a journey he began after his type 2 diagnosis in 1994.
Sadly, our D-Community is now mourning this lost friend from Boulder, CO, who passed away on May 8 as a result of an incurable form of cancer diagnosed in April. He was 81, and in his last email update sent out only a week before his passing he quipped, "I am glad to be able to write that this type of cancer is not one of the many complications of diabetes.”
A third-generation Californian who moved to Colorado in 2004, he was born in August 1935 under the name Richard Alexander Mendosa; he went by "Dick" until the mid-70s and later "Rick," until he legally changed his name to David in 2005.
Those who knew David on any level describe him as not only kind, gentle and compassionate, but informed and educated with a quick wit and a love for nature and the outdoors. His email newsletters over the years mixed diabetes info with reports on bird watching and on other animals and plants.
“David's knowledge and generosity are widely known and serve even after his passing as a model for all who would venture into the digital world to share their experiences with others,” said D-Dad Jeff Hitchcock in Ohio, founder of the Children With Diabetes organization and one of the original DOC’ers alongside David back in the mid-90s. “He was diligent in research, precise in language, and gentle in all his work. A tall man, he towered over most of us, but not because of his height -- rather, because of his kindness. David Mendosa's voice and spirit will live on forever in the digital world he helped to create.”
An Original Forefather of the DOC
As noted, David was a pioneer and a sort of godfather of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), having started his patient-led informational site back when the Internet was still in its infancy.
Jeff Hitchcock describes the summer of 1995 as a time “when the World Wide Web was just emerging from the confines of university laboratories” and there were only four sites devoted to helping people with diabetes: the now-defunct Diabetes Knowledgebase at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Jeff’s Children With Diabetes forum; the Diabetes Monitor by Dr. Bill Quick; and David Mendosa’s hailed On-line Diabetes Resources. (Yes, kids: there was a time when online was hyphenated!)
“In those early days... David, Bill, and I developed a unique kind of friendship -- a virtual friendship born of the Internet,” Jeff tells us. “We got to know each other first through email and only later in person when we would meet at diabetes conferences. Before all-knowing search engines like Google, we shared new finds like treasure, sending each other emails to help spread the word to the readers of our three web sites. Unknowingly, we laid the foundational bricks to what would become the Diabetes Online Community.”
David's Diabetes Directory remains online as one of the largest collections of its kind, comprised of all kinds of online diabetes sites and blogs and 1,000+ articles he's put his name to over the years.
You name it, David wrote about it on his own site, through his 12 years at HealthCentral and many more spots online and offline – writing on everything from diabetes technology and new medications, to diet and complication stories and the mental health aspects of living with this condition, not to mention his own personal anecdotes. He always embodied the “Your Diabetes May Vary” mindset, embracing our D-Community’s differences, while happily sharing his own approaches and insights. And he was not afraid to change his mind and his approach if he felt it was warranted.
Impressively, he actually lost an incredible amount of weight -- going from 312 pounds to 168 pounds, or nearly half his body mass! -- in the course of a couple years, and he was so impressed with the new drug Byetta that he wrote a book on it. That led to him also focusing on his diet, and becoming one of the early adopters of low-carb eating a decade ago after initial skepticism about the eating trend, and it was through his writings that many found the courage to at least try it out (myself included).
From his personal musings, it’s always funny to read David’s recollection that “the World Wide Web tricked me," as he didn’t think it would ever take off. It’s also fun to look back on how nearly 20 years ago, when he was writing for the few existing D-publications both online and offline, the American Diabetes Association once dubbed him “a noted Internet observer.”
Certainly, David was larger than life in our D-World and close to our hearts.
Connecting with People… and Finding Love!
Interestingly, it was through the early DOC (as it existed in forums and message boards back then) that David met his wife, Catherine. He shared that story a decade ago in a blog post, writing that he’d turned to the Internet just a month after his T2 diagnosis and eight months later through a message board, he connected with the woman who would eventually become his second wife. He also shared the heartbreaking story of Catherine’s death in 2007.
That blog post at HealthCentral was how longtime type 1 and diabetes journalist Ann Bartlett in the Washington D.C. region first met David, who would become a dear friend and mentor through the years.
As it turned out, her very first blog post set to publish was delayed – because David’s wife had passed away, and he wrote the tribute to her for that day. She remembers seeing the D-Community's response over someone they’d never met, and from that day she fell in love with not only the DOC but his writing style.
“I found myself laughing, feeling frustrated and completely in sync with many of his struggles and it became crystal clear that his view of living with type 2 diabetes had many similarities to my own dilemmas of living with type1 and I quickly got in his blog boat and grabbed an ore,” she said. “David greeted anyone willing to stand up and be a voice in the diabetes community with love and respect.”
Through it all, David’s love for writing abounded. He pondered retirement last year, Ann recalls, but said there was still so much he wanted to write about and wasn’t willing to give that up.
Beyond Diabetes – Early Life, Outdoors
Beyond diabetes, David's life was just as amazing -- and like any proud journalist, he chronicled his own story in various articles and photo essays.
In his younger years during his late teens, he started out working for the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise newspaper as an assistant sports writer and editor. He soon enlisted in the U.S. Army in his early 20s where he worked for their Public and Troop Information Office and as a correspondent for the Overseas Weekly briefly during his service. He then returned to California where he studied political science and served as editor of the college paper at UC Riverside. After getting his master’s degree in government from Claremont Graduate University, he went to work for the U.S. government for as a foreign service officer in D.C. for 11 years and then four years in Africa.
After that, in what he dubs his "radical years," he dabbled in real estate sales and computer and small business consulting before turning back to journalism in the 1980s with the Hispanic Business Times – all before diabetes entered his life and he turned to that in the mid-90s.
Tied into his own diabetes management but also embracing his love for the outdoors and nature, David was an avid hiker and outdoorsman who snapped beautiful photos during his many travels -- and yes, he also wrote about that on a Fitness and Photography for Fun blog! Being a practicing Buddhist also gave David a unique mindfulness, and it was one that he often brought into his own diabetes writing when exploring meditation’s effects on BG management, or just embracing a calmness in approaching one’s health and life overall.
Thank You, David!
“His loss to our community is immeasurable, but he gave us a tremendous gift of leaving behind years of research, education and inspiration. He will always be a gift of inspiration for me,” Ann says.
Tributes to David have been popping up all over the DOC. Our DiabetesMine team echoes the sentiments about his compassion and caring attitude and his institutional knowledge of anything related to diabetes.
Personally, I recall first stumbling across David’s writings back in the very late 90s during my college years. Once I began reading blogs and connecting with others, his name was always top of my daily reading list. And then, I recall reading about that very first Roche Social Media Summit in 2009 and eventually attending the second summit that following year, and being able to meet this rockstar IRL. I’m humbled and blessed to have kept in touch through the past several years, and share stories both personal and professional beyond just diabetes.
Another long-termer in the DOC, David Kliff in Chicago who began publishing Diabetic Investor in 1997, has known David through the years and recollects:
“What I remember about him most was that he was a true gentlemen and old-school journalist who didn’t mind helping a newbie,” Kliff says. “It was ironic that over the years our roles reversed and it was my turn to help him, which was a pleasure to do. David was a great guy and tireless advocate for patients with diabetes. He sought the truth and investigated everything fully before writing. David understood diabetes wasn’t about the toys we use or the drugs we take, but the people we are.”
In keeping with his wishes, David’s family updated his CaringBridge page to reflect that there will not be a service of any kind. However, anyone who has “journeyed with him” at any point is encouraged to donate to CaringBridge in his memory or to the Colorado-based TRU Hospice Care Center that took care of him in the later days.
David, we will miss you so incredibly much and are honored to have known you through the years. Thank you for all you did for this world and our D-Community! Rest in Peace, Brother.