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Care Team Spotlight: Clare Foley, Diabetes Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Clare became interested in healthcare at a young age.  Her grandfather was a physician in Worcester and her grandmother was a nurse.  When she was 15 years old, her oldest brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) as a 22 year old college student.  “He was hospitalized in the ICU with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA),” Clare recalls.  “It was very serious and extremely traumatic for me and my family to watch him experience that.”

She was frustrated with how many health care providers missed the signs and symptoms leading to his hospitalization and diagnosis.  It confirmed her passion to study medicine.

“I decided to pursue healthcare, study science, and help people get people the care they need,” she said.  “Even after diagnosis, the amount of information dropped on our family was overwhelming.  I felt that it could’ve been delivered better.”

“I believe providers need to take the time to educate the family and the patient’s support system, because all of their lives change when a loved one is diagnosed with T1D.”

Born in Eastern Massachusetts, Clare’s family moved to Washington DC at the age of 10.  She did her undergraduate studies at Worcester’s College of the Holy Cross, earning a degree in Spanish and Pre-health Sciences.

“I always enjoyed learning Spanish and realized at a young age that it would be a skill that would help me no matter what field I went into,” she said.  During her sophomore year Clare spent ten days in Nicaragua where she stayed with host families in a rural part of the country, experienced their day-to-day life and culture, and learned about the world’s inequities. 

Her junior year was spent studying abroad in León, Spain.  “It allowed me to speak the language, live the culture and become friends with people from throughout Europe, who I still keep in touch with today.” 

Those eleven months in Spain solidified Clare’s ambition to become a health care provider.  During her senior year at Holy Cross she attended a talk by an alumnus who explained the role of a nurse practitioner.  The holistic care and health education approach of an NP appeals to her. 

Some of Clare’s Spanish speaking patients feel more comfortable communicating with her in their native language.  “Our interpretive services [at UMass Memorial] are good but speaking Spanish with them saves a lot of time during their appointments and allows me to provide a better level of care to those people.”

Benefits of the Care Team Model at UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence

“I think it’s wonderful to have a diabetes educator to teach technical skills like insulin injections, nutritional strategies, problem solving and other specific issues they may have.  As an NP I analyze their blood sugars by looking at meter or CGM data to recommend necessary modifications. I develop relationships with patients.  The more they open up to me about what they’re struggling with, the better I can help them with diabetes management.  I work closely with their endocrinologist to prescribe and adjust medications, and the physicians can focus on other endocrine specific concerns they may have.  It’s a very comprehensive care model.”

As an NP, Clare provides full physical examinations including foot exams, accesses lab work, and prescribes medications for diabetes and associated complications such as diabetic neuropathy.

Most Rewarding Part of the Job

“When a patient achieves positive results after first arriving with poor blood sugar control.  I love telling a patient that their A1c is below 7% or below 8% when they first arrived above 10 or 11%.  They’re so proud and motivated.  When I brainstorm with someone about ways to start exercising or eating healthier, then at their next visit they tell me about the lifestyle changes they’ve made, resulting in better number and weight loss.  That’s rewarding.  Also, when type 1 patients begin engaging more with their care by carb-counting or agreeing to start on an insulin pump, then they see huge improvements.”       

Hobbies & Passions

An avid runner, Clare has completed one marathon, several half-marathons, and twice came in 3rd place in the annual Wachusett Mountain Race on Memorial Day weekend.  She can often be found participating in Sneakerama Fun Runs in Worcester. 

She enjoys singing.  As a Doctor of Nursing Practice student at UMass Chan Graduate School of Nursing, Clare was a member of the school’s DocAppella group.  She also sang in her high school choir and in the chorus during high school musicals.

Other passions include hiking, baking, and spending time with family & friends.

Clare got married in 2021.  She and her husband (an emergency room physician) live with their cat Tuck (short for Tuckerman Ravine in the White Mountains of New Hampshire).  

Clare’s Favorites:

Movies: The Sound of Music, The Departed

Worcester Restaurants: The Mercantile, The Fix, Rice Violet, BT’s

Television Series: Lord of the Rings on Amazon, Love is Blind on Netflix, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Punisher