Back to Friends for Life 2008 Conference Special Guest Phil Southerland
Special Guest Phil Southerland

"Dream Big! Don't be afraid to try something, and always be prepared.
If you can achieve your A1C goal, you can achieve anything in life!"

For the better part of his lifetime, Phil Southerland has made a habit of defying the odds. When he was seven months old, he came down with what doctors first diagnosed as a routine case of baby flu. But after losing more than half of his body weight to the illness, his mother, Joanna, suspected something far more serious was wrong.

Violently ill and with perhaps only days to live, doctors diagnosed Southerland with juvenile diabetes. They told his mother that the condition would likely cost him his eyesight by the time he was 20.

Those doctors should see him now.

Only 26 years old, Southerland already counts among his achievements the founding of Team Type 1 – the world's first professional cycling team dedicated to raising awareness for Type 1 diabetes – and a pair of victories for the team in the Race Across America (RAAM). His accomplishments and desire to help others with diabetes have led to dozens of national engagements as a motivational speaker.

Cycling is his first love, though. A competitor since the age of 13, he co-founded Team Type 1 in 2005 with Joe Eldridge after the two met while racing against each other in college. Their intent – to create a cycling team made up solely of athletes with Type 1 diabetes – first raced RAAM in 2006. The result was a victory in their division and the second fastest overall crossing, completing the more than 3,000-mile race in five days, 16 hours and four minutes. Last year, Team Type 1 did it again, winning its RAAM division while completing the transcontinental race faster than anyone else: five days, 15 hours and 43 minutes.

Southerland says living with Type 1 diabetes allows him to be “the CEO" of his own body while creating a long-term plan for success. “I have met some amazing people because I have diabetes," he says. His long-term goals include getting Team Type 1 a spot in the Tour de France by 2012 and an entire Team of Type 1 pro cyclists in the Tour not long thereafter.

Ever the visionary, Phil would like to “see a group health insurance plan for people with diabetes so we can all have the tools necessary to prevent complications."

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