Doctors' Notes

S. Epatha Merkerson on Awareness for Diabetes

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our contribution from Urban Health correspondents (and husband and wife) physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


A talented film, stage, and Emmy award-winning actress most noted for her work on the hit series Law and Order, and Lackawanna Blues, S. Epatha Merkerson is now taking on a new role-health advocate. After an unsuspecting diagnosis of diabetes following a health fair, Merkerson is now committed to increasing awareness in the community about the effects of Type 2 diabetes and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. She has teamed up with Merck for the America’s Diabetes Challenge– a nationwide campaign challenging those living with diabetes to take control of their health.

JET: You have also teamed up with Merck to talk about a very important health issue affecting our community. What exactly is the America’s Diabetes Challenge?

SEM: We’re encouraging those with Type 2 diabetes to know the importance of their A1C. In my own dealings with diabetes, I have come to learn the importance of this number. It is a number that tests your average blood sugar level over a three-month period and allows your doctor to see how you are managing your diabetes. Diabetes is a manageable disease and knowing your A1C is the first step in that management.

JET: This is also very personal for you. Can you tell us about some of your experience with diabetes?

SEM: My grandmother and my father died from complications of diabetes. I have an uncle who has had amputations and I have a brother now who is in the middle of the battle with it. One of the great things about doing this campaign is that it has not only helped me help others, but my brother as well. I was diagnosed in my 50s. I was a part of a health fair convention and I went to a table that was set up to take the blood sugar and that’s how I found out.

JET: It is easy to see why you are so passionate about educating the community about diabetes…

SEM: It puts a human face to it. If people can see that I am having this struggle as well, then they will see that I am trying my best to be proactive in my care. That’s very important. I have learned that Type 2 is a manageable disease.

JET: What were some of the lifestyle changes that you made after learning of your diagnosis with diabetes?

SEM: The biggest thing for me was the diet change. As kids it was the “Clean Plate Club” and you had to eat everything on your plate and that’s not necessary. For me it was finding the proper foods to eat and the proper portions to eat them in. I went through a lot of exercise speed cycling, yoga and what works for me is walking. Most importantly, I work with my doctor on my treatment plan.

JET: You will be hitting the theatre stage again soon. Tell us what you’ve been working on.

SEM: I’m doing a play called While I Yet Live and it is an honest depiction of a man coming into his own as a young, black gay male and his struggle with his mother.

For more information about the America’s Diabetes Challenge, you can log on to


It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors: Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!