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A Letter from Senior Executive Producer Judith Vecchione

Judith Vecchione

Diabetes has been in my family for as long as I can remember. My grandfather had diabetes, which he controlled with insulin shots and exercise and careful portions of what he would and would not eat. I have a vivid childhood image of him saying to my mother, “Take half this pork chop away. You know I’m not allowed this much!”

That memory surfaced in the early 2010’s when I began to see ads for diabetes products on television. I was intrigued: this was a disease that no one talked about, that was hidden away – and now it was on tv. As director David Alvarado, producer Jason Sussberg and I began research for Blood Sugar Rising, we realized it was because so many people were developing the disease, and at such a rapid rate. This was an important story that was on track to change all our lives.

And we also realized that now, perhaps more than any time since insulin was discovered in the 1920s, diabetes has reached an inflection point in America. We’re in a time of great peril and great hope. The peril is in the frighteningly fast increases in diabetes we’re seeing in all communities across the country, for men, women and children. The disease is appearing at younger ages, in greater numbers than ever before. It is making more people vulnerable to other diseases, like the COVID-19 coronavirus, and more likely to have complications like heart disease, strokes, or blindness.

But at the same time, there’s great excitement in the diabetes communities. The most amazing advances are being made in understanding the disease biology and offering new tools to help individuals manage their disease. Dan Hurley, a science journalist with Type 1 diabetes, tells us in the film that when he was diagnosed, in 1975, there was simply no test to tell you if your blood sugars were in range. Things have progressed amazingly since then. First, in the 1980s, came fingerprick testing equipment you could use at home, then diabetes pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and now the first automated insulin delivery systems that are virtual replacements for a diabetic’s failed pancreas.

So the story of diabetes today is poised, dramatically, between skyrocketing disease rates and the increasingly successful race for better ways to understand and manage diabetes, and ultimately, perhaps, to cure it.

And who better to tell this story than the people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? Blood Sugar Rising introduces you to Karen, Nicole, Monteil and all the other fascinating people who generously shared with us their experiences and their hopes.

And we’d love to hear your stories of diabetes, too, at #BloodSugarPBS.

S. Epatha Merkerson: Series Narrator

S. Epatha Merkerson

Diagnosed with Type2 diabetes 17 years ago, S. Epatha Merkerson has been a strong advocate for raising awareness about the disease.

An accomplished actress who has won critical acclaim for her work in theatre, television and film. She is best known for her 17-season run as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on NBC’s LAW AND ORDER (3 NAACP Image Awards) and currently plays Sharon Goodwin on NBC’s CHICAGO MED.

Her role in the HBO film LACKAWANNA BLUES earned her an Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG Award, Gracie Allen Award, NAACP Image Award and a IFP Spirit Award nomination. Other credits include RADIO which garnered her a Cammie Award, BLACK SNAKE MOAN” TERMINATOR II: JUDGEMENT DAY, PEEPLES and LINCOLN.

Her theatre credits include the 2008 Broadway revival of COME BACK LITLE SHEBA (Tony nom); August Wilson’s THE PIANO LESSON (Tony, Drama Desk, Helen Hayes Award noms); BIRDIE BLUE and Billy Porter’s WHILE I YET LIVE (Lucille Lortel noms)

A native of Detroit, Michigan Merkerson holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University and four Honorary Doctorates, from her alma mater in 2009, University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2012, Montclair State University 2013 and the University of Pittsburgh 2017.

She lives in New York City and Chicago.


Executive Producer Judith Vecchione works at WGBH Boston, where she has contributed to major PBS documentary series including Vietnam: A Television History, Nova, American Experience, and Frontline. She was series senior producer for the award-winning Eyes on the Prize, and executive producer for many national PBS special series, including Americas, De Gaulle and France, Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, and the digital/short-form series Medal Quest: American Athletes and the Paralympic Games. She also executive produced many one-night specials, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Young & Restless in China, The Longoria Affair, and ICE WARRIORS: USA Sled Hockey Hockey.

Judith has won multiple awards, including a national Emmy, a Peabody Award, Davey Award, CINE Golden Eagle, Christopher Spirit Award, Imagen Award, W3 Award, Davey Award, Chicago Film Festival award, and Best Documentary at the Savannah Film Festival, among others.

She also works as senior editorial advisor to WORLD Channel, a 24-7 national public media platform that focuses on unique nonfiction programming from established and emerging filmmakers.


Blood Sugar Rising is directed by David Alvarado and produced by Jason Sussberg. David and Jason are the founders of Structure Films with the goal as filmmakers who tell stories about some of the most fascinating and relevant personalities in science, nature, and technology. David and Jason directed and produced The Immortalists, about two scientists trying to find the cure for aging; and Bill Nye: Science Guy, about the science educator’s quest to change the world with science. They have also created many short documentaries that broadcast on PBS, TED, BBC, Facebook Watch, and screened at prestigious international film festivals. Their next film will profile Stewart Brand and his journey to re-engineer humanity’s relationship to time and nature. In addition, David, who is a Latino filmmaker and son of a Mexican immigrant, cares passionately about PBS and telling stories that connect audiences to big ideas that matter. He recently produced the Independent Lens film True Conviction. Jason’s work focuses on the arts and humanities in STEM contents. He has also worked as a motion graphic designer, sports TV producer with the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors, and community college film instructor.

David Alvarado introduces Spanish captions for Blood Sugar Rising.

Blood Sugar Rising con subtítulos en español.

My name is David Alvarado, and I’m the director of “Blood Sugar Rising,” a new film that presents the hidden epidemic of diabetes in the United States. Like many of you, I have people in my family with diabetes, and the disease is a real problem in my Latino community, as it is in so many others. So we’re pleased to let you know that “Blood Sugar Rising” is available on your PBS station with Spanish-language captions. Please let your friends and neighbors know, and thank you.