Phil Southerland CEO & Co-founder of Team Novo Nordisk explains how being diagnosed with diabetes was ‘the best thing’ that ever happened to him.
Phil Southerland is the CEO & Co-founder of Team Novo Nordisk a pro cycling team with a twist, they are the world’s first all diabetes professional cycling team. All the athletes who compete have type 1 diabetes and race to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes.
Phil Southerland was born in Tallahassee, Florida and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was only seven months old, the youngest case of diabetes on record in the world at that time.
Southerland’s parents were told that their son would be blind by the time he was 25. Fortunately, they were stubborn, and Phil had access to insulin, a good medical team and the latest blood glucose monitoring tools.
Southerland now believes that his diagnosis was the best thing to ever happen to him, although he thinks his parents may disagree.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me, I think my parents would argue that though.
“But everything good that has happened to me can be linked to this disease.
“Back then it was very different, you had to live your whole life around diabetes, my whole family became healthier.
“For me though checking my blood and brushing my teeth were like the same thing.
“We discovered my levels were better when I was active, so I got into sport,” Said Southerland.
Southerland discovered his love for cycling at the age of 12, later he attended the University of Georgia where he began to combine his passion for cycling with his personal mission to raise awareness around diabetes.
In 2005. Team Type 1 was founded, and by 2007 an all-diabetes cycling team not only won but set the world record in the 3,000-mile Race Across America. The team also went on to win the event in 2009 and 2010.
Under Southerland’s leadership the squad grew rapidly from an amateur team to more than 100 athletes spanning the globe and ranked in the top 25 professional cycling teams in the world in 2012.
In late 2012 Southerland and the team partnered with Novo Nordisk and Team Novo Nordisk was born and is now spearheaded by the world’s first all-diabetes pro-cycling team and features a development team, elite team and one female professional track star, Mandy Marquardt.
As CEO and Co-founder Southerland occupies an important part in the business and the team in general, Southerland said:
“As CEO core things such as funding rely with me and my vision going forward, I also have a really good executive team around me.
“No two days are the same and it’s beautiful, my role allows me to have an impact on the world.
“Outside the office when I’m with the athletes I am just one of them, I try to motivate them as much as I can.
“They are the heroes I wish I had when I was growing up.”
With Team Novo Nordisk now competing on a global scale Southerland has dedicated his life to redefining what it means to live with diabetes and is driving a global movement to show the world what is possible with excellent diabetes management.
Southerland hopes to see Team Novo Nordisk continue to rise as it has over the last six years, he sees the team as a factory for diabetic heroes.
“It’s a hero factory, we run camps for kids who can advance to junior riders, then the development team and then may join the professional team.
“There is an expansion of competition with the athletes always pushing themselves harder and further than before,” Southerland added.
With Team Novo Nordisk continuing to grow Southerland knows what his goal is and what it will take to get the team there.
“We will get to the Tour De France one day.
“We need to win more races; we are doing a lot of research into our athletes to find out what it is going to take for us to achieve what we want.” Southerland added.
However, as well as winning more races Southerland hopes his team can carry on making an impact off the track.
“We truly want to inspire, educate and empower everyone with diabetes.
“All young children growing up now have a team of heroes they can admire and show them they can be what they want no matter their diagnosis.”