This pediatric endocrinologist has the best summer job.
The dinner bell rings at 5:30 on a perfect summer day, calling campers of all ages to a rustic main lodge deep in the woods of West Greenwich, RI. As they grab seats at long wooden tables, the din of talking, laughing, and utensils clattering on plates is instantaneous and deafening.
“It’s controlled chaos,” pediatric endocrinologist Gregory Fox RES’00 F’03, MD, observes from the middle of the fray, smiling like a proud papa.
For nearly two decades Fox has volunteered as medical director of Camp Surefire, the only one in the state for kids with type 1 diabetes. He’s cared for hundreds of campers, taught them to manage their condition, and watched them grow more confident in themselves and their abilities as they’ve returned, year after year.
“This is my baby,” says Fox, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Brown. “It is an extended family.”
When he began volunteering at the camp as a pediatric endocrinology fellow, he suddenly confronted the day-to-day realities of diabetes management. Though his father had type 1, and he’d counseled countless families on managing the disease, “I got to camp, and I thought, uh-oh. Now I need to put myself in their shoes,” Fox says.
“I’ve learned more about managing kids with diabetes at camp than I’ve learned in 20 years in the office,” he adds. “I learn something new every year.”
Camp Surefire is often the first—and only—sleepaway camp that its campers have attended. Type 1 diabetes requires 24/7 vigilance, something few parents will entrust to anyone else. It reassures them that Fox and many staff work in health care or are certified diabetes educators. “I lose a lot of sleep because I don’t want anything bad to ever happen to one of these kids,” Fox says. “I think their parents realize that.”
Many kids with type 1 feel isolated. At camp, they’re surrounded by people just like them. “From the very minute they show up, they feel like they’re part of something,” Fox says.
His whole family is part of it too: his wife, Ali, volunteers as executive director, and their kids, Joe, 18, and Anna, 16, have leadership roles. “It’s such an incredible part of our lives,” Fox says.