Irwin focuses on advocacy efforts through work with #insulin4all

Clair Irwin
Clair Irwin

PhD student Clair Irwin (MS '16, CAS '18) has a personal connection to her research on the embodied information behaviors of people with diabetes.

"Having lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly seventeen years, it dawned on me that everything I do to manage my health is information behavior," she said. "Checking my blood sugar is information retrieval. Calculating dosages based on my biometric data and nutritional information is information synthesis. Helping other people with diabetes troubleshoot oddities in their own health is information forwarding."

Irwin is active in the patient-led advocacy movement #insulin4all, which is a direct response to what people with diabetes call "the insulin crisis." She became aware of the movement when she was working on her CAS project, "A Resource Guide Collection and A Sociotechnical Framework for Supporting Youth with Type 1 Diabetes." She started an Illinois chapter of #insulin4all in 2018 and served as the chapter's first leader. She is now the chapter's research, resource, and education lead, which allows her to focus on her doctoral work.

"The cost of insulin has risen over 1,200% since the mid-'90s," Irwin said. "People who rely on insulin injections, like me, can't go without insulin—we literally die without it. More than a quarter of people with diabetes in the U.S. have rationed or are currently rationing their insulin. This time last year, I was rationing my insulin. It’s terrifying, and no one should have to resort to rationing."

According to Irwin, #insulin4all advocates from across the country have been fighting for increased checks-and-balances within the pharmaceutical industry through legislative lobbying and public education.

"Starting this week, I am leading efforts to roll out increased public service communication throughout the state to ensure that those severely affected by the intersection of the insulin crisis and COVID-19 know we're here to help. There are several current iSchool students helping, and several more alumni working with us," she said.

Her partner, Brad Irwin (MS '16), and fellow alum Gibson Wirth (MS '16) provide research and tech support for Illinois #insulin4all. Master's students Cynthia Medrano and Kiri Palm are creating a list of resources available to residents of different library districts, including food pantries and location-specific medical assistance, and master's student Eileen Lopez is working with Irwin to plan future workshops.

In addition to information behavior, Irwin is interested in the equitable representation of diabetes in fiction and other media forms, "because of the empowering and damaging effects story can have on individuals."

"My overall career goals are less about the type of job that I want to do and more about the positive impact I want to make. I want to advocate for people with diabetes, and help make our lives a bit better," she said.

If you're interested in volunteering with #insulin4all, there are over thirty state chapters. You can contact your local chapter at

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

New journal article examines vaccination misinformation on social media

Research conducted by Assistant Professor Jessie Chin's Adaptive Cognition and Interaction Design Lab (ACTION) provided the foundation for an article recently published in the high-impact Journal of Medical Internet Research. PhD student Tre Tomaszewski is the first author on the peer-reviewed article, "Identifying False Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Information and Corresponding Risk Perceptions from Twitter: Advanced Predictive Models."

Tre Tomaszewski

Franks named 2021 ALA Century Scholar

MS/LIS student Mary Franks has been named the 2021 recipient of the American Library Association (ALA) Century Scholarship. The scholarship supports students with disabilities, providing funds for services or accommodations that will enable them to successfully complete their MS or PhD in an ALA-accredited library and information science program.

Mary Franks

Meet Rahul Chandran (MS/IM ’20), Product Manager at Yahoo!

After receiving his bachelor's degree in computer science from Visvesvaraya Technological University in India, Rahul Chandran joined Deloitte Consulting as a business technology analyst. It was there that he realized how much he enjoyed solving customer's problems. This experience motivated Chandran to further his education in a master's program that would best complement his professional goals.

Rahul Chandran

Scavenger hunt builds community

iSchool students learned more about campus and each other at the second annual iSchool Scavenger Hunt. The event, which was held September 3-10, was open to on-campus students in all programs. Students who opted to participate were placed in small groups of peers in the same degree program. Students were given a list of ten campus locations to find, such as the Alma Mater, Morrow Plots, and Main Library. In addition to checking a point of interest off their lists, the students would take a group selfie at the spot.

Alma Mater Group at the iSchool scavenger hunt