Munson Health
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - Rock Star Bret Michaels Talks About His Diabetes

Community Health Manager Christina Nowak, left, and endocrinologist Jill Vollbrecht, MD, right,
interviewed Bret Michaels about living with his disease during his stop in Traverse City.

Rock Star Bret Michaels Talks About His Diabetes
Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative pair interview singer on his bus

Persistence paid off for self-described “diabetes divas” who found a rock star willing to share encouragement for those living with the chronic disease in northern Michigan.

Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative co-Medical Director Jill Vollbrecht, M.D., and Munson Community Health Manager Christina Nowak have been fans of Bret Michaels for several years. Vollbrecht said she became a fan many years ago when she learned he was a Type 1 diabetic.

“I’ve watched every episode of Rock of Love,” she said. “I’ve been a fan of his for a while, especially since I became an endocrinologist. We knew every song he sang at the concert.”

As a means to continue to promote diabetes awareness in the region, Vollbrecht and Nowak thought it would be great to connect with the star while he was in Traverse City on June 26 for a concert at the fairgrounds. They wanted to get an interview to use for the Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative website. Nowak and Vollbrecht both tried contacting Michaels’ tour manager weeks before his visit – but heard nothing back.

Dr. Vollbrecht said she was driving around town the week before the concert and heard a promotion for Michaels’ concert and determined not to let the opportunity pass by. She contacted local concert promoter Jim Harvey, who also owns Great Lakes Physical Therapy.

“Jim just put himself out there for us,” she said. “We are so grateful to him. He went above and beyond for people he had never met.”

When Michaels arrived in town the afternoon of his concert, Harvey was able to get the pair an interview with Michaels’ tour manager. He offered them a couple of minutes with the star right before he went on stage around 9:30 p.m. When they walked up to meet Michaels, he invited them on the tour bus for an interview that lasted nearly 10 minutes.

“One of the things he said was that you have to accept the hand you are dealt, and he has accepted diabetes as part of his life,” Dr. Vollbrecht said. “He was very sincere and very passionate about it. He really is using his celebrity for good.”

Following the interview, Michaels then made sure the pair had seats just off the stage. “He also gave us a couple of shout outs during the concert, which was awesome,” Nowak said.

Dr. Vollbrecht hopes their interview with Michaels, which can be found on the Northern Michigan Diabetes website, will help them reach a new audience for the website, which offers important information on diabetes care, as well as recipes and other help for people who are living with the disease. Both hope that Michaels will return in the future and provide another opportunity to use his celebrity to help battle the disease.

“We think Bret will continue to come back,” she said. “We’ve got his bodyguard’s email address, so we’ve got an inside track now.”

To listen to the Michaels’ interview, or to read a transcript of the conversation, go to