Veteran’s Day is a special day of the year for Virta Health. It is a reminder of the wonderful opportunity we have to serve our nation’s Veterans via our partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
This year, it holds additional significance, based on a simple but incredibly meaningful request of our company.
In 2019, we received a message from Glenn, a United States Navy Chief Petty Officer. Glenn indicated that he would be retiring from the Navy after 22 years of service. As he explained, traditionally, as a way to honor retirees of the Navy, retiring sailors are given an American flag to fly at the location of their choosing. Common places include notable U.S. vessels, state capitals, or even the U.S. capital. The ultimate location is chosen by the individual.
Glenn asked if we would be open to hanging his flag at Virta’s headquarters according to this custom. We spoke to him to understand why Virta, and learned so much about him, life in the military, perseverance, and more.
Glenn joined the Navy specifically for its intense and challenging nuclear program, recognized as one of the top root-cause analysis and safety-oriented organizations in the nation. The track record and strict adherence to protocols are impeccable. As he describes, “if there is anything a Navy Nuke can do, it is follow rules exactly, obey orders, and unflinchingly conduct root cause analysis. It is vital to safe operation of reactors.”
In 2014, Glenn started to see a deterioration in his metabolic health. That year he had surgery to repair a lingering tear in his right wrist. Emotionally he was at rock bottom. His weight increased to 230 pounds, and became difficult to carry on his 5’6” frame.
He thought of his grandfather, who had died in his early 40’s after suffering several heart attacks; his grandmother, who had injected herself with insulin for decades for her type 2 diabetes; his mother, who took Victoza and Metformin to manage her diabetes.
“I ate what I thought was healthy,” says Glenn. “Lots of salads, whole grains, avoided saturated fats.” Yet here he was, on the same path as those close to him, seemingly without control.
Serving in the military makes it difficult to ignore any emerging health issues. Rigorous fitness and nutrition programs are in place. Glenn served on submarines, often not leaving the boat for months. During this time he was only provided dietitian-approved menus, with no opportunity to sneak snacks, junk food, or even second servings.
In other words, Glenn did exactly as he was supposed to do. However, like so many others, something wasn’t working. His health was getting worse. Glenn’s training, though, put him in a particularly unique position. He applied his two decades of complex problem solving and root-cause analysis to his own health. He sought source documents, and read research paper after research paper. He taught himself cellular biology, biochemistry, and lipidology.
On this journey, he discovered the work of Virta co-founders Drs. Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek. He read about the story of Virta co-founder and CEO Sami Inkinen. Everything clicked. He understood the flaws in existing guidelines, and the uniqueness of each person in response to different nutritional patterns.
Adopting many of the principles embedded within Virta today, Glenn lost 60 pounds and radically improved his metabolic health. His wife, following Glenn’s lead, experienced a similar transformation, dropping over 90 pounds and resolving myriad physical and mental health issues. Glenn shared what he knew with other friends and family, each of whom was able to make equally profound changes.
When Glenn saw that Virta had partnered with the VA to help Veterans reverse type 2 diabetes, he was inspired to reach out. He said that partnership, combined with the impact of our founding team’s research on his life, prompted his flag hanging request.
Shelter-in-place interfered with our ability to do this precisely as we had hoped, but today his flag hangs proudly in our San Francisco headquarters.
Glenn is gracious and thoughtful, and has thanked us for celebrating his retirement this way. In truth, we are the ones who are honored, humbled, and grateful.
His ingenuity, resourcefulness, and perseverance in the face of adversity are astonishing. As amazing as his story is, most people need guidance and medical care on their own metabolic transformations. This is why Virta exists. Yet, Glenn’s qualities remind us of so many who join Virta, especially our Veterans.
Working with our Veteran population, and seeing Veterans transform their health after decades of living with type 2 diabetes, has been one of the great privileges of building our company. Glenn’s experience is another motivator and reminder of the work to be done, and the possibilities ahead to put an end to the unnecessary suffering of the millions living with reversible metabolic conditions in our country and beyond.
Thank you, Glenn, for your support, confidence, and belief in Virta to induce change. Thank you for serving our country, your willingness to tell your story, and allowing us to play a small role in celebrating your well-deserved success. Congratulations to you on your retirement, and good luck on the exciting journey ahead!