Pen and Lens Communications

Our Work



Our introduction to the world-class research being done to cure diabetes started with a casual lunch with a woman I knew from volunteering with the Downtown Edmonton Rotary Club. She’s on the board of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation of Canada or DRIFCan.

Hearing the name DRIFCan, I winced and blurted out that DRIFCan makes me think of a garbage can, conjuring images of debris drifting down the street.  As a professional working in communications, I asked her point blank if they could change the name.

She smiled and explained that there is an organization in the US called Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and the local board wanted the brand consistency because they attract international donors.

What, I asked, does this Canadian organization with the unfortunate name do?

As I learned about their work, I forgot about the name. The people involved with this organization are well on the way to finding a cure for diabetes. And until they find the cure, they’re helping diabetics live better and longer.

DRIFCan was set up solely to raise money for Dr. James Shapiro, the pioneering surgeon and researcher who developed the Edmonton Protocol, a method of transplanting pancreatic islets for the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes.  Since 2000, when the Edmonton Protocol was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the team has completed more than 600 transplants at the University of Alberta and now collaborates with 30 centres in Europe, Australia, the United States and Israel.  The Edmonton Protocol has resulted in more than 2,000 islet transplants around the world.

One of the first people we met when we started working with DRIFCan was a 46-year-old man waiting to receive an islet transplant. It would be Jason’s third transplant in 12 years, desperately needed because the islets were working less efficiently, or as he put “like a gas tank running our of gas.”

Talking with Jason was both awe-inspiring and moving. He spoke from the heart about the weird feeling of waiting for a donor to die and donate the cells created by their pancreas.  The organ donor would not only potentially save Jason’s own life, he or she would allow Jason to continue working and living a healthy life.


We wanted to talk with Jason because DRIFCan had contracted us to create content for their website showing the impact that Dr. Shapiro’s team has had on the lives of diabetic patients.

Our plan was to document Jason as he waited for his transplant by having Ian photograph him  in several environmental portraits.

Soon after we started the work, Jason got the call. A donor had been found. Jason had a couple of hours to get to the University of Alberta for surgery to receive the islet transplant.

We’re happy to give you a spoiler alert to our story about Jason:  His health is better than ever: