Camp Sweeney celebrates 60 years

Medical school has long had a hand in providing care

Camp Sweeney has an affiliation with UT Southwestern that stretches to the opening of the facility 60 years ago.

In those 60 years, hundreds of medical students, fellows, residents and faculty members have volunteered their time at the residential camp about 75 miles north of Dallas.

Founded by the Southwestern Diabetes Foundation in 1950, Camp Sweeney is one of the few camps in the nation designed specifically for children ages 5 to 18 with type 1 diabetes. It also offers the only three-week residential diabetic life skills training program in the United States.

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The sole requirement for attending is that a camper have diabetes.

“Camp Sweeney is really the only program of its type in the world,” said Dr. Ernie Fernandez, camp director and clinical associate professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern. “We’ve touched more than 20,000 kids over the last 60 years and have alumni from all over the world.”

Dr. Fernandez said the goal of Camp Sweeney is to teach children with type 1 diabetes how to manage the disease independently and live a healthier lifestyle. A medical staff that includes 10 physicians, several pediatric resident physicians, 10 medical students and a registered dietitian work around the clock to provide medical care. The on-site hospital houses a laboratory, an examining room and patient beds.

“UT Southwestern has always provided the medical staff for the camp,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The medical students and fellows and residents have always come from UT Southwestern, and most of the attending physicians are UT Southwestern alums because they started out volunteering here as students.”

Dr. Michael Ragain, a longtime Camp Sweeney volunteer, said he hopes to see many of the former medical staff members at the 60th reunion, which is scheduled for July 4.

“We’d love to have all the former medical staff back,” said Dr. Ragain. “It’s a great chance to connect with the campers who are now grown with kids.”

For more information on Camp Sweeney, visit

Kristen Holland Shear