November 14, 2013

Diabetes Center to celebrate major milestones

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Center is celebrating two significant milestones this month.

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Center is celebrating two significant milestones this month.

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC), the nation’s first, will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Nov. 21 with a symposium at the Vanderbilt Student Life Center.

The symposium will also recognize the 30th anniversary of the groundbreaking Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). Attendees will include physicians and scientists who led these programs and patients who participated in the DCCT, one of the largest studies of diabetes ever undertaken.

Launched 30 years ago this fall with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by founding DRTC director Oscar Crofford, M.D., more than 1,400 participants were enrolled in the trial.

The results, reported in 1993, showed that strict control of blood glucose dramatically delayed the onset and slowed the progression of three common diabetes complications – retinopathy, which can lead to blindness, kidney problems and nerve damage.

Symposium speakers include Harvard Medical School’s David M. Nathan, M.D., who was a leader in the DCCT and its follow-up study.

Other speakers include:

• Christopher Rhodes, Ph.D., a preeminent pancreatic islet/beta-cell researcher who co-directs the Kovler Diabetes Center at the University of Chicago;

• Philipp Scherer, Ph.D., director of the Touchstone Diabetes Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who studies the connection between adipose tissue, metabolic disorders like diabetes and cancer; and

• Elizabeth Walker, Ph.D., RN, director of the Prevention and Control Core of the DRTC at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who has led several large behavioral intervention studies in minority diabetes populations.

This year’s Vanderbilt Scholars in Diabetes (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) will give short research talks at the symposium, and the 2013 Robert K. Hall Service Award will be announced prior to a luncheon and poster session.

The current DRTC director is Alvin Powers, M.D. In addition to Crofford, honored guests include Daryl Granner, M.D., second DRTC director, who oversaw the center’s expansion into the comprehensive Vanderbilt Diabetes Center.

The center now includes the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Clinic, which provides comprehensive care to adults, adolescents and children with diabetes.

In 2011, Vanderbilt received another major NIH grant to establish a Center for Diabetes and Translation Research, led by Tom Elasy, M.D. The goal is to help bring advances in diabetes management and prevention into the doctor’s office or the patient’s home.

Crofford, who established Vanderbilt’s Division of Diabetes, helped bring the nation’s first federally funded diabetes research center to Vanderbilt in 1973. In 1977, Congress appropriated $5 million to open five more diabetes centers. There are now 16 diabetes research centers funded by the NIH.

Vanderbilt continues to be a national leader in diabetes research and patient care, with more than 120 scientists and physicians working to better understand diabetes and its complications and to improve the lives of individuals with the disease.

Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, more than 8 percent of the population, and cost the country $245 billion in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association.

For more information about next Thursday’s event and to register, click on