June 17, 2005

Diabetes confab — Diabetes wave on way: Cherrington

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Alan Cherrington, Ph.D.

Diabetes confab — Diabetes wave on way: Cherrington

Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Alan D. Cherrington, Ph.D., ended his term as president of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) on Sunday with an award — and a word of caution.

During the group's annual meeting in San Diego, Cherrington received the Banting Medal for Service, named for the co-discoverer of insulin, in recognition of his contributions as the first non-M.D. president of the organization.

Cherrington, an internationally known diabetes researcher, is Charles H. Best Professor of Diabetes Research and chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics. He is the third Vanderbilt faculty member to serve as president of the ADA.

The others were the late Addison B. Scoville Jr., M.D., and Oscar B. Crofford Jr., M.D.

Cherrington has received two other prestigious awards from the ADA: the Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement in 1997 and the Lilly Distinguished Service Award in 2002.

Crofford, who founded Vanderbilt's Diabetes division and who led the groundbreaking Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, also received the Lilly award. Other Vanderbilt winners of the Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement were the late Nobel Laureate Earl Sutherland, M.D., and Charles “Rollo” Park, M.D., former chair and professor of Physiology, emeritus.

In his farewell presidential address on Sunday, Cherrington warned that unless the nation invests more in prevention and fighting obesity, by the year 2030 an estimated 30 million Americans will have diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes.

Exciting advances in diabetes treatment are on the horizon. Yet “in light of the magnitude of the diabetes problem and the incredible potential of research to make a difference, it is disturbing that the government is limiting its allocation to the (National Institutes of Health),” he said.

“There could not be a worse time to do so … It is imperative that we do all we can to engage the current administration in the war against this disease.”

The health care system also must move toward a chronic care model, in which patients are encouraged to manage their own disease with the support of health care professionals. Yet “Medicare still does not reimburse for interventions to prevent diabetes,” he said.

Finally, the nation must confront the problem of obesity.

“We must work within our school systems to reintroduce physical education and to remove vending machines which disperse unhealthy food and beverages,” Cherrington said. “We must raise the nation's awareness of healthy and unhealthy foods.”

To that end, the ADA “will soon establish a new organization focused on the science and medicine surrounding weight management and obesity prevention,” he said.