June 17, 2005

Diabetes confab — Still much to learn: Gabbe

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Steven Gabbe, M.D.

Diabetes confab — Still much to learn: Gabbe

Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, delivered the Norbert Freinkel Lecture at the 65th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in San Diego last weekend. Each year, one clinical or basic science investigator is selected for the lectureship based on his or her outstanding contributions to research and/or clinical care in the field of diabetes and pregnancy.

Gabbe presented his lecture “Gestational Diabetes Mellitus — What Have I (We) Learned in 30 years?” during the Council on Pregnancy and Reproductive Health meeting. Gabbe said he was shaking in his chair before his presentation, but it wasn't nerves — it was an earth quake that had the lecture hall rattling back and forth.

“After everything stopped moving, the presenter before me, Tom Buchanan, said 'This is the first time I have ever presented earth shaking research,'” Gabbe said. “Everybody laughed nervously. But by the time I started speaking, things had settled down.”

Despite the scare, Gabbe said he was honored to be asked to present the Freinkel Lecture, which was established in 1991 in honor of Norbert Freinkel, who pioneered the development of novel approaches to the treatment of diabetes in pregnancies.

Freinkel also initiated the first international workshops on gestational diabetes.

“This was a wonderful honor and means a great deal to me because it honors Norbie Freinkel and it comes from my peers,” Gabbe said.

Gabbe used the opportunity to review not only what he has learned about diabetes over his career, but what the field has garnered over the past three decades.

“I began my academic career as a faculty member at L.A. County Hospital, University of Southern California School of Medicine, in 1975 — 30 years ago,” Gabbe said. “At L.A. County, the population was primarily Hispanic, and Hispanic women have a high prevalence of gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

“I learned a lot treating that population, and in 1977 our group wrote a paper describing the care of these patients. It identified women with gestational diabetes by their risk level and addressed how to treat them accordingly. And it's something I have been treating and studying ever since.”

Out of respect to Freinkel, Gabbe began his lecture with a quote from William Harvey's De Motu Cordis that Freinkel used to open the inaugural meeting: “Very many maintain that all we know is still infinitely less than all that still remains unknown.”

It was with that quote in mind that Gabbe reviewed what those in the field of gestational diabetes mellitus know, and noted questions that remain unanswered.

Gabbe closed his talk by acknowledging those who had taught him at various institutions over the past three decades, including his patients.