July 29, 2005

Elasy named to head new diabetes clinic

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Thomas Elasy, M.D., has been named medical director of the newly opened Vanderbilt-Eskind Diabetes Clinic, located in Medical Center East.
photo by Anne Rayner

Elasy named to head new diabetes clinic

Thomas A. Elasy, M.D., has been named medical director of the Vanderbilt-Eskind Diabetes Clinic and Ann and Roscoe R. Robinson Professor of Clinical Research.

For Elasy, who has dedicated his career to improving health care for people with diabetes, the newly opened clinic represents the chance to translate knowledge into action.

“It's a wonderful opportunity,” Elasy said. “Not only can we deliver phenomenal care because of the infrastructure and the people who are here, but we can also systematically study how to improve diabetes care.”

Elasy, 40, has been a faculty member in the Department of Medicine since 1998. He was selected following a nationwide search, said Eric G. Neilson, M.D., Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology, and chairman of the Department of Medicine.

“His qualifications fit best with the goals and expectations of our program, and the hope that the Eskind clinic will significantly advance its reputation in comprehensive diabetes care through clinical research in the service of our patients,” Neilson said.

“I'm delighted we were able to recruit Tom to this important and pivotal position,” added Stephen N. Davis, M.D., chief of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Rudolph Kampmeier Professor of Medicine.

“He provides excellent clinical care, he is a superb teacher … and he is also a gifted clinical researcher,” Davis said. “Tom can ask compelling and critical questions at the level of the clinic, and translate those advances into the community.”

The clinic, which opened last month on the eighth floor of Medical Center East, offers comprehensive outpatient care to both adults and children with diabetes.

Named for the late Nashville physician and philanthropist Irwin B. Eskind, M.D., the clinic provides diabetes care, subspecialty visits, social work, nutrition, comprehensive diabetes education and allied health services — all in one place.

A goal of the clinic is to provide a “seamless transition” for patients as they enter adolescence and move from the pediatric to adult program.

“We all look forward to working with (Elasy) to strengthen the interactions between the clinical and investigative activities of the children's and adult diabetes programs,” said William E. Russell, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Cell & Developmental Biology, and director of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology.

“One goal we have all had for this clinic is to provide an environment in which each patient can choose to participate in research programs that will lead to better diabetes management and, ultimately, a cure,” Russell said. “Tom is an ideal choice to help us move that goal forward.”

Elasy is the first recipient of the endowed Ann and Roscoe R. Robinson Professorship of Clinical Research. Named for the late Roscoe R. “Ike” Robinson, M.D., former vice chancellor for Health Affairs, and his wife, Ann, the professorship is supported by the Joe C. Davis Foundation.

It was established to honor the Robinsons' friendship with the late Joe C. Davis, a Vanderbilt alumnus and former member of the Board of Trust, and their “wonderful contributions to Vanderbilt,” said Daryl K. Granner, M.D., the Joe C. Davis Professor of Biomedical Science.

Granner, who directs the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, part of a network of diabetes research and training centers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said the professorship will support Elasy's efforts to improve the delivery of diabetes care and help patients control their disease.

“Tom is really one of the bright young stars in his area,” he said. “We're very happy that of all the things he could have chosen to study, he's chosen diabetes.”

Supported through grants from the NIH and the American Diabetes Association, Elasy has been studying the phenomenon of “relapse” — a rise in blood glucose levels in patients who previously had good blood glucose control.

“We know that tight glycemic control is important. We don't know how to best initiate and sustain it in the real world,” he said.

Elasy said he hopes the research will help doctors determine what type of care, delivered at what intensity, what frequency and what duration, can achieve long-term control of diabetes in the clinic setting. The goal is a healthy “return” on that investment, in terms of lower rates of diabetes complications.

“Our sights are set high,” he said. “We want to provide a template that others, both nationally and internationally, can benefit from.”

Elasy earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland, was resident and chief resident in medicine at the University of Colorado and received his fellowship training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also earned his master's degree in public health.

He said he chose to study diabetes because several family members have the disease and because “to me, diabetes was the most fascinating disorder … I was drawn to it because of its complexity.”

At the same time, he said he enjoys the challenge of helping patients maintain control of a lifelong illness. “That's how I see myself,” he said. “I'm a doctor: I take care of people for the long term.”