June 5, 2009

Vanderbilt’s Russell to serve as team physician for elite cyclists

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Bill Russell, M.D., left, and Vanderbilt’s Eric Pittell at the Tour de Cure, an annual fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. (Photo by Al Powers)

Vanderbilt’s Russell to serve as team physician for elite cyclists

Team Type 1’s Alex Bowdin visits the Eskind Diabetes Clinic. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

Team Type 1’s Alex Bowdin visits the Eskind Diabetes Clinic. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

Bill Russell, M.D., director of the clinic and director of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, has been asked to be the team endocrinologist for Team Type 1 (TT1) as it takes on the Race Across America (RAAM) this month.

“The RAAM is a highly competitive race,” Russell said. “Because all the team members have type 1 diabetes they face challenges that other racers do not in this exhausting event. Because of exertion, their blood sugar levels can drop quite low in competition.
“It will be my job to help riders maintain safe glucose levels, and I will follow team members to their regular checkpoints to help them maintain optimum health.”

The relationship between Children's Hospital and TT 1 goes back almost four years.  The team's founders, Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge, have been regulars at the annual Diabetes Family Day, organized by Russell's clinic. 

“The TT1 guys have been a huge hit and have inspired countless local kids and families,” Russell said.  “The link between fitness and diabetes control is a strong one, and the TT1 athletes have made it clear that diabetes is not a handicap for them — it can be turned into an asset in helping an athlete train wisely in order to compete at maximum performance.” 

Team member Alex Bowden visited with Vanderbilt families at the Eskind Diabetes Clinic on May 29. Bowden demonstrated current technology that racers with diabetes use to maintain blood sugar levels while competing. He and Russell also talked about the upcoming RAAM, which TT1 won in 2007, and finished second in 2006 and 2008.

Russell will head to Oceanside, Calif., June 18 in time for the start of the grueling 3,053-mile RAAM. He will follow the eight riders with type 1 diabetes as they compete against top-level teams from around the world. The goal is to be the first team to arrive at the opposite side of the United States, in Annapolis, Md.

“My participation is something we can do to thank the many TT1 members who have come to Vanderbilt and had such a direct and positive impact on the lives of the children we care for,” Russell said.  “Hopefully, it will inspire more Vanderbilt families to take the challenge.”

On May 30, Russell joined several Vanderbilt staff members and patients to ride in the Tour de Cure, the annual American Diabetes Association fundraiser. They raised $6,660, making Vanderbilt the top fundraising team. Russell rode with staff member Eric Pittel, who has type 1 diabetes, for 35 miles of the 100-mile route.

The child ambassador for the Springfield Tour De Cure was Vanderbilt patient Trey Caldwell. Caldwell was a top individual fundraiser for the race, with more than $3,000 raised.