One in three Americans will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Or, UNC Diabetes Care Center founder and director John Buse puts it, “Anyone who is reading this article needs to look to the right and the left. One of those neighbors will develop diabetes.”
Those who develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of diseases ranging from cancer to dementia to fatty liver disease, and mental illnesses including depression and schizophrenia. This scope of the epidemic and the associated health risks leads Dr. Buse to describe diabetes as a “tidal wave,” with an impact that accounts for 16 percent of all healthcare costs in the country. He adds that this wave will get worse before it gets better.
UNC investigators like Dr. Buse are leading the way in addressing the diabetes crisis. Much of this work takes place under the umbrella of the UNC Diabetes Care Center, which brings together physicians, researchers, nurses, educators, and pharmacists from across schools and departments to deliver what Dr. Buse sees as the highest quality of care available for those living with types 1 and 2 diabetes.
Dr. Buse is particularly enthusiastic about advances in type 1 diabetes treatments. Unlike type 2 diabetes, which has a menu of options for treatment, type 1 diabetes can only be treated with insulin, and patients must take into consideration many factors such as diet, stress levels, exercise, and temperature when administering their insulin. It’s not surprising, then, that Dr. Buse calls every patient with type 1 diabetes “a superhero,” and he’s hopeful that UNC research will lead to new treatment options for these superheroes.
Addressing the diabetes crisis requires a strong team of well-trained, committed clinicians and researchers, but there aren’t enough of these professionals to meet the growing need. There are approximately 30 million people in the US living with diabetes and only an estimated 1,000 endocrinologists specializing in the disease. Many of those currently specializing in the disease are nearing or past the age of retirement.
“We desperately need young people on board,” Dr. Buse says. Programs like the UNC Endocrinology Fellowship are helping to recruit a pipeline of future diabetes researchers and physicians, but recruitment is not enough. Once in place, these young researchers need resources and support to conduct cutting edge research. They need time to better understand the disease and funding to explore innovations that will transform the lives of patients.
Dr. Buse sees private sector and philanthropic donors as critical in supporting work of these young researchers, and he can think of no better place for potential donors to invest than UNC. As he describes it, “So few places are conducting research at the level we that are here at UNC.”
For more information on how to support the UNC Diabetes Care Center and programs like the UNC Endocrinology Fellowship, please contact Beth Braxton, Director of Development, at 919-843-8254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.