Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld tours USF Diabetes Center

Fuld, who has Type 1 diabetes, met with young people who also live with the chronic condition. Scroll below to see a video of the day.

Getting a peek at the new facilities was part of the reason nearly a dozen young people with Type 1 diabetes came with their families to the USF Diabetes Center Aug. 8.

But the real reason was probably that Tampa Bay Rays baseball player Sam Fuld was there, too.

The Fuld Family toured the USF Diabetes Center on Monday. From left, Sarah Fuld, Charlie Fuld, Dr. Stephen Klasko, Sam Fuld, and Dr. Henry Rodriguez.

Fuld, a Rays outfielder who has Type 1 diabetes, toured the USF Diabetes Center with his wife Sarah and son Charlie to learn more about what the Center would offer when it formally opens later this month, as well as to meet USF’s key diabetes researchers and physicians. The state-of-the-art clinical research and care center recently moved into 10,000 square feet of newly renovated space at the Carol & Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare on the USF Health campus.

Prior to the tour, the Fulds were told about the concepts and mission behind the Center’s innovative design.

“We’ve taken a different approach here and tried to simulate a diabetes lifestyle, almost a camp atmosphere, rather than so clinical,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health.

Sam Fuld, right, hears firsthand from Center Medical Director Dr. Henry Rodriguez and Center Director Jeff Krischer about the comprehensive approach the USF Diabetes Center team take for helping families coping with diabetes.

“We’re delighted to have pulled together the three legs to our diabetes efforts: faculty basic science, a research center, and now a clinical facility,” said Jeffrey Krischer, PhD, director of the USF Diabetes Center and the Pediatric Epidemiology Center. “Our goal at USF is to eradicate diabetes.”

Center Medical Director Henry Rodriguez, MD, showed the Fuld family around the patient-centered clinic, stopping every so often so Fuld could sign autographs for eager patients and staff members.

From left, Dr. Jeff Krischer, Sarah Fuld, Dr. Judy Genshaft, Sam Fuld, Dr. Stephen Klasko, and Charlie Fuld.

After the tour, the Fulds rejoined the young diabetes patients and their families in the Center’s Famous Tate Teaching Kitchen, where they shared lunch and USF President Judy Genshaft and Dr. Klasko presented the Fulds with USF Bulls shirts.

USF President Judy Genshaft and USF Health CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko present Sam Fuld with a USF Bulls jersey, which he immediately put on.

Obviously impressed, Fuld said he was glad to be a part of USF’s effort to help families living with diabetes and didn’t know what to expect when he first arrived at the Center.

“I grew up in New Hampshire and was lucky enough to be about an hour away from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston,” Fuld said, referring to the nationally known clinic he went to in his youth to manage his diabetes.

“But this blows the Joslin away. This is a cause near and dear to my heart. I was inspired at age 12 by (major leage baseball great) Bill Gullickson (who also has diabetes). He only spoke with me for two to three minutes, but he provided so much hope for me at such a young age. I look forward to a continuing partnership with USF.”

Fuld finished his visit by signing autographs and posing for photographs. 

Front row: Tee Coto, AJ Ruiz, Emma Donahue, Sam Fuld, Robert Colon, Carly Stagg, Craig Bobik, John Horst. Back row: Mark Gruetzmacher, Genevieve King, Janie Norman.

Fuld, 29, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10. The Stanford-educated Fuld, known for spectacular plays on the field, is one of several major-league baseball players who have successfully battled the chronic disease.  It requires him to prick his fingers to check his blood sugar level and inject himself with insulin, several times a day, for the rest of his life.

The expanded USF Diabetes Center houses several exam rooms, including two that include provisions for drug infusion therapy; encounter rooms where the center’s clinical psychologist and other staff can meet with patients and family members; a teaching kitchen where the center’s dietitian and invited chefs can demonstrate how to prepare healthy meals; a dedicated phlebotomy room and laboratory for preparing patient samples, a multimedia center with kiosks and computers; and a playroom.

The USF Diabetes Center is an affiliate site for the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Study Group, which is looking for ways to prevent, delay and reverse the progression of Type 1 diabetes.

Story compiled by Sarah A. Worth, video by Amy Mariani, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications.