USF Diabetes Center celebrates progress in improving patients’ lives

The USF Health Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare was bathed in blue light in celebration of World Diabetes Day on Wednesday night, Nov. 14.   Inside the USF Diabetes Center, the spirit of the universal celebration was represented by the blue clothing worn by many guests, including patient Hailey Platz, 4, her sister, mother and grandmother, who all sported powder blue T-shirts decorated with a blue circle, the global symbol for diabetes.


Counterclockwise from center: Emma Platz, 3, and her sister Hailey, 4, a patient of the USF Diabetes Center, with their mother Heather Platz and grandmother Trish Godbey, who decorated the blue shirts they wore with the World Diabetes Day logo.

The Platz family of Tampa was among the more than 100 patients and family members, community partners, staff, volunteers and others who gathered to help reinforce the USF Diabetes Center’s commitment to increase awareness of diabetes and shed light on ways to prevent and more effectively treat the pervasive disease that affects people of all ages.

This was the center’s second annual celebration of World Diabetes Day, exactly a year following the 2011 ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official opening of its new expanded clinical space on the Morsani Center’s fifth floor.   Friends of the center gathered again to mingle, tour the center, watch a cooking demonstration by a Carmel Café’s chef in the teaching kitchen and sample the diabetes-friendly hors d’oeuvres. 

World Diabetes Day 2012, Morsani Center fountain, blue lights

The fountain sculpture outside the USF Health Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare was illuminated blue for the World Diabetes Day celebration.

Hosts Jeffrey Krischer, PhD, director of the USF Diabetes Center, and USF Health pediatrician Henry Rodriguez, MD, the center’s clinical director, updated guests on the center’s progress.

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate how far USF has come in our goal to establish a world-class, multidisciplinary diabetes center that focuses not only on providing state-of-the-art care, but also on making sure our patients benefit from the latest advances in treatments and technology,” Dr. Rodriguez said.   

Jeffrey Krischer, USF Diabetes Center

Jeffrey Krischer, PhD, director of the USF Diabetes Center, has made USF the world’s epicenter for type 1 diabetes research.

 The Diabetes Center integrates research with education and clinical care, Dr. Rodriguez said, because a critical part of engaging patients in the daily management of the disease is providing them with opportunities to participate in leading clinical research that advances the field.

“Our research program is focusing on therapies that may preserve the ability to produce insulin in newly diagnosed patients, working with basic scientists to mark the progression of diabetes, and investigating new avenues to promote the growth of (insulin-producing) beta cells,” he said. “It’s really the collaboration and coordination of all those efforts that will help us make a major contribution toward finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and improving the lives of those who live with the disease every day.”

Henry Rodriguez, USF Diabetes Center, World Diabetes Day 2012

Henry Rodriguez, MD, clinical director of the USF Diabetes Center, updated guests on the center’s progress over the last year.

The center’s accomplishments over the last year include:

–          An expansion of clinical services to approximately 1,500 patients – primarily children and adults with type 1 diabetes, but also adults with type 2 diabetes requiring intensive therapy and pregnant women with diabetes

–          Addition of several pediatric endocrinologists and a diabetes nurse educator with expertise in insulin pumps

–          Launch of the  patient-based diabetes management system MyCareTeam, which integrates with the Allscripts electronic health record so that patients or their family members can track blood sugar readings, communicate electronically with members of the diabetes care team, and receive online coaching.

–          More classes for all patients affected by diabetes, including such topics as routine care, stress management and use of new technologies.

Carmel Cafe chef, USF Diabetes Center, World Diabetes Day 2012

A chef from Carmel Cafe treated those attending the USF Diabetes Center event to a cooking demonstration, complete with diabetes-friendly appetizers and recipes to take home.

–          Through the international Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet consortium, coordinated by the pediatric epidemiology center led by Dr. Krischer, USF continues to identify those at higher risk for type 1 diabetes and offer them opportunities to enroll in prevention trials. Dr. Rodriguez chairs the TrialNet Natural History Pathway to Prevention Study, which oversees the worldwide screening of people at higher risk for type 1 diabetes.

–          Started four clinical trials investigating therapies for children with type 2 diabetes.

–          Applied for a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Translational Center grant, which drew upon interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers across USF.

–          Strengthened partnerships, including working with the American Diabetes Association and JDRF at the national and local levels, and building education and research collaborations with diabetes care providers across the Tampa Bay region

–          Working with Hillsborough County School Board to advocate for a more comprehensive policy covering care of students with diabetes.

USF Diabetes Center, World Diabetes Day 2012, informational table

USF Diabetes Center staff, volunteers and community partners provided information about diabetes management and clinical research opportunities.

Hailey was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March, and her mother Heather Platz says even at a young age her daughter shows remarkable understanding of a disease that requires a commitment to daily blood sugar checks, insulin injections and lifestyle changes.

In addition to checking her own blood sugar (with supervision), Hailey is mindful of what she eats and has everyone around her “counting carbs,” Platz said.  “She’s definitely a lot more mature than the average 4 year old child and very responsible about taking care of her diabetes.”Both Hailey’s mother and sister Emma, 3, are enrolled through the USF Diabetes Center in TrialNet, a study to learn more about how type 1 diabetes develops in at-risk individuals, including siblings of those diagnosed with type 1.   

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the body’s cells that produce insulin. Proteins known as autoantibodies are markers of the damage, and can often be detected in the blood up to 10 years before someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

Hailey Platz, Emma Platz, USF Diabetes Center, World Diabetes Day 2012

Hailey Platz, left, and younger sister Emma take time out for play at the USF Diabetes Center celebration.

 When Emma was screened for these insulin antibodies, the test indicated she had several.

“As a result, she may qualify for the oral insulin study,” Heather Platz said.  “It would be really good to get her on a prevention track, because her risk of developing type 1 is significantly higher than normal… If there’s anything we can do to help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes, we’re all for. Even if the research doesn’t help Emma, it may help end up helping other children.”As her daughters laugh and play while enjoying evening’s festivities,  Platz says the USF Diabetes Center’s team has helped the family cope with the stress of living with a child who has diabetes.

“Since Heather’s diagnosis, everyone has been so good about explaining everything and answering every question. The Center’s staff is always available for us when we need them,” Platz said. “It’s such a positive experience coming here.”

World Diabetes Day 2012, Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare, blue lights

– Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications