Physicians treating diabetics in the U.S., and researchers who study it, believe there is a diabetic time bomb ticking in America. According to a report created by UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization in 2010, over 27 million U.S. residents now have diabetes. Nearly a quarter of them are unaware that they have the disease. By 2020, just six years from now, more than half the nation’s adult population will have diabetes or the condition that precedes it, which will create more than $3 trillion in health care expenses, stated the report.
Diabetes mellitus, or simply, diabetes, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin. Insulin is needed to control blood glucose. There are different types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, gestational, and prediabetes. While diabetes and prediabetes occur in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk for developing the disease than others. Diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population. This means they are also at increased risk for developing prediabetes. People don’t die from having diabetes but they can develop devastating conditions involving the heart, kidney, and eyes from having it.
Fellows training under the new Nephrology Fellowship Program in the Division of Nephrology & Hypertension, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso Department of Internal Medicine, which began last month, along with new diabetes-focused faculty at TTUHSC El Paso, may help put a dent in caring for El Pasoans with advanced kidney disease, high blood pressure, and electrolyte abnormalities. Faculty member, Adeel Ahmad, M.D., joined four other nephrologists in the Department of Internal Medicine as part of this mission.
El Paso joins six other Texas cities—Galveston, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Lubbock, and Temple, to offer a fellowship program in nephrology. The fellows are Drs. Jaime Gonzalez and James Joseph.
“El Paso has one of the highest incidences of end-stage kidney disease in the country,” said German Hernandez, M.D., FASN, FACP, associate professor of medicine and a specialist in nephrology in the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Hernandez is also the director of the Nephrology Training Program. “There are too many patients and not enough kidney doctors in El Paso to take care of them,” he said.
Researcher Munmun Chattopadhyay, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, recently joined the TTUHSC El Paso Center of Excellence in Diabetes and Obesity. She is the first researcher in the Center.
At the University of Michigan where she became research assistant professor, her lab focused on the contribution of increased neuroimmune activation in the pathophysiology of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic neuropathy. Dr. Chattopadhyay’s lab also focused on understanding the role of neuroinflammation in the development of other diabetic complications in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and whether exercise as well as alternative approaches could alleviate the development of these complications.
Establishing a nephrology fellowship at TTUHSC El Paso was one of Dr. Hernandez’s dreams when he arrived on campus nine years ago. Dr. Hernandez anticipates adding additional fellows to the two-year program. “It is our hope that the nephrology fellowship training program will ease the shortage of kidney physicians in our area,” he said.