McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Major General (Ret.) Gale Pollock (pictured) is the executive director of the nation’s first Center for Ocular Regeneration and Vision Restoration--the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration--a partnership between the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh, the UPMC Health System, and the McGowan Institute. Major General Pollock’s primary focus is to integrate basic and clinical research endeavors at the University with a strong patient focus and to help UPMC to continue to advance the science of vision care.
Early in 2010, Major General Pollock visited Guam to gather information on the health-care needs of the island and was "stunned" to learn of the high incidence of diabetes. She was particularly concerned about the lack of discussion or information about eye damage that occurs as a result of diabetes. Recently, and along with Dr. Linda Siminerio of UPMC, Major General Pollock conducted a series of workshops in Guam entitled “Implementing a Model for Diabetes Education, Practices and Patient Outcomes.”
In her presentation, Major General Pollock explained that about a third of American children are obese and developing obesity-related diabetes, and if nothing is done, these children can become blind in their 20s or 30s. That scenario can apply to Guam, where more than half of the island's elementary and middle school-aged children are obese, according to a 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
"As children, they don't buy their own food. They don't make their meal selections. They don't have the skills or the environmental support to manage their diabetes," said Major General Pollock. "If that isn't controlled and your blood sugar remains high, you will develop eye disease. And it only takes 15 years once you have those changes in your retina for you to go blind."
The Guam Healthcare and Hospital Development Foundation sponsored the workshops, which catered to physicians, nurses, nursing students, home health care providers, counselors, veterans advocates, public health representatives, health insurance company, and those involved in fitness. Unlike larger conferences the Foundation has sponsored in the past, the smaller group workshops were designed to reach out to those in the Guam community that are engaged in activity that involve diabetes education, diabetes prevention, diabetes care, and reimbursement for diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses.
The Foundation was seeking to create a collaborative relationship between UPMC and the University of Guam, the Guam Memorial Hospital, and the Diabetes Coalition in an effort to secure research funding for diabetes on Guam and neighboring islands. It is also looking to work with UPMC Diabetes Institute to develop a Diabetes Action Plan for Guam.
That plan includes developing a comprehensive registry or database to track and monitor diabetics on Guam, finding ways to evaluate and improve standards of care for treating and preventing diabetes, and developing policies that will lead to substantial improvements in the way the community fights diabetes, Dr. Siminerio said.
Scientific research has led to better, proven ways to treat and prevent the disease that afflicts about 40,000 people on Guam, but the challenge is to translate the results of that research into something meaningful and applicable to the community, especially high-risk communities like Guam, she continued.
"What's going to demonstrate our concern about our families, about their future is going to be our willingness to incorporate this new information into our day so that our children learn to make the most of their day," Major General Pollock said.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Pacific News Center (04/12/10)
UPMC Diabetes Institute
Bio: Major General (Ret.) Gale Pollock