Diabetes can be a difficult disease to live with because it often affects numerous systems throughout the body.  UAB has created a fresh new approach to treatment with the addition of the Multidisciplinary Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic.

Endocrinologist Fernando Ovalle says the new Multidisciplinary Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic can devote more time and resources to patients than is possible in a general endocrinology practice.

With the proper guidance, most diabetics often can manage their health successfully under the care of their primary-care physicians. But diabetics also can benefit tremendously from thorough evaluation and guidance from physicians who specialize in various complications of the disease. In a single day at the clinic, after a morning of classes and individual assessment and counseling sessions by nutritionists/certified diabetes educators, patients are evaluated by several physicians with the expertise in different areas frequently complicated by diabetes. 

“This is a one-stop shop,” says UAB endocrinologist Fernando Ovalle, M.D. “Patients are going to be seen by four or five different specialists during their visit. They could see a nutritionist/certified diabetes educator, a social worker if needed, an adult or pediatric endocrinologist, an ophthalmologist, an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist — whomever they need. And at the end of the day patients will be sent home with a road map for their care the rest of the year. That’s the kind of individualized specialty care we provide in a single, intensive day.”

Specialists work together in the clinic to educate patients during their visit so they are better able to manage their disease through informed lifestyle choices and the best medicine available. These same specialists determine the best treatment course to be administered under the supervision of the patients’ own primary-care physician for the ensuing year.

Patients are encouraged to return to the clinic every year for re-evaluation. When appropriate, they may be asked to return to it or another specialty clinic earlier for additional follow-up care. 

Groundbreaking research
Another benefit of the clinic is that it is part of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center.
This center, directed by John Corbett, Ph.D., and funded through community support and an NIH Diabetes Research and Training Center grant, is at the forefront for development of new methods to treat, prevent and cure diabetes and its complications.

More than 150 clinicians and basic-science researchers representing eight schools — including the schools of Medicine, Public Health, Health Professions, Nursing and Dentistry — are part of the center. It is known for groundbreaking research in immunity and autoimmunity, examining the biological mechanisms that cause diabetes and offering new treatments.

Current areas of research include autoimmune Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, complications, genetics, epidemiology, transplantation, health disparities, community outreach and intervention studies.

The center is one of the first in the world to test a plasmid DNA intramuscular injection, a potential treatment for Type 1 Diabetes. It also is one of the first centers in the nation to use a treatment designed to jump-start stem cells that possibly could repair damage to insulin-producing systems in a newly diagnosed patient. 

“We’re attacking a number of interesting issues,” Corbett says.

“And with the pieces of the puzzle coming together, there is the potential to have some extraordinary things happen in the next five or six years,” he says.

Translational research
The Multidisciplinary Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic and its patients will benefit from translational research.

Ovalle operates subspecialty clinics for patients on insulin pumps, adolescents transitioning to adult care, plus diabetes related to transplant, Cystic Fibrosis and other conditions and other less-common types.

The unique, full, single-day treatment the clinic provides gives patients more time with their doctors to truly understand the nature of their disease and the best way to treat it.

“The clinic will devote more time and resources to patients than is possible in a general endocrinology practice,” Ovalle says. “The payoff will come with improved glycemic control, increased patient compliance with instructions and follow-up and higher patient satisfaction. All of these lead to lower risk for micro- and macro-vascular complications, improved quality of life and decreased health costs in the long run.”

The clinic is located on the first floor of The Kirklin Clinic. Call 801-7450 for additional information about the clinic. For more on the Comprehensive Diabetes Center, visit www.uab.edu/medicine/diabetes/.