By Sheila Gupta, M.D.
Over the past decade of providing endocrinology care in Volusia County, I have been astounded by the pressing, if not crushing, demand for diabetes care. Shortly after I opened my clinic, we met capacity and were no longer able to accept new patients with diabetes except on a limited case-by-case basis. Volusia and Flagler counties have higher than average numbers of patients with diabetes compared to the rest of Florida. Because we have very few endocrinologists, specialists who treat diabetes, our hardworking primary care physicians provide the bulk of diabetes care. Diabetes care in our community will soon change with the recently announced Lohman Diabetes Center of Excellence.
This new diabetes center of excellence is urgently needed to meet the needs of our community. Uncontrolled diabetes is the number one cause of adult blindness, the number one cause of kidney failure requiring dialysis, and the number one cause of foot amputations. Conversely, well-controlled diabetes is the number one cause of absolutely NOTHING. In other words, if we treat diabetes well and we treat it early, we can prevent many complications associated with the disease. With access to proper care, patients can live a remarkably high quality of life.
Medical progress in diabetes has been tremendous, with several new insulins available and multiple new classes of oral and injectable medications on the market. All endocrinologists agree that technology is the future of diabetes treatment. We routinely use continuous glucose monitoring systems that use sensors that attach to the skin to minimize the need for pricking the fingertip to check blood sugars. These monitoring systems communicate with insulin pumps and allow for more fine-tuned adjustments. These advances are challenging to keep pace with, particularly for primary care providers who are treating multiple other disease processes simultaneously.
The truth of well-controlled diabetes is that it is a team effort – the patient, the patient’s family, the endocrinologist, the primary care physician, diabetes educators, and others. The entire team is integral to a successful outcome.
Lowell Lohman, one of my patients who has been living with diabetes mellitus type 1 for decades, quickly recognized this unaddressed need for more support and access to care in our community. Lowell and his wife Nancy Lohman are determined to improve the lives of patients living with diabetes in Volusia and Flagler counties. When Lowell would sit in the lobby of my endocrinology practice, he noted and commented on the constant phone ringing from patients requesting a new patient appointment and the apologetic responses from my staff. He proactively engaged with other patients waiting in the lobby, encouraging them to try the latest innovations available. The patients then entered my exam rooms enthusiastically requesting to try the same technology.
Two years ago, the Lohman’s made their first donation of $100,000 to the Help A Diabetic Child Foundation to provide insulin and diabetes supplies to those in need. Since then, they have continued to contribute regularly to Halifax Health, the YMCA, and the Help A Diabetic Child Foundation to increase awareness of diabetes management. At one point in 2019, in a conversation with the Lohman’s, I presumptively suggested to Lowell and Nancy that our community could genuinely benefit from a comprehensive diabetes center.
Now the Lohman’s have made a $4 million contribution to Halifax Health to create the Lohman Diabetes Center of Excellence. It is scheduled to open in Spring 2021 on the 5th floor of the Halifax Professional Building, soon to be renamed the Lohman Building. To begin this initiative, the Lohman’s, Halifax Health and UF Health have increased care capacity by recruiting a much-needed endocrinologist, Dr. Poonam Kapadia. Dr. Kapadia is young, energetic, and committed to staying at the cutting edge of our field. In addition, the Halifax Health diabetes education department meets the standards of excellence recognized by the American Diabetes Association. Halifax Health, along with the University of Florida, will equip the Lohman Diabetes Center with point-of-care A1c testing, a full-scale laboratory, and a state-of-the-art resource room to facilitate education. Nearby specialty clinics, including wound care, ophthalmology, cardiology, and vascular surgery, will provide additional comprehensive care. The center will emphasize providing outstanding diabetes care to individual patients and sharing the best diabetes practices with primary care physicians.
From my perspective as a practicing endocrinologist who cares deeply about our community, the potential of what the Lohman Diabetes Center could accomplish is both humbling and exhilarating. I want to express tremendous gratitude to the Lohman family and Halifax Health for making this idea an achievable reality. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for those who live with diabetes.
Dr. Sheila Gupta is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine and is Board Certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism and Internal Medicine. She has been practicing endocrinology in Volusia County since 2007.