Sue Kirkman, MD: Hurdles to Overcome in Diabetes Care


UNC professor of medicine discusses her thoughts on the largest challenges for physicians to overcome in the future of diabetes treatment.

Chair of the National Institute of Health’s National Diabetes Education Program and Medical Director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center’s Clinical Trial, Sue Kirkman, MD, is often at the forefront of diabetes care in the country.

At the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 2019 Scientific Sessions in San Francisco, CA, Kirkman, professor of medicine at UNC Chapel Hill, chaired a joint session of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and the American Diabetes Association on diagnosis and predicting diabetes mellitus and presented a study on using electronic health records to identify diabetes type.

Between sessions, Kirkman sat down with MD Magazine® to give her thoughts on the current state of diabetes care and what she sees as the biggest hurdle for physicians to overcome in the future.

MD Mag: What are the biggest hurdles facing physicians in the fight against diabetes?

Kirkman: So, that's a really big question. What's the biggest hurdles physicians face in treating an aging population? I think there are a couple. First of all, one — I guess it's a hurdle but it's also kind of a good thing — is that we have a lot more people with type 1 diabetes that are living into old age and so, this is really a new perspective for physicians, I think, to have people with type 1 diabetes in their 70s and 80s and really treating them. Another issue is just the sheer numbers, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, it looks like from some recent data that perhaps that the prevalence numbers are leveling off and that maybe the incidence rates of new cases of diabetes have actually declined in the past few years.

So, that's some CDC data that just came out recently. So, that's pretty interesting but prevalence is still really high. So, there's just a lot of diabetes for physicians to deal with and diabetes is very much a self-managed disease. So it's something that you can't just write a prescription and hand it to someone and you know they're good for the next 3 months. There is really a lot of counseling involved, there's a lot of ongoing support that people with diabetes need, and, you know frankly, our health care system is not really set up to facilitate that very well. So, I think that's a real challenge.

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