Having clinicians involved in research supports better outcomes and care for patients with diabetes, obesity and related complications

October 4, 2022  //  FOUND IN: News

Persons living with diabetes (along with obesity and other metabolic disorders) often face many physical and psychosocial burdens. Because of the prevalence of the disease (affecting more than 37 million people in the U.S. alone), there are pressing needs to identify new therapeutic strategies to improve and implement life-saving therapies and prevention strategies and ensuring access to these advances for everyone in our communities.

One of the ways that U-M leads in advancing health is in the connection between the academic, research and clinical missions – ultimately aiming to develop leaders that will make positive impacts here in Michigan and around the world. 

The Caswell Diabetes Institute (CDI) provides the infrastructure to enhance diabetes-related clinical care (Type 1 and & Type 2), research and education at U-M. This focus helps ensure transformative diabetes care integrates with clinical research and supplies coordinating informatics infrastructure to support the clinical care and research missions while also fostering robust training and mentorship of learners, faculty, and staff dedicated to the treatment of and research in diabetes and related disorders.

The CDI supports a broad portfolio of research and researchers from basic science to clinical and translational research and policy initiatives. 

It is important that the translation of new research findings is integrated into clinical practice, and also critical that we continually work to improve outcomes of persons living with diabetes and address the challenges that confront these families every day. 

Investing in clinical research helps those in health care develop a deeper understanding of the disease of diabetes, recognize the impact it has on patients and our communities and expands understanding of what can help make improvements that are meaningful and accessible.

To help support busy clinicians in their pursuit to improve the lives of persons living with diabesity or obesity, CDI launched the Clinical Translational Research Scholars Program (CTRSP)  in July 2019. The overall goal of CTRSP is to identify and support the most promising early-stage scholars in the field of diabetes, obesity and metabolism. 

CTRSP provides up to 50% salary support for up to 3 years, protecting this time from clinical care duties to allow successful clinical research scholarly activities. CTRSP also provides strong mentoring regarding research and career advancement.

Since launching CTRSP, four scholars have successfully completed the program, Lindsay Ellsworth, M.D. and Brian Schmidt, D.P.M. were selected as two of the first CTRSP scholars. Ellsworth was selected for her project “Impact of Mother’s Own Milk Compared to Donor Human Milk on Preterm Infant Metabolomics, Growth, and Metabolism.” 

Since her award, Ellsworth successfully obtained an external grant from the Gerber Foundation that will cover 30% effort for the next three years while also enabling her to continue her research. 

“The most beneficial piece of the CTRSP program was the time out of clinic and the mentor guidance over the past 3 years,” Ellsworth said. “My mentor has helped me make new connections across campus with new collaborators. This program has helped me meet more diabetes/metabolic focused researchers that were outside of my world.”

Schmidt became part of CTRSP through his project “The Role of the Microbiome in Diabetic Foot Ulcers.” 

Notably, since receiving the CTRSP support, Schmidt became the first-ever podiatrist in National Institutes of Health history, U.S history, and the U-M Medical School to receive a K23 award. 

“The CTRSP program has benefited my career in ways unimaginable,” Schmidt said.

Yu Kuei (Alex) Lin, M.D., entered the CTRSP through his project, “A Personalized Mobile Health Program for improving Hypoglycemia Management in Adults with type 1 Diabetes”, and has already received an NIH K23-Award where he will continue to advance diabetes technology by developing scalable, personalized behavioral interventions. And Kara Mizokami-Stout, M.D., whose project focused on continuous glucose (CGM) monitoring and T2 diabetes shared that, “the pilot data generated from this CTRSP project provided the opportunity to receive a K23 Career Development Award from the NIDDK.” 

Her work will continue to assess and address multilevel barriers in CGM technology.

The Caswell Diabetes Institute Clinical Translational Research Scholars Program is looking to support one new scholar in 2023. 

All early-career faculty members seeking to establish a career in clinical/translational research relevant to diabetes (including obesity, metabolism, and the complications of diabetes) are eligible and encouraged to apply. For more information regarding the Clinical Translational Research Scholars Program (CTRSP), please contact MichiganDiabetes@umich.edu.