Previous leaders of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the largest and one of the oldest diabetes-focused organizations in the United States, have been experts on type 2 diabetes. Others have had type 1 diabetes. But now, the group has elected a co-president who has both of those traits.
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Robert H. Eckel, MD, is an endocrinologist and director of the Lipid Clinic at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. He’s spent much of his career studying heart disease in type 2 diabetes, and previously served as president of the American Heart Association. According to his academic bio, his research is focused on “the relationship between nutrition, insulin action, energy balance and body weight regulation” — a profile that lends itself to prominence in the world of both type 2 diabetes and cardiology.
But for over 65 years, Eckel, 71, has been living with type 1 diabetes. And as a recent Medscape profile makes clear, he’s overcome what were long odds at the time of his diagnosis to have a long, productive career that doesn’t show signs of ending anytime soon.
While having type 1 diabetes gave him his initial interest in endocrinology, Eckel notes that he decided he wanted to study something he didn’t actually have. That led to his becoming a leading researcher at the intersection of metabolism, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And as a co-president of the ADA, Eckel says that he’d like to promote a new “cardiometabolic” subspecialty of internal medicine to meet the needs of an aging population with rising levels of metabolic dysfunction, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Eckel also hopes to emphasize the need to improve cardiovascular outcomes in type 1 diabetes, an area that he says hasn’t received enough research attention. And as someone who wears an insulin pump that has helped him achieve good blood glucose control, he plans to speak out on the need for affordable access to pumps and fast-acting insulin in people with type 1 diabetes.
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.