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UVMC Symposium Addresses Diabetes Epidemic

11/10 Diabetes Symposium
UVMC Diabetes Symposium 2: Cardiologist Dr. Cass Cullis, third from left, answers a question from the audience during the Nov. 4 Diabetes Symposium sponsored by UVMC in Troy. Program participants included (left to right): Dr. Barbara Evert; Dr. Scott Swabb; Dr. Cullis; Dr. Sayed Ali; Janis Winner, RN and Certified Diabetes Educator; and Diane Birchfield, Clinical Dietitian at UVMC.

TROY – As widespread as diabetes is becoming, it still is a very individual health issue, medical experts said at a Nov. 4 symposium on the diabetes epidemic.

The more than 300 people attending the UVMC Health Symposium were urged to know their numbers – blood sugar, blood pressure among them – whether or not they have been diagnosed with diabetes, and to focus on healthy eating and exercise habits.

Diabetes is a worldwide problem, said Michael Maiberger, UVMC President and CEO, in opening the forum. “Bu It is not a hopeless problem. There is a lot we can do,” he said.

Moderator Barbara Evert, MD, UVMC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, said the forum’s emphasis was “the importance of your role in managing your diabetes or helping to prevent it -- what you need to do to stay healthy.” 

Many people have diabetes for years before they find out, said Scott Swabb, DO, internal medicine physician with a special interest and background in managing diabetic patients. The progression of the disease can lead to damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart and blood vessels among other organs, he said. Proactive management is essential.

More than 90 percent of diabetics have Type II diabetes, often called adult onset diabetes, with the risk increasing with age. Many are overweight or obese, Dr. Swabb said.

Diabetes prevention measures include screenings to check for signs of pre-diabetes and lifestyles intervention to reduce risk. Changes to help avert diabetes include moderate weight loss and moderate physical activity. Dr, Swabb noted that even a 10-15 pound weight loss can have a positive impact.

For those with diabetes, working with a team of a physician, dietitian and diabetes educator is important for success in managing the disease, Dr. Swabb said.

Cass Cullis, MD, cardiologist, said it behooves people to get regular checkups and to keep an eye on blood pressure and cholesterol in addition to blood sugar. “If your blood sugar is over 100, you need to make a commitment to yourself to exercise regularly and lose weight,” he said. “And if you smoke, stop.”

A big part of the diabetes problem is what people today eat, stressed Sayed Ali, MD, nephrologist with the UVMC Dialysis Center. “I think we, as a society, have lost control of what we are eating.” he said. 

Dr. Ali said it is vital that people with diabetes check their blood sugar and watch what they eat.

“You have to know diabetes in general but, even more important, is knowing your diabetes because diabetes progresses differently in every body,” Dr. Ali said.

Janis Winner, RN, UVMC certified diabetes educator, said the person with diabetes is the most important person in making decision about their care and management.

”It is very important that they learn about how food, activity, medications, stress and illness can affect their glucose levels so they can make good decisions every day and do their best to keep diabetes under c control,” Winner said.

Because learning about diabetes is an ongoing process, people should take advantage of available resources – physician, nurse, educator, dietitian, pharmacist, Internet, websites, diabetes classes, she said.

UVMC offers free monthly diabetic education classes.

For more information or to register for classes, contact Winner at (937) 440-4701 or 440-4920 or

The symposium was presented as a public service by Upper Valley Medical Center with support from the UVMC Foundation.