Dr. Gary Lewis, Sun Life Financial Chair in Diabetes at University Health Network. (Photo: Tim Fraser)
When it comes to diabetes, many people might be under the false impression that it’s a disease only involving one major organ: the pancreas, which produces insulin. In fact, diabetes impacts major organs throughout the body including the kidneys, heart and even eyes.
“We provide care for a large and increasing number of complex patients with diabetes,” says Dr. Gary Lewis holder of the Drucker Family Chair in Diabetes Research at University Health Network (UHN), the Sun Life Financial Chair in Diabetes at UHN and Director of Banting & Best Diabetes Centre at the University of Toronto. “In fact, over 80% of our patients are also seen in other UHN clinics. A multidisciplinary approach to diabetes care in our clinics permits us to utilize and creatively combine our resources and expertise to care for patients.”
With Canadian diabetes rates skyrocketing and an anticipated growth in the disease of almost 50 per cent over the next decade in Canada, UHN is seeking new ways to prevent, treat and ultimately cure this devastating disease. Rather than focusing on its end stages, UHN’s clinicians are looking for opportunities to enhance care at every step along a patient’s diabetes journey.
One example of this is Project OPEN, a diabetic retinopathy screening program with mobile imaging equipment currently being used at 13 community health centres in the Toronto area. Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss among working-age Canadians. Led in part by UHN researchers, Project OPEN uses medical records data to invite people for vision screenings.
Results are then uploaded to a secure centralized system, where they are reviewed by retinopathy specialists. Recommendations for next steps are then sent back to patient’s doctors. This could prevent the advancement of vision loss for thousands of people currently living with diabetes.
“Whatever proactive steps we can take now will yield far-reaching benefits in the future,” explains Dr. Lewis. “Improving diabetes management should decrease the rate of heart disease and improve the management of other common diabetes complications.”
Dr. Lewis and the team at the Sun Life Financial Banting & Best Diabetes Clinic take a tailored, person-centred approach to the education and treatment they provide patients – and they’re not alone. Across UHN, new advances in highly personalized world-class care are being made each day.
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