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Doctor Who: Desmond Chatz

Written by Erica Brown

Dr. Desmond Schatz, Medical Director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence and Director of the UF CRC at the University of Florida – UF Health 

Who or what inspired you to go into medicine?

I had wonderful interactions with my doctor when I was growing up. I was impressed by the way he spoke to me, his work ethic and his desire to help others. I thought I would like to do the same thing when I grew up.

What is the number one preventative action you recommend to protect against diabetes? 

Recent data suggests that diabetes affects nearly 29 million Americans. More than 90 percent have type 2 diabetes, which is associated with the obesity epidemic seen over the past 20–25 years. Clearly, preventing being overweight and obesity with good nutritional choices and exercise is effective in preventing the disease.

What is the most exciting advance you have seen in reversing diabetes during your research career?

My work is almost exclusively devoted to the field of type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the islets that produce insulin in the pancreas are destroyed. Over the past 25 years, we have learned that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that can be readily predicted using a combination of genetic, immune and metabolic markers. This has enabled us to institute therapies aimed at preventing the disease.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future? 

Together with others, I hope to change the fundamental perception of diabetes in the United States. It is an incredibly burdensome disease to both the individual and society. Heart disease and cancer are perceived as important public health diseases, and diabetes is just as important. We also need to improve outcomes of all individuals with diabetes — type 1 and type 2 — and to continue to do research aimed at the prevention and cure of this disease.

“If I weren’t a doctor, I’d be…” a schoolteacher.

About the author

Erica Brown