Diabetes expert, now at Touro University, launches studies, programs

More than half of California adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes, a recent UCLA study shows, and a Touro University study hopes to prove that they may not be safe on the road.

It’s one of the diabetes-related efforts being undertaken by Touro’s Jay Shubrook, a diabetiologist who has also implemented Diabetes Prevention and Diabetes Education programs in Vallejo.

“Basically, he created a program that trains individuals to educate others on diabetes,” Touro spokeswoman Andrea Garcia said. “Public Health Advocacy shows that more than one in three (36.2) hospital patients in Solano County has diabetes, which adds a spiraling $17.97 million in hospitalization costs. It is the second highest county in California where diabetes accounts for more hospitalizations than other counties.” 

Some of what Shubrook has found so far was expected to be part of a Research Day event at Touro’s Vallejo campus on Thursday, she said.

“We’ve produced 138 trained lifestyle coaches in Touro, and my goal is to have every Touro graduate have a certification as a lifestyle coach,” Shubrook said. “The medical school dean has already committed to that going forward.”

A Pennsylvania native at Touro for about 15 months, Shubrook’s passion for diabetes research and treatment did not result from personal experience with the disease, he said. 

“You don’t have to have it, to be passionate about it,” he said. “I found (in my medical practice) too many people just wanted a quick fix and I wanted to improve health and not just treat symptoms. That was really hard for me. I lived in an area where diabetes is very common — around the Appalachian mountains known as the Diabetes Belt.”

Researchers may have begun to zero in on some of the disease’s causes, he said. One indication is that populations worldwide where diabetes has not historically been an issue, have now surpassed the U.S. in diabetes incidents. 

“The U.S. used to be first in diabetes and it’s now third, behind China and India, and the Arab world is catching up,” he said. “It might be that these areas are industrializing and there’s increased stress, or there’s an increase in high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and a decrease in physical activity.”

Shubrook also said he’s recreating an Ohio University study which suggests that fingerprints can predict diabetes.

That study found that “certain fingerprint patterns can predict type 2 diabetes and other patterns can predict type 1,” he said. “But those subjects were all Caucasian. Beginning later this month, we’ll be repeating that study with a more diverse population in Vallejo. Because of the diversity of its population, Vallejo is a wonderful place to do these studies.”

The idea, he said, is that if doctors can predict a predisposition to diabetes, they’ll likely be better able to help prevent it and, failing that, to more effectively treat it.

“We think that maybe two-thirds of type 2 diabetes can be prevented,” he said.

Shubrook’s Diabetes Prevention Program offers a one-hour weekly session for a year, on how people with diabetes can treat themselves and live healthier lives,” Garcia said.

The advisers take the person’s personal lifestyle into account, and try to suggest behavior changes that are actually doable and are therefore less likely to be dismissed out of hand by the patient, Shubrook said. 

“We already have community members who attend these sessions at our Student Run Free Clinic as well as in various community churches,” Garcia said. “This program, which is supported by the Centers for Disease Control, has shown that when implemented, can reduce the risk of new onset diabetes by 59 percent.”

As it is, though, one in nine American adults has diabetes and by 2050, it will be one in three, Shubrook said.

He and Shadi Doroudgar, a Touro pharmacist with whom he’s working on the diabetes driving study, say they think that when a diabetic’s blood sugar is too high, it can impact their driving skills, even if they don’t feel any symptoms. They are testing this theory on a driving simulator, with people who have diabetes, “driving” on the apparatus when their blood sugar is in normal range and again when it’s high. 

“Our goal is not to restrict driving (among diabetics), but to raise awareness of the correlation between blood glucose and driving safety,” he said.

In general, Shubrook said he’s hoping to improve the general health of the local population, and, by extension, everyone else.

“We want to make a noticeable impact on the health of the people of Solano County by spreading the reduction in diabetes rates, changing the disease’s progression and empowering people to take charge of their treatment,” he said. “The end game, though, is to help make healthier communities. It’s all about public health. We may not cure it, but we are going to help prevent and better manage it.” 

Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.