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City’s Most Comprehensive Diabetes Center Opens

By Sally McLain

Life is better now for the New York metropolitan area’s estimated 1.6 million residents with diabetes. The opening of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia-Presbyterian in October 1998 brings a wealth of advanced clinical care coupled with the latest research for people seeking help in controlling this common chronic disease.

Robin Goland’80, center co-director and Florence Irving Associate Professor of Medicine, says the focus is unusual because it’s based on a one-stop shopping idea. “The center is disease-focused and is staffed by interdisciplinary medical personnel. Those two things make our center especially unique.” Although the center was formally established in May 1997, construction on the new facility was not complete until last fall. With the grand opening, Dr. Goland is confident the center will be able to accommodate more patients. “We hope within a few years to have 28,000 patient visits a year.”

Children and adults are treated at the new center, which is different from most clinics with its warm, inviting, and sophisticated ambience. When you enter the center in the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion you are immediately welcomed into the warm and modern clinical space, which takes up half of the second floor; the other half is devoted to laboratory space for diabetes research. Decorated in muted coppery red and patina green along with rich wood accents, the space is laid out on a circular floor plan starting with a round reception desk. Patients can sit in one of two waiting areas--one at the entrance to the center and one internally where they wait between visits to specialists.

With its theme “The Care Until the Cure,” the new center offers its patients individual case managers who work closely with each patient to ensure the most coordinated care possible. Because managing the numerous aspects of diabetes care can be complex, case managers track the complicated referral network while acting as personal health assistants sensitive to the needs of their patients. “One of our major objectives is to create an environment that enhances the treatment of our patients and their families,” says Dr. Goland. “Case management is one additional way we do just that.”Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center logo

A selling point of the center is that a patient has the opportunity to receive coordinated care under one roof. Multiple specialists, from pediatrics, medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, neurology, psychiatry, genetics, nursing, and nutrition, share the goal of preventing serious complications that can accompany diabetes.

A space devoted to children is set up in one of the waiting areas. Toys, interactive games, art supplies, chalk boards, and television keep kids entertained while they wait for appointments or for their parents.

Whether a visitor to the center is a patient, family member, or friend, the goal is to include everyone in the treatment. “A major objective of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center was to create an environment that enhances the treatment of people with diabetes and their families,” says Dr. Goland. Parents of children with diabetes are especially happy about the inclusive treatment plan and the strong focus in family education and support.

Family support of the person with diabetes is so important that families are encouraged to visit the center. “The management of diabetes can be improved dramatically if those who support the person with diabetes understand the disease and are able to help,” says Dr. Goland. Support groups are offered through the center for spouses, parents, and even child care givers.

The center houses the Becton Dickinson Family Learning Center, which provides information to help patients and families care for the person with diabetes and to know when to seek professional health care. An interactive education wall is a forum dedicated to diabetes information. Through its use of multimedia--computers, educational software, videos about Columbia research, and printed materials--patients have the ability to select information specifically targeted to individual needs. The wall houses a rotating exhibit of printed materials focusing on different topics each month.

Once patients are in the center--not just in the waiting areas--they have a wealth of resources available to them. Patient education comes in many forms, from one-on-one meetings with nurse educators to nutrition counseling to the self-paced educational wall. Because visits to the center can last longer than a “normal” office visit--patients often visit with several clinicians all in one appointment--snacks may be necessary. A fully equipped pantry operates not only to offer nutritional education but to provide waiting patients with healthful, diabetes-friendly snacks.

An important, but less visible, element of the center is the research facility adjacent to the clinic itself. Led by Dr. Rudolph Leibel, professor of pediatrics and of medicine, the research center is made up of world-renowned physician-scientists. Dr. Leibel’s lab focuses on the genetics of Type 2 diabetes, the adult-onset form. Other labs specialize in the prevention of diabetes complications and blood lipids. When appropriate, laboratory findings can be rapidly applied to patients in the center to improve their care.

The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center was made possible by generous contributions from residents of the New York metropolitan area, including Russ and Angelica Berrie. The center is named for Mr. Berrie’s mother, who like Mr. Berrie, had diabetes. The Berrie gift prompted others, such as Joseph and JoAnn Murphy, to contribute. The Murphys have two grown children with diabetes and have been actively involved in diabetes programs at Columbia-Presbyterian over the years. The Learning Center was made possible through a gift by Becton Dickinson and Co., manufacturer of insulin syringes.

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