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Specialist Dr. Jeremiah Nelson Joins OU-HCOM
in Battle to Reduce Region’s High Diabetes Rates

(ATHENS, Ohio – May, 30, 2012) Jeremiah Nelson, M.D., knew he wanted to be a diabetes specialist at the age of 11, after his own diagnosis with type I diabetes.

“That inspired me to become a diabetologist,” Dr. Nelson said. “I’ve always planned to be a diabetologist from that point forward.”

Nelson joins the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) this month as the first clinical hire made possible by the historic $105 million gift from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations received last April. Part of the funding will enhance the college’s recently renamed Diabetes Institute at Ohio University. A new facility is planned to open in 2016 that is intended to transform physician training, generate innovative treatments and education for diabetes patients, and significantly expand clinical research.

Jay Shubrook, D.O., associate professor of family medicine and diabetes specialist, said Dr. Nelson is a key hire in building the Diabetes Institute.

“He has expertise in caring for people of all ages as well as expertise in pediatric endocrine disease,” Shubrook said. “He’s going to expand our coverage, both in the office and in the hospital, and help expand our educational programs.”

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and the sixth leading cause in Ohio. It is a major health challenge in Athens County and other parts of the Appalachian Ohio region, which show a higher rate of diabetes, atherosclerosis and stroke than both the state and the nation.

Nearly 850 people out of nearly 65,000, or 17 out of every 1300 residents, have diabetes in Athens County, according to the most recent research. The American Diabetes Association estimates that people with diabetes, on average, have medical costs 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes, and approximately one in 10 health care dollars is spent to treat diabetes or diabetes-related problems.

Dr. Nelson entered medical school at the age of 18, attending the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Medicine’s six-year program that combines an accelerated bachelor’s of biology with a doctor of medicine degree. He did his pediatrics residency at the Orlando Regional Healthcare (now Orlando Regional Medical Center of Orlando Health) choosing Florida because of its high rate of diabetes. In 2002, he began a diabetes-focused fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, in the division of Diabetes and Endocrinology within the Department of Pediatrics.

While he is also a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Nelson said his primary focus and specialty has always been with diabetes, both in juveniles and adults. The key to successful treatment, he said, is to partner with the patient or the patient’s parents – and to listen.

“I take a tailored approach to each patient,” he said, adding that he hopes to help share this approach while training other doctors. “As physicians, we are taught to be good listeners and our team really does: Dr. Shubrook and Dr. Frank Swartz (professor of endocrinology) and I try to provide the patient with enough time to really understand where they’re coming from.”

He hopes to share this approach to diabetes treatment with students as part of the faculty at OU-HCOM. “We are very much in the business of preventing, delaying, diabetes,” Dr. Nelson said. “A lot of times, with type II diabetes, we can reverse aspects of it to where somebody can come off medications or reduce the amount of medications that they’re on.”

“One of things that attracted me to Ohio University is that they have a diabetologist fellowship so we’re able to train physicians to be diabetes specialists,” Dr. Nelson said. “About one in 200 Caucasians have type I diabetes, which is an autoimmune disorder, and then if you’re looking at type II diabetes, you’re looking at about 10 percent of the population in this area of Ohio and West Virginia.”

It’s a local battle with national relevancy, and OU-HCOM is leading the way in providing better medical management of diabetes.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016