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Richa Redhu Gehlaut, M.D.

Training primary care physicians to better treat diabetes

O’Bleness Memorial Hospital/OU-HCOM partnership expands fellowship

(ATHENS, Ohio) The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) and O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens are pleased to announce a new partnership in a fellowship program that will train primary care physicians to meet the growing diabetes epidemic in Ohio.

Through the Diabetes Fellowship Program, physicians will received the comprehensive training necessary to address the diverse treatment needs of diabetic patients, especially in southeastern Ohio. 

“The dynamic healthcare environment and increasing incidence of diabetes in our community and at a national level requires us to develop creative partnerships to better address the immediate and future healthcare needs of our communities,” said John C. Yanes, president and CEO of O’Bleness. “The new fellowship program solidifies the medical training partnership between OU-HCOM and O’Bleness Memorial Hospital while delivering on our commitment to improve access to quality health care for the residents within our community.”

O’Bleness Memorial Hospital has pledged $265,457 to OU-HCOM during the next five years to support the collaborative training. OU-HCOM will provide matching funding and other resources, including facilities in the college’s new Osteopathic Heritage Foundations and Charles R. and Marilyn Y. Stuckey Academic and Research Center (ARC). The college also will provide faculty benefits, including liability insurance; and registration and travel to the American States Association Scientific Sessions and the post graduate course and a rotation at the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard University.

“Our college is very grateful for both the generous funding and the outstanding clinical experiences provided by O’Bleness Memorial Hospital. This expansion will greatly enhance the quality of our diabetes fellowship program,” said OU-HCOM Dean Jack Brose, D.O. “This is just one more of the many collaborative projects to provide medical care to Ohio citizens, especially in southeastern Ohio.” 

The Diabetes Fellowship Program is one of only two such programs nationally to focus on training family practitioners, nephrologists, internists and pediatricians in clinical diabetes care and research, and it is the only program at an osteopathic medical school. Since the program began in 2004, all six of its fellows have gone on to successful careers as diabetologists, and all have published articles in national peer review journals.

“Our goal is to take primary care physicians and provide them with a greater depth and breadth of experience in diabetes care,” said Jay Shubrook, D.O. (’96), the director of the fellowship program. “With the expansion of our program, our fellows get the best research focus and rural clinical training here at OU-HCOM.”

The program was founded by Frank Schwartz, M.D., the J.O. Watson Endowed Diabetes Research Chair, and Shubrook in 2004. The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations provided the initial funding and support through 2010.

Richa Redhu Gehlaut, M.D., started as the first fellow in the newly expanded program this month. Gehlaut earned a medical degree from the Sardar Patel Medical College in Rajasthan, India, in 2002, and held a medical residency in internal medicine at Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio. Most recently, Gehlaut was a hospitalist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton.

“I take care of a lot of patients with diabetes and related comorbidities,” Gehlaut said. “There are miles to go in this expanding field and one can only strive hard to learn more and achieve greater heights. I wish to expand my knowledge of this disease and become a specialist who will be at the forefront of providing care to diabetic patients.”

Schwartz explained that this one-year program prepares primary care physicians with extensive clinical training in diabetes management and research.

“These physicians train and work alongside other diabetes-related specialists including endocrinologists, diabetologists, cardiologists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists and wound care specialists,” said Schwartz, who is also the director of the Appalachian Rural Health Center. Under the supervision of faculty, Schwartz explained that fellows will devote more than half of their time to diabetes patient care at either the OU-HCOM Diabetes Center or at O’Bleness. They also collaborate on diabetes research projects at OU-HCOM.

 “Primary care physicians manage over 90% of patients with diabetes,” said Jeffrey Benseler, D.O., director of medical education at O’Bleness. “The understanding of diabetes that our intern and resident physicians receive through the Diabetes Fellowship Program will elevate their experience as medical providers to better meet the needs of our patients with diabetes.”

Startling statistics drive the need for this program. Less than eight percent of the 24 million people with diabetes ever see a diabetes expert, and this shortage is projected to get even worse. National surveys indicate that most patients with diabetes are not optimally managed. Costs associated with care for long-term complications of diabetes are expected to exceed $174 billion annually.

“One of our long range goals is to develop a new, accredited primary care sub-specialty called diabetology,” Schwartz said. “It is critical that we recognize that diabetes care is a specialized and highly complex disease requiring unique clinical and research training to meet the crisis we face as a nation. The diabetes fellowship program can provide a model to design sub-specialty training that is both current and innovative.” 

In addition to the fellowship program, additional expansions of the college’s diabetes care, education and research programs are being planned. As part of the historic $105 million gift to OU-HCOM earlier this year from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, more than $32 million is earmarked to hire additional diabetes researchers and build a new diabetes/endocrine clinical treatment and research center on the Athens campus of Ohio University by 2016.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016