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Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine celebrates Diabetes Fellowship 20th Anniversary

One of the oldest programs of its kind in the United States, Frank Schwartz, M.D., founded the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Diabetes Fellowship in 2004 to address the region’s need for primary care diabetes specialists. Today, in partnership with OhioHealth, the fellowship serves as a model for new programs across the country as it continues producing experts in the prevention, detection and management of diabetes–particularly in rural environments, where the condition remains disproportionately pervasive. Eighteen fellows have completed the program to date, with the nineteenth to graduate later this year.

“Frank Schwartz and Heritage College have the great vision and commitment to do something about the growing diabetes epidemic,” said Jay Shubrook, D.O. (‘96), the program’s inaugural fellow and former director. “While the diabetes epidemic persists, they are a national leader in diabetes care, research and professional education.”

Diabetes prevalence in Ohio’s southern region is nearly twice the national average, a statistic driving many medical researchers at Heritage College to develop solutions and address this threat to public health. The diabetes fellowship program is guided by this mission as well, as one fellow is trained annually to become a diabetes specialist in the primary care setting. 

The rigorous, one-year program encompasses diabetes clinical experiences, research and scholarly activity, weekly didactics, and conference experiences. Over the course of its 20-year history, the fellowship increased access to diabetes care in southeastern Ohio and supported community outreach initiatives such as the Heritage Community Clinic’s Diabetes Free Clinic and Ohio Diabetes Association’s Camp Hamwi. Program graduates achieved great success as well: in addition to serving as program director for 10 years, Shubrook started a diabetes fellowship at Touro University California; 2006 graduate Andy Wapner, D.O., M.P.H., went on to serve as chronic disease director and medical officer at Ohio Department of Health.

Amber Healy, D.O. (‘09), completed the fellowship in 2013 and now serves as the program’s director.

“I am grateful for having had the opportunity to train under Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Shubrook as a diabetes fellow and am honored to continue to direct the diabetes fellowship program and sustain the legacy that they created,” said Healy.

While the program’s legacy is felt in southeastern Ohio, initiatives–led in large part by Heritage College faculty and graduates–are underway to establish similar fellowships throughout the country.

In 2021, Schwartz, Shubrook and Healy, along with diabetes professionals across the U.S., co-authored proposed standards for development of these programs. Following publication, fellowship program directors and other interested individuals established a board to create a standardized accreditation exam. The American College of Diabetology (ACD) is also leading the initiative to establish a board exam, create more programs and raise awareness of Diabetology as a specialty.

In April 2024, Schwartz was the keynote speaker at ACD’s second annual conference in Napa, California, where leading experts in the field of diabetes gathered to present the latest advancements, research findings and best practices.

“Fewer medical students and residents are going into endocrinology today, even as the diabetes epidemic continues to increase,” said Schwartz. “The ACD and their diabetes fellowships are a critical contributor to increasing access of patients to diabetes specialty care in the US through development of additional training programs for interested young physicians.”

Currently, there are only 10 diabetes fellowship programs in the country–five of which started within the past two years due to grant funding. In 2023, ACD announced a plan to establish nine more fellowship programs through support from a $2.99 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. As more programs are established, Heritage College continues to serve as a model program with model outcomes. 

June 6, 2024
Staff reports