About DRC

Dr. Michael Fisher

Origins of the DRC

A Doctor’s Idea Leads to a New Center with an Emphasis on Prevention

For many years, diabetes has weighed heavily on the mind of Dr. Michael Fisher, a Santa Barbara kidney expert. He pondered complexities of the disease, its physical costs, its social and financial burden. Unchecked, the disease causes heart problems, stroke, and nerve damage– triggering amputations, blindness and kidney failure with more frequency than any other ailment. So Dr. Fisher, who treats diabetics on a daily basis, asked himself, “If it’s a manageable and even preventable disease, how can we do that? Clearly, if we invest something now, we can save billions later.”

A brainstorm ensued, and results of that inspiration are bearing fruit. With Fisher at the helm, a collection of Santa Barbara health professionals, researchers, social service workers, business people and politicians came together in early 2000 and created a nonprofit organization to better link diagnosed and still undiagnosed diabetics with treatment teams, counselors, dietitians and educators. Setting up in space donated at the Santa Barbara Artificial Kidney Center on State Street where Fisher treats kidney dialysis patients, The Diabetes Resource Center of Santa Barbara County was born. “Most of those patients don’t have to be sitting there hooked up to a dialysis machine,” the doctor said recently. “Many are there because unmanaged diabetes has ravaged their bodies.” With a focus on prevention chief among the center’s stated goals, Fisher and his team are dedicated to bringing resources together to create a healthier tomorrow for the community.

As Many as One in Ten Latinos in Santa Barbara County Could Have Diabetes

“There is compelling evidence that for every two people diagnosed with the disease, there is another person who has the disease but doesn’t know it,” according to a l999 county Public Health Department survey. At the time of the survey, 7 percent of Latinos in Santa Barbara County had been told they had diabetes, compared to 5 percent of overall county residents. With a total population of 405,000, there are over 28,000 diabetes sufferers, one-third undiagnosed. The survey concludes, “Greater screening efforts are needed to identify those with diabetes who aren’t aware of it.”

Much of the DRC’s outreach targets at-risk Latinos including schoolchildren. A current educational project will attempt to decrease diabetes risk factors for students at La Cumbre Middle School and parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows Church.

Hope for the Future

Other likely projects for the DRC are a film about diabetes, and the expansion of diabetes management services for the underserved in Santa Barbara County. The center comes at a time when prominent researchers seek to cure diabetes with ground-breaking pancreatic cell transplantation and other new techniques currently explored at the local Sansum Medical Research Institute. Dr. Fisher hopes to involve local high school and college students in projects through the new center. Participating dietitians will steer at-risk children toward healthy foods that do not promote obesity. “The kids who get involved in this,” he said,”are going to feel better, they’re going to sleep better, they’re going to do better in school.” Other center personnel might lead kids on tours through the dialysis center or other medical units, warning them about potential diabetes complications.

Weight gain or obesity is associated with a wide variety of health risks, among them diabetes complications. In Santa Barbara County, 30 percent of adults and 28 percent of children are overweight, according to the County Public Health Department.

Fisher acknowledges he sometimes may sound idealistic. “But the reality is brutal,” he adds, with characteristic passion. “Life is harsh; we all know that in the field of medicine. Diabetes can be a debilitating disease. It is manageable through diet and medications, but we’d like to focus on preventing it. We hope to make a difference by helping members of our community learn that healthy lifestyle choices can lead to healthier lives.”

Adapted from an article by
NEWS-PRESS staff writer
THOMAS SCHULTZ
6 July, 2000
and re-printed courtesy of News-Press

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