Diabetes Camp Herkto Hollow Reopens!

Some of the volunteer staff at Camp Herkto Hollow, Kids Week 2022, including those from our Division: Dr. Tansey (far left), Dr. Pinnaro (2nd from right), Dr. Parra Villasmil (far right).

Diabetes Camps are a summer highlight for many kids who have diabetes. Camp represents a chance to have non-stop outdoor fun, make new friends who understand what it is like to have diabetes and learn more about diabetes self-care, all while under the watchful eye of diabetes-knowledgeable camp counselors and staff. Several of the staff in our Division help support Camp Hertko Hollow (click for link), a diabetes camp in central Iowa with access to 400 acres of forest / outdoor recreation space. Dr. Pinnaro and Dr. Tansey serve to provide medical direction for the camp, and diabetes nurse Susan Huff has long volunteered to support the camp. Unfortunately, Camp Hertko Hollow, like most diabetes camps across the country, closed in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. This year, Drs. Pinnaro and Tansey were determined to help Camp Hertko Hollow reopen despite the challenges of ongoing COVID transmission. We are pleased to report that their efforts are paying off. Kids Week (ages 8-12) is off to a great start June 26-July 2, and Teen Week (ages 13-17) will run July 3-9. Also see the Camp website (link above) for details about Mini Camp and Family Camp opportunities. The doctors and nurses from our Division who have volunteered their time in camp this week and/or next week include: Dr. Pinnaro, Dr. Tansey, Dr. Parra Villasmil, Dr. Tuttle, Dr. Palmer, and nurse Sue Huff.

“Our first year back at camp Hertko has been a great one. I’m so grateful to our dedicated and flexible volunteers who adapted to swiftly to our Covid-related protocols.”

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro

Diabetes Research Training Program Receives Renewed Grant Support

Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center

There is a drastic need to devise better approaches to prevent, treat, and ultimately reverse diabetes. Essential to any progress is the constant training of skilled cohorts of research investigators. To this end, since 2017, the University of Iowa has nurtured a Diabetes Research Training Program. The Program supports mentored postdoctoral training focused on various diabetes research topics. Six postdoctoral trainees are supported at any given time, typically for two years each. To date, 19 postdoctoral trainees have been support by this Program, including pediatric endocrine faculty Dr. Pinnaro while she was a fellow. The Program was conceived by adult endocrinologist Dr. Dale Abel and pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Norris. Based on a proposal detailing their vision, they received a 5-year “T32” grant from the NIH to fund the program 2017-2022. During this time, the Program has been a resounding success, with most trainees having progressed onward in their research careers in academia or related private industry. Based on the strengths of the initial trainees, their research, and career progress, last year Drs. Norris and Abel wrote a renewed 5-year proposal for ongoing training. Today, we are pleased to announce that the proposal was viewed very favorably and that an additional 5 years of grant support will be provided by the NIH (you can view a summary of the grant at this link). Future or existing pediatric endocrine fellows who are interested a career focused on diabetes research can benefit from this program and are encouraged to contact Dr. Norris to discuss the application process.

Patient Choice Award Recipients

We are pleased to report that 6 of the pediatric endocrinology physicians in our division have received Patient Choice Awards. These awards are given out by UI Health Care to recognize physicians for consistently providing patients with an excellent healthcare experience. The recipient physicians were:

  • Lauren Kanner
  • Katie Larson Ode
  • Liuska Pesce
  • Catherina Pinnaro
  • Mike Tansey
  • Eva Tsalikian

The Award was given to only 156 providers across the entire institution. The Award recognizes those who scored in the top 10% nationally in response to patient surveys asking whether the physician showed concern for patient questions or worries, gave explanations about problem or condition, made efforts to include the patient in care decisions, discussed proposed treatments (options, risks, benefits, etc), and whether they would be likely to recommend the care provider to others. Our division is fortunate to have these Award winning physicians on our team. We thank each of them for their wonderful work. Find more about the awards at this link.

Drs. Alexandrou, Pinnaro, & Ramakrishna Pass Boards!

It takes years of training to become a pediatric endocrinologist, requiring at least a decade of studies after college. You could consider this to be the equivalent of completing the “26th grade”. The final step is to pass the Pediatric Endocrinology board exam. We are pleased to report that the three newest doctors in our Division have just passed their Board Exam. Congratulations to Drs. Alexandrou, Pinnaro, & Ramakrishna for becoming Board Certified Pediatric Endocrinologists. Their years of hard work and study have enabled them to become well qualified to diagnose and treat pediatric endocrine conditions.

Benefits of Home Review of Blood-sugar Data in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro and her research team have just published a new report indicating benefits to reviewing diabetes device blood sugar data. The article is entitled “Diabetes Device Downloading: Benefits and Barriers Among Youth with Type 1 Diabetes”, and was just published as a peer reviewed research article in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (pubmed Link; doi Link). Importantly, the data suggest that blood sugar levels improve when patients/families make insulin plan adjustments based on review of recent blood sugar patterns. Co-authors on the work from our division included Drs. Tansey, Tsalikian, and Norris. Also contributing as the lead author was future pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Benjamin Palmer.

Celebrating 100 Years of Insulin Therapy

Before 1922 type 1 diabetes was a rapidly fatal disease. That changed in the span of a few history-changing months. In the summer of 1921 four scientists at the University of Toronto began studying how to extract insulin from the pancreas and made quick progress. The first injection occurred on January 11, 1922, when an experimental insulin extract was administered to an adolescent who was dying of type 1 diabetes, saving his life. Soon thereafter commercial insulin production began and insulin use became widespread. However, there were many shortcomings of early insulin therapy, which was “regular” insulin extracted from cow and pig pancreases. These insulin preparations did not work in a uniform way from person-to-person. Extreme blood sugar swings were common and complications abounded. Thankfully, in the intervening century numerous improvements to insulin preparations and insulin delivery have been made. Dr. Pinnaro and Dr. Tansey from our division have just published an overview of these improvements in the Journal of Diabetes Mellitus. Their review is entitled “The Evolution of Insulin Administration in Type 1 Diabetes” (click on title for link to the article). Despite these improvements, insulin delivery for patients with type 1 diabetes remains imperfect. Importantly to this end, the article also discusses anticipated improvements that may help future generations of persons with type 1 diabetes. We are thankful for all those who worked to discover and improve insulin therapy, and look forward to future improvements! We thus thank all the diabetes research teams who are working tirelessly to improve diabetes care. This includes the Pediatric Diabetes research team here at the University of Iowa, whose dedication and expertise has helped advance diabetes care through carefully run studies. Finally, to those youth and families affected by type 1 diabetes, know that we look forward to every opportunity to work with you to optimize your insulin delivery and diabetes care. Advances in insulin therapy are happening rapidly. If your diabetes control is not what you think it should be, we would love for you to reach out to us to discuss options.

Children with Type 1 Diabetes Can Require Hospitalization with COVID, Largely Due to Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro

An important question during the COVID-19 pandemic has been whether children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes have increased risk of severe COVID-19. Dr. Pinnaro from our Division was one of a group of pediatric endocrinologist across the country who sought to help answer this important question. Their findings have now been published in the Journal of Diabetes (link to article). Briefly, they found that children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes who developed COVID-19 were at roughly 20% risk of being hospitalized while infected. Importantly, however, the cause of hospitalization was typically related to diabetes, less so than due to severe manifestations of COVID-19 such as lung dysfunction. Diabetes ketoacidosis was the most frequent cause of hospitalization. This is not uncharted territory, because a variety of viral infections can also precipitate a variety of diabetes emergencies, including ketoacidosis , leading to hospitalization. Also importantly, it appears that type 1 diabetes does not strongly increase the risk of severe COVID. For youth with type 1 diabetes who developed COVID-19, the basics of sick day management become important, including glucose and ketone checking, supplemental insulin when needed, and copious fluids, just as with any infection. Please know that our group of diabetes nurses and doctors remain available 24/7 to assist with sick days. Join us in thanking Dr. Pinnaro for her hard work and research.

Dr. Pinnaro Earns Masters of Science in Translational Biomedicine

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro

Congratulations to Dr. Catherina Pinnaro, who has just fulfilled the requirements of the Masters in Translational Biomedicine at the University of Iowa. This was no easy accomplishment, as she worked on the degree while simultaneous initially being a Pediatric Endocrine Fellow and most recently while being a full time faculty member. Additionally, the degree required original research of publishable quality. Dr. Pinnaro will be using her newly acquired skills and knowledge to advance a research program aimed at better understanding the genetic modifiers of endocrine diseases.

Glucose Control and COVID Hospitalization Risk in Persons with Type 1 Diabetes

Yesterday, data were published indicating that among persons with type 1 diabetes, higher average glucose levels are associated with increased risk of requiring hospitalization for COVID infection. The peer reviewed data was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism ( doi permanent link ; pubmed link ). The data were collected via the national T1D Exchange study consortium. Drs. Pinnaro and Tansey from our division are part of this consortium and helped author the article. The data indicate that if you have type 1 diabetes, you should keep your blood sugars in range as much as possible to help prevent severe COVID. We remain happy to help you achieve this goal; our contact information can be found by clicking on the “clinical website” at the top of our links page.

Announcing New Faculty: Catherina Pinnaro, MD

Dr. Pinnaro

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Catherina “Cat” Pinnaro is starting as a new pediatric endocrinologist in our division. Her position will be on the tenure-track, meaning that she will be expected to be productive as a research physician. Dr. Pinnaro received her Medical Degree from New York Medical College where she successfully competed for a Doris Duke research year, which she spent at the University of Iowa. She then completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Iowa, just completed a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology here as well, and is on track to earn a Master’s in Translational Biomedicine in late 2020. While a fellow, she has created several productive research projects, having already published on the genetics of 22q syndrome (link) and diabetes care simulation (link). Her research will focus on the etiology of diabetes in specific disease contexts, applying her genetics expertise. In clinic, her practice will include general pediatric endocrinology and diabetes.