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Who:

Dr. Sonia Butalia, endocrinologist, and assistant professor in the Departments of Medicine and Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary

Research highlights/discoveries:

• Developing and measuring the effectiveness of tools and strategies that help people with diabetes improve their cholesterol management, and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease

• Co-author of several national guidelines for Diabetes Canada and Hypertension Canada

• Exploring how young people can successfully move from pediatric to adult diabetes care

Dr. Sonia Butalia at a glance:

• Received the Diabetes Canada New Investigator Award (2018)

• Was a member of the 2018 Expert Committee and a chapter co-author of the Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada (2018)

• Named Medical Lead of the Libin Patient and Family Advisory Group for Cardiovascular Health at the University of Calgary (2017)

• Received the Clinical Fellowship Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2009)

How did you get interested in diabetes?

It happened in medical school. This disease affects many Canadians—including close members of my family. I loved taking care of patients with diabetes, but I realized that research would hopefully allow me to help the broader community.

Why do cardiovascular risk factors matter for people with diabetes?

Many people with diabetes will develop cardiovascular disease, and when you look at some of the risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, they’re very treatable with medication and lifestyle. Our research shows only 30 per cent of people with diabetes who should be taking medication to lower their cholesterol are doing so.

How will you address these issues?

Using Alberta as our study base, we’ve spoken to people with diabetes and their doctors to determine where the current gaps in health care are, and what would help improve the situation. Once we analyze their feedback, we’ll develop tools and strategies to help fill those gaps and look to leverage the resources we already have in place.

What might these tools or strategies be?

For one example, a patient's lab results go straight to the physician, but perhaps it would help improve diagnosis and treatment if those results were also provided to patients as well as their health-care providers. Some areas already offer the ability for patients to check their medical results online, so they can view their test results and be more proactive.

You helped create the guidelines for diabetes and those for hypertension. Why was that important?

In order to improve the health of people with diabetes, health-care professionals have to stay current with the latest research and share best practices for care with both patients and their health-care providers.

Tell us about your other research project.

Youth with diabetes may not see a health-care provider for a year or two after they stop receiving care from pediatric health professionals. This can result in worsening blood sugar control and/or an avoidable hospitalization. We have spoken to youth to determine where there are problems in transition of care, and we are assessing programs.

What is your ultimate goal as a diabetes researcher?

To help keep Canadians with diabetes healthy and free from complications. While it’s important to prevent diabetes, we also need excellent tools and strategies to support those living with this disease.

The last word

“Sonia is looking at what is causing the gaps in care. [Her work] will create great health benefits to affected patients," says Dr. Jan Hux, president and CEO, Diabetes Canada. Listen to her speak about the Guidelines in episode 3 of Clinically Speaking.

Visit Research to read about the research projects and awards funded by Diabetes Canada.

How can you help us fund research that changes lives? Donate now!

(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Spring 2019)


Author: Rosalind Stefanac

Category Tags: Research;

Region: National

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