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Singer Patti LaBelle Headlines Bicentennial Lecture on Diabetes

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

 Ms. LaBelle delighted the audience with her down-to-earth talk about living with diabetes.

Nearly a thousand eager audience members came to the Hippodrome Theatre February 26 to hear a lecture on diabetes, the highlight of which was singer Patti LaBelle speaking of her experience with the disease. Part of a series of year-long bicentennial celebration events, "Perspectives on Diabetes: The Historian, The Physician, The Patient" drew a large crowd of local residents, as well as doctors and patients from the University of Maryland Medical Center, one of the sponsors of the event. It was hosted by renowned television correspondent Dr. Bob Arnot.


The majority of the audience either had diabetes or had a family member living with the disease, so they were anxious to hear about the latest innovations in treatment. E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, dean of the School of Medicine and an expert in diabetes during pregnancy, spoke of ways to lower the risks of birth defects in children born to diabetic women. Alan Shuldiner, MD, head of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine, detailed his work with the Old World Amish, whose cooperation is providing important information about the genetic causes of diabetes. Stephen Bartlett, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery, gave insight into pancreatic transplants and other surgical options for diabetes treatment. He was followed by his former student, James Shapiro, MD, now at the University of Alberta in Canada, who is heading a groundbreaking trial involving islet-cell transplantation.


In between speakers, Dr. Arnot educated and entertained the audience with vignettes about the history of diabetes and the discovery of insulin, as well as the history of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the important contributions its doctors have made to medicine over the last 200 years. The final speaker of the evening was Patti LaBelle, who did not disappoint with her open and honest presentation on what it's like to live with diabetes.


Ms. LaBelle had the audience laughing when she called herself a "diva-betic" and detailed her adventures in taking insulin, including trying to be discreet when giving herself shots on airplanes and her problems in finding a close friend willing to give her injections. But Ms. LaBelle also detailed the serious side of the disease, sharing how it took her mother's legs and then her life.


Although she knew the worst diabetes could do, Ms. LaBelle admitted she was in denial when she was first diagnosed. "I still fried up the chicken, ate the macaroni and cheese with the eight different kinds of cheese," she confessed. Finally, though, "I decided I wanted to live," she said, so she made lifestyle changes that are helping her control her diabetes rather than let it control her.


Hopefully, with Ms. LaBelle's inspiration and the knowledge they gained from the evening's speakers, last night's audience will today become advocates determined to take control of their own diabetes and their future health.

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 The Joslin Diabetes Center offered information for the public about the disease and encouraged people to be tested if they're having symptoms.

 Dean Reece, wife Sharon and daughter Brynne welcome Ms. LaBelle to Baltimore.

 Dr. David Leeser, seen here with wife Jodi, has finished his active duty in Iraq and will soon return to his work on islet-cell transplantation at UMMC.

 Audience members were thrilled when Ms. LaBelle took time out after her talk to sign autographs.

 The marquee at the Hippodrome celebrates the University's bicentennial.

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