Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


November highlights UW’s commitment to diabetes awareness, research always ongoing

Exploring UW’s fourth Diabetes Research Day, how November serves as month to bridge gaps in diabetes awareness 
Cat Carroll
Badger Herald archival photo of Bascom Hall. November 7, 2023.

The University of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center hosted the fourth annual Diabetes Research Day to showcase the new strides in diabetes research and highlight the importance of an inclusive community Sept. 21. The event featured keynote speaker Ohio University professor Sonia Michael Najjar. Faculty, students and clinical fellows engaged in collaborative discussions and presentations.

Core leaders of UW’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center Feyza Engin and Alan Attie, spoke on the importance and community-building aspect of the event, the significance of the disease and what people should know about it.

“For faculty to establish collaborations and foster an environment that is collaborative, it’s a really unique opportunity that we’d like to keep doing every year,” Engin said.


Engin said the first step was to identify speakers for the day as they take the spotlight of the event. Through online questions to the community, the board scored and chose abstracts.

Though not all abstracts were selected, Engin said the inclusive nature of the board gives all trainees an opportunity to present their abstracts during poster presentations throughout the day.

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The center’s mission was to enhance all educational enrichment opportunities and bring together those interested from all nearby campuses in Wisconsin, not just UW, Engin said.

“The most important part of the event is to build a community around those that are interested in diabetes,” Engin said.

The event created an opportunity for individuals to listen to prominent keynote speakers and be involved in a small but tightly woven community that has proven successful for the center for the past four years, Engin said.

One of the most unique parts of the day was its breakout tables for lunch, Engin said. This new activity allowed students to scatter over several different tables and discuss specific topics with faculty.

“This was really great to allow people to come together and talk, these events are a reminder that if we are together, we can be better,” Engin said.

The commencement of the fourth annual Diabetes Research Day marked the beginning of this month’s dedication to raising awareness about the disease. Engin said it is a huge health concern and, as researchers, it’s their job to help the community.

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As associate director of the center, Attie is also passionate about Diabetes research. Attie said metabolism has been a central focus of his career and he decided to work on diabetes using genetics. There is a prominent link between diabetes and obesity, which began his involvement in diabetes research.

Attie’s lab uses mouse genetics to identify indicators and gene responses leading to metabolic diseases.

“There’s a bit of a dichotomy in that a great majority of people, more than 80% of people who have type two diabetes are obese,” Attie said. “But most people who are obese don’t have diabetes.”

Along with this correlation, Attie focuses on genetics-based research to try to answer questions about the disease. Attie said diabetes is a unique disease because it has various consequences including kidney disease, nerve damage and blindness and is even linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Whether these issues are due to the type 1 nature of the disease, where insulin-producing beta cells are damaged, or the type 2 consequences of insulin resistance, Attie said the most important thing we can do is to continue spreading information as there are many misconceptions about the disease.

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“There are a lot of people who have diabetes and are not diagnosed, and there’s lots of disagreement, even within the medical community about whether or not prediabetes should be considered a treatable disease,” Attie said.

Misinformation about diabetes can create challenges, causing many people to have misunderstandings, Attie said.

“The more we interact and the more we share will open science to be more inclusive,” Engin said. “There is an opportunity for us to translate our knowledge and findings to better treatment options.”

The most important thing everyone can do, Attie said, is to have good nutrition.

In a month dedicated to spreading awareness of diabetes, UW professors and researchers are fully dedicated to fostering a comprehensive and impactful approach to combat the disease. Whether through hands-on research or just learning about the disease, everyone can help increase awareness about diabetes. By coming together as an inclusive community, anyone can continue making an impact, Engin said.

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