Diabetes center opens

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, January 29, 2015

Suffolk and Western Tidewater residents will have easier access to diabetes screenings and care starting today, when the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center of Western Tidewater opens for its first appointments.

The new center is a partnership involving Eastern Virginia Medical School, the Obici Healthcare Foundation and Sentara Obici Hospital. It is located in the hospital’s medical office building, 1790 Godwin Blvd.

“It’s going to be a really nice service for the people that are out there,” said Dr. David Lieb, associate professor of internal medicine at EVMS and director of the new center. “Sometimes, it’s not that easy for people to get in to see somebody, either for their diabetes or for lifestyle counseling.”

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The weekly clinic will take place every Friday. Screenings, lifestyle intervention and coordination with specialty services — doctors for the kidneys, eyes and feet, body parts commonly struck by serious complications of diabetes — will be offered.

Lieb said the need for the clinic has become more apparent the past few years, as screenings conducted by EVMS — also funded by the Obici Healthcare Foundation — have found about half of the people screened had Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Most of those people did not already know about their condition, Lieb said.

“There were a large number of folks that didn’t know,” he said. “These screenings led to a clear need for a way to help take care of these folks with diabetes and pre-diabetes, and also a desire to prevent people from developing diabetes in the first place.”

Suffolk and Western Tidewater have among the highest rates of diabetes, as well as complications and deaths from it, in Virginia.

“Part of that may be access to care among the indigent population,” Lieb said. “We’re going to see patients with and without insurance.”

The program will include working with Obici’s diabetes educators who will call patients regularly to check on their lifestyle management, including their diet and activity level.

“The diabetes educators who are out at Obici Hospital are fantastic,” Lieb said, also recognizing Obici for the space where the clinic will be held. “We’re leasing a beautiful space for the clinic.”

“The Board of Directors of Obici Healthcare Foundation has focused on diabetes and its effects on the community for more than five years,” said Gina Pitrone, Obici Healthcare  Foundation’s executive director. “This opportunity to have the EVMS team in Suffolk gives hope to the many people who have serious complications from this disease and don’t have the resources to understand or manage its effects.”

Lieb said there has been talk of adding more days to the clinic’s availability, but he does not yet know how that will pan out.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I think we’re going to be pretty busy,” he said. “It’s fortunate we’re able to take care of people, but it’s unfortunate there’s so much diabetes. I think we’re going to be able to touch some lives for people who otherwise may have had some difficulty finding that help.”

The new center in Suffolk is an extension of the Strelitz Diabetes Center on the EVMS campus in downtown Norfolk, which opened 25 years ago.

The free screenings on Fridays will be offered on a walk-in basis from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 446-5908 for more information or to get an appointment.