Francine Kaufman is one of the most recognized individuals in the field of diabetes care. She’s a world-renown pediatric endocrinologist at USC, a former ADA president, the author of Diabesity. Late last year, she made the leap to industry, joining Medtronic to become “a key architect of the company’s global diabetes strategy.” Today we’re privileged to hear her thoughts on then, now, and why:
For the last 30 years as a pediatric endocrinologist in Los Angeles, California, I have had to tell countless parents that their child has diabetes. As the words emerge from my mouth, each parent stares at me in disbelief and then despair that such a chronic disease could affect their child. As my team of diabetes health care providers and I start what is often life saving treatment, we now know with confidence that with appropriate care, access to the most advanced therapies, education, and support the children we treat can not only survive but thrive and live productive, meaningful, and healthy lives.
Many don’t realize what a technology explosion diabetes care has experienced since I started in medicine three decades ago. When I began my practice, we could only measure sugar in urine, we had only animal insulin, we hadn’t definitively proven that glucose control even mattered, and my patients had little control over their own destinies. But things are different – and better — now. My patients leave my office with a glucose meter that gives a blood sugar result in seconds. Often within weeks, they get on an insulin pump, and for many the pump comes with a continuous glucose monitor. My patients upload their own devices, manage the data via the Internet, and for the most part they can now do everything they want to in life — they play sports, travel to distant places, explore the sea and the mountains, go to school in exotic countries, get married, have children, and live their dreams.
After 30 years in academic medicine at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, I decided to change jobs and go to work at Medtronic. I did this for one reason — the next big step in technology is at hand, the closed-loop sensor-augmented insulin pump, often called the artificial pancreas. I wanted to be on the team that would develop this “cure” for diabetes — for the thousands of children I have cared for over three decades, and for the thousands more I have met along the way. After searching high and low, it was obvious to me that Medtronic had the greatest chance of developing the closed-loop system — because they already have all the parts — the insulin pump, the sensor and algorithms. And when Medtronic told me they wanted a Chief Medical Officer, and that they wanted me to have that role — and when they agreed that I could still keep my clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, I leapt to industry.
I am truly excited about this next chapter in diabetes. I am thrilled to be part of a group that is innovating and driven to improve the lives of my patients — and people everywhere touched by diabetes. We will get there, I tell everyone at Medtronic Diabetes and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. And as soon as we do, I think I will retire a happy woman.
Thank you, Fran. We’re happy to have you on the case!