“My first job after starting medical school was at a diabetes summer camp,” explains Dr. Rizza. “More than a hundred kids with Type I diabetes. Type I was a lot more serious then. There were fewer options for those kids. I thought, why can’t we fix this?”
Thirty years later Bob Rizza is still focused on fixing things diabetic. A former chair of endocrinology at Mayo and former president of the ADA, he now oversees Mayo’s entire “research shield.” Still, he remains active, publishing annually and providing leadership to new initiatives like Mayo’s Center for Translational Science Activities and the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics. He is also the Earl and Annette McDonough Professor of Medicine at Mayo.
The Banting Medal honors an individual who has made significant, long term contributions to understanding diabetes, its treatment and/or prevention. The award is named after Nobel Prize winner Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin treatment for diabetes. The ADA cited key elements of Dr. Rizza’s research accomplishments in its statement. With permission, I copy that portion of their announcement below:
Early in his career, in a series of elegant clinical studies, Dr. Rizza elucidated the mechanisms underlying the counterregulatory responses to insulin-induced hypoglycemia. An appreciation that these counterregulatory responses are disturbed in diabetes has led to changes in clinical practice to deliver better care to patients with diabetes.
With their development of validated, sophisticated methods to measure glucose turnover in vivo in humans, the Rizza group was able to quantify for the first time the relative contributions of impaired suppression of hepatic glucose release, impaired hepatic glucose uptake, and impaired glucose uptake by extra-hepatic tissues in humans with diabetes in the fasting and fed state. Thus, the most fundamental questions about the mechanisms of hyperglycemia in diabetes were finally addressed. Later, using innovative approaches in vivo, Dr. Rizza demonstrated that functional hepatic glucokinase defect is basic to impaired hepatic glucose uptake in type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Rizza will receive the medal at the ADA conference next week in Orlando.