Diabetes epidemic: shortage of specialists

Diabetes epidemic:  shortage of specialists
By: Tiffany Sisson
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Ever since Stormteam Meteorologist John Dissauer was diagnosed with diabetes, he expected to face obstacles. But, he didn't expect a shortage of doctors who studied to keep him alive. "The biggest problem is just trying to get in," exclaimed Dissauer.
But, that's the typical prescription for patients like recently diagnosed. "I didn't want to just sit back and wait," said Dissauer.
Three months of waiting is what John faced. Because so many Americans are being diagnosed with the disease, endocrinologist are in high demand. "If you have to see diabetics all day, a diabetic will take much longer time," said Dr. Joe Chehade.
Chehade is one of only two diabetic specialist from Memphis to St. Louis. "To take a new patient, you have to wait for a patient to move from your practice, go somewhere else, or unfortunately, in some instances, they die because of complications," explained Chehade.
John decided not to wait. He makes the trip to St. Louis. "I keep thinking of this thing of having to maybe do insulin injections at some point, and I don't want to have to do that. I want to try to do everything I can to keep that from happening," said Dissauer.
The number of specialist is 12 to 15 percent below what is needed to handle the demand for patient care. By the year 2020,a shortage of 25 to 35 percent is expected as more retire than join the field. "There are not too many endocrinologist graduating. Probably for the whole country, per year, about 150 to 180 per year graduation. If you divide that for all the states, that's not enough for every state," said Chehade.
The medical community is working to recruit more students to the field, and bring more specialists to this area. In the meantime, since diabetes is a disease that can be managed, several centers have opened to handle the overflow, and educate patients such that the need for endocrinologists won't be as great.