Purpose and Mission
Diabetes specialists are medical doctors who work specifically with diabetes patients. The large majority of “diabetes doctors” are endocrinologists (although some began their careers as GPs or internists). Endocrinologists specialize in abnormalities in hormone production and diseases related to the glandular system.
Diabetes is the most common glandular disease. Type 1 diabetes is when the normal gland cells are unable to produce of the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes is when the cells continue to make insulin, but can no longer use it remove blood sugar.
Most diabetes specialists see mainly Type 1 diabetes patients. They assist patients in managing the chronic disease, which cannot be cured. Keep in mind that if diabetes is poorly managed, it can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, amputations and even coronary artery disease. That said, with careful management, many people lead happy and active lives with diabetes.
The majority of diabetes specialists choose to work as part of a private practise, so they may not have a direct supervisor. Those that are employees of hospitals, clinics and retirement facilities are typically supervised by a service chief or a medical committee.
Diabetes specialists who work in private practice often have notable supervisory responsibilities, in particular training and evaluating residents and other members of the healthcare team. Senior partners also frequently serve on the management boards of their practices.
Nearly all doctors earn an undergraduate degree before graduating from medical school. Following medical school, new physicians typically complete a three- or four-year clinical residency program working with experienced doctors.
Physicians who want to be certified in endocrinology to become a diabetes specialist must undertake a four-year training program after their residency to earn a fellowship in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP).
Also note that physicians must register with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to practise in Australia, as well as with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which provides administrative and policy support to the National Health Practitioners Boards.
Responsibilities of a Diabetes Specialist
The primary duties of a diabetes specialist include diagnosis of the disease, prescribing appropriate medications, including insulin, and giving advice about diet, lifestyle and exercise. Other responsibilities include following up with patients about tests, such as blood sugar levels or blurred vision, numbness, cramping, shortness of breath or abnormal weight gain.
Diabetes specialists are fully trained in clinical endocrinology, including physiology, biochemistry and metabolism. They are well versed in the full range of treatment strategies such as radiology, fine needle aspiration and hormone implants.
Most diabetes specialists suggest their patients take a holistic approach, including appropriate diet and exercise, as well as medications. It is important to consider all of these various factors, and to advise patients taking into consideration their individual circumstances and needs.
Management of diabetes often requires working closely with other medical professionals. For example, a diabetes specialist often interacts with eye specialists, dietitians and others in designing a patient treatment plan.