Dedicated to Improving Diabetes Management

Diabetes is the fastest-growing chronic condition in Australia, with one person every five minutes diagnosed with diabetes, and it is increasing in prevalence faster than any other chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer.

In Maningrida, Arnhem Land, a remote indigenous community, Associate Professor Ekinci (MBBS 2000, PhD 2011) first became acutely aware of the enormity of diabetes as a disease and confirmed her career pathway dedicated to improving the lives of people with diabetes.

She saw very young people develop diabetes, and many die from diabetes related complications, as part of the John Flynn Placement Program she completed during her medical training at the Melbourne Medical School.

“Diabetes affects indigenous Australians very drastically and dramatically. A lot of these deaths perhaps could have been prevented, these were young people, in their 30s and 40s,” Associate Professor Ekinci said.

“You could see this was going to be the disease of the century because of the rapid change in lifestyle where we are much more sedentary, our diets are comprised of more refined carbohydrates and we no longer gather our own food,” Associate Professor Ekinci said.

“It’s one of the worst epidemics of our time due to the high volume of people it affects, and the complications associated with it.”

“Once diagnosed, now people with diabetes live longer and it’s important to get things managed well from the start to ensure they are not disabled by this condition and its complications,” she said.

Associate Professor Ekinci went on to work in the field of diabetic kidney disease within the Indigenous community.

More recently, as the Director of Diabetes at Austin Health, she founded the Diabetes Discovery program where all patients older than 54 years are automatically screened for diabetes by administering a HbA1c test on admission.

This HbA1c test immediately identifies those patients suspected, at risk, or have poorly controlled diabetes prior to any medical intervention.

“We established a world-first initiative which allows us to rapidly identify sick people and see them quickly rather than waiting for the traditional referral system,” Associate Professor Ekinci said.

Associate Professor Ekinci acknowledged the field was changing rapidly, particularly in the last five years, where the emergence of new medications and technologies means clinicians may not be familiar with the latest advances.

To address this knowledge gap, Associate Professor Ekinci has embarked on a new venture, Diabetes Academy – What’s New in Diabetes, to equip health care professionals with up to date knowledge to effectively manage the increasing number of patients with diabetes and improve their outcomes.

“I’m very well supported by fantastic clinicians, who want to improve the outcomes of patients, and it wasn’t hard to get enthusiastic clinicians to become involved with this project,” she said.

Associate Professor Ekinci engaged the University of Melbourne’s Mobile Learning Unit to deliver what she considers to be the perfect package for busy practitioners. They can access knowledge and upskill using mobile technology such as smartphones, tablets or computers.

“People don’t want to spend their weekend attending workshops or externally run courses, because it’s the time they want to spend with their families, or maybe they are in rural and remote areas and not able to physically turn up to a workshop or course,” she said.

Diabetes Academy – What’s New in Diabetes is an interactive CPD accredited course focused only on the important recent changes and best practice principles in diabetes management.

Modules cover the latest medications (GLP1 drugs, SGLT2 inhibitors and DPP4 inhibitors) and technologies (insulin pump therapy and continuous blood glucose monitoring), managing pre-existing diabetes through pregnancy, diabetes in pregnancy, and strategies for optimising lipid control and blood pressure management.

Not content with just transferring best practice and knowledge to health care professionals, Associate Professor Ekinci plans to develop a complementary online education program for people living with diabetes.

“If GPs know the latest information, this will translate to patients, and the next step for us is to look at developing a course aimed specifically at enhancing patient education.”

“By the time I’m finished my career I would like to think we’ve done a lot for diabetes in terms of prevention, complications and perhaps even cure this disease,” she said.

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For more information about Diabetes contact Elif Ekinci elif.ekinci@unimelb.edu.au

For more information about the Mobile Learning Unit contact mobile-learning@unimelb.edu.au