In November, we lost a giant in the world of diabetes research. Dr. George Eisenbarth was a friend, colleague and mentor to many, and an example of how much one person can improve the health of multitudes. In late March, I had the honor of speaking at a memorial for him and seeing just a few of the people who cared about him and who have taken as their own his goal of curing type 1 diabetes.
To look at George's life's work is to see clearly how far a research career can resonate. George achieved one of life's greatest accomplishments—he had a positive and profound effect on people's lives, including many of those who never knew him.
While research is conducted by teams, the talents and drive of individuals are what make those teams dynamic, and George embodied this. The research engine he drove—at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver and, prior to that, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston—contributed to advances represented in more than 500 published works—including papers like "Type 1 Diabetes: A chronic autoimmune disease," which characterized the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes as a progression from genetic susceptibility through environmental triggers and gradual beta cell destruction. This model continues to guide the field toward its goal of preventing type 1 diabetes.
George was an NIH grantee since 1979, an NIH MERIT awardee, and a former NIH fellow under Nobelist Marshall Nirenberg. George's work helped lead to the formation of the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young Study (TEDDY), as well as many other groundbreaking studies. In many ways, these studies could be considered living memorials to George.
In his labs and many voluntary efforts for NIH and other organizations, George was known as inspiring and tenacious in his quest to cure type 1 diabetes, yet generous, highly ethical and humble in pursuit of this goal. George's work has led the way to many advances in detection and management of type 1. It has also inspired dozens of his former trainees to continue pursuing his research goals and commitment to training.
George Eisenbarth's legacy at NIH and around the diabetes community results from his outstanding scientific achievement, his service to the type 1 diabetes prevention researchers, the many scientists he mentored and the role model he provided as a creative, compassionate, and caring physician scientist. We honor him, and we emulate his example.
In good health,
Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases