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A historical look at diabetes at the University of Michigan


nellis barnes foster, M.D.

Dr. Nellis Barnes Foster

Dr. Nellis Barnes Foster, who established himself as one of the leading diabetologists in the U.S. in the early 1900s, arrives at U-M in 1916 and serves as head of the U-M Department of Internal Medicine. His specialty was diabetes mellitus and, in 1915, he wrote a textbook on the subject called Diabetes Mellitus Designed for the Use of Practitioners of Medicine.

dr. louis harry newburgh

Dr. Louis Harry Newburgh

Foster nominates and recruits Dr. Louis Harry (L.H.) Newburgh from Massachusetts General Hospital to join the U-M faculty in 1916 and take charge of the metabolic ward.


Newburgh serves as acting head of Internal Medicine and chairman of the committee to find Foster's successor; as a Professor of Clinical Investigation in Internal Medicine, Newburgh focused mainly on nutrition and metabolism with specific reference to obesity, diabetes mellitus, nephritis and body water and electrolytes.


Newburgh and Dr. Phil Marsh treat 190 diabetic patients with the Newburgh-Marsh High Fat Diet. (Newburgh thought that Dr. Frederick Allen's Starvation Diet improved the treatment of diabetic patients, but failed to provide adequate caloric intake. After determining that increasing carbohydrate intake wouldn't work because it would result in an increase in glycosuria, or the amount of sugar in the urine, and that increasing protein intake wouldn't work because about half of it is converted to glucose, he decided to increase his patients' caloric intake by increasing the fat in their diets.)


jerome conn, m.d.

Dr. Jerome W. Conn

Jerome W. Conn, M.D. (1907-1994), a graduate of Rutgers University (1928), received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1932 and was appointed an Instructor of Internal Medicine in 1935. He was advanced to Assistant Professor three years later, and to Associate Professor in 1944. He received the title of professor of internal medicine in 1950.


Conn, an expert on adrenal hormones, succeeds his mentor Newburgh as the head of Michigan 's Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, after Newburgh left U-M for Washington, DC to aid the war effort. Conn served as the first Chief of Endocrinology & Metabolism when it became a Division, from 1943-1973.


Dr. Jerome Conn published his seminal work describing the new entity called Primary Aldosteronism (later named as Conn Syndrome).

The Michigan Diabetes Children's Association opens Camp Midicha for children and teens with diabetes. Today, Camp Midicha is an American Diabetes Association resident camp located on the YMCA Camp Copneconic property in Fenton , MI. The MDCA no longer exists.


Ann Arbor Diabetic Association members diligently raise money to support diabetes research at the U-M and the Joslin Clinic in Boston ; U-M Drs. Stefan Fajans and George Lowrey serve as members and medical advisors; The Association eventually becomes a chartered ADA group.


Dr. Stefan S. Fajans

Dr. Stefan S. Fajans

Stefan S. Fajans, M.D., of the U-M Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, leads a team of scientists that demonstrates the involvement of amino acids in insulin release.


Linda Kay Tanner Strodtman becomes one of the first three Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) at University Hospital; Strodtman specialized in diabetes and eventually went on to be a key player in establishing the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center, specifically the Diabetes Center Unit. She was also extremely active in defining the general role of the CNS.


• U-M faculty members, led by Fajans, form a policy committee to look at establishing a diabetes center at Michigan . The committee begins developing plans for what will become the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center.

• The National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases (NIAMDD) announces its diabetes research and training centers program and issues grant application guidelines; The U-M submits a grant proposal identifying 100 researchers throughout the institution who are doing work that "held interest" for diabetes.


• The U-M is awarded a five-year $4.3 million grant to create the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center (MDRTC); Michigan is one of the first five institutions in the country to receive such funding.

About the early days of the MDRTC: The fundamental concept behind the creation of this center was being able to conduct research and bring the knowledge gained from it directly to patients. The center was erected as more than a building - it was meant to be an organization composed of a network of "core facilities" whose joint function was to foster interdisciplinary effort in diabetes research and training. The activities of the MDRTC initially were organized into three categories: research programs; training and demonstration programs (the Diabetes Care Unit); and continuing education programs. The three main research foci in the late 1970s were basic cell regulation, natural history and genetics of diabetes, and management and treatment of diabetes.

jerome conn, m.d.

Dr. John C. Floyd, Jr.

The inaugural members of the MDRTC Executive Committee included: Dr. Stefan S. Fajans, Director; Dr. John C. Floyd, Jr., Associate Director and Coordinator of Model Demonstration Unit; Dr. Roland "Red" Hiss, Coordinator of Continuing Education and Outreach Corps; Dr. Sumer Pek, Coordinator of Research Programs; Dr. Wayne K. Davis, Director of Educational Development and Evaluation Corps; Marilyn "Mickey" Cohn, Administrative Manager; Linda Kay Tanner Strodtman, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Model Demonstration Unit; Dr. George Bacon, head of Endocrinology and Metabolism, U-M Dept. of Pediatrics; Dr. Hansen; Dr. William E. Lands; and Mr. Howard Salmon.


Fajans receives the Banting Memorial Award from the American Diabetes Association and publicly presents evidence for the heterogeneity of diabetes.


• Fajans identifies Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY) as a type of diabetes distinct from juvenile-onset diabetes (JOD or type 1 diabetes), and similar to maturity-one type diabetes found in middle age or older groups (MOD or type 2 diabetes). The identification of MODY as a subgroup of type 2 diabetes was a major piece of the scientific understanding that within known types of diabetes there are various subsets of the disease.

• The U-M is one of the first medical centers to study insulin pumps as alternative delivery systems for insulin among type 1 diabetes patients.

1983 to 1993

U-M takes part in the largest, most comprehensive diabetes study ever conducted - the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). A clinical study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the DCCT showed that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible slows the onset and progression of eye, kidney, and nerve diseases caused by diabetes.


U-M's pancreas transplant program is established.


Dr. Fajans co-publishes the first paper to describe a genetic marker for MODY.


The MODY gene is discovered; MODY is the only type of diabetes for which the inheritance is known and the responsible genes have been discovered.


Researchers from the U-M Medical Center and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Ann Arbor publish two important diabetes studies - one showing that people who develop type 2 diabetes at an early age can substantially reduce their rates of blindness and kidney failure in later life by tightly controlling their blood sugar level (published in the Nov. 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine); and another indicating that it is extremely difficult for people with type 2 diabetes to control their blood sugar through conventional use of insulin (published in the Nov. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Diabetes Association).


The U-M receives a landmark $6.6 million grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to conduct research on what causes the complications that develop from heightened blood glucose.


The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Center for the Study of Complications in Diabetes, a sister center to the MDRTC and the first of its kind to focus exclusively on the complications of diabetes, is launched within the U-M Dept. of Neurology.


Alan Saltiel, Ph.D., John Jacob Abel Collegiate Professor of the Life Sciences, becomes the first principal investigator of the U-M Life Sciences Institute; Saltiel brings an international reputation as an insulin expert and focuses his Institute endeavors on understanding how cells respond to insulin's signals.

Dr. Peter Arvan

Dr. Peter Arvan


• William K. and Delores S. Brehm Professorship for Type 1 Diabetes Research is established; Dr. Peter Arvan becomes the chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and is installed as the first occupant of the professorship; Arvan brings his seven-member team from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

• Insulin expert Alan Saltiel becomes the director of the U-M Life Sciences Institute.


The U-M launches the Family Centered Experience, a program designed to give medical students direct experience with people living with chronic diseases — diabetes patients are included in this groundbreaking program.


Bill and Dee Brehm

William (Bill) and Delores (Dee) Brehm donate $44 million to work toward a cure for type 1 diabetes.


The Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center is created, with the mission of uniting all diabetes-related academic activities on the University campus. The U-M Comprehensive Diabetes Center links University researchers in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Center for the Study of Complications in Diabetes, the Michigan Diabetes Research & Training Center, the Michigan Metabolomics & Obesity Center, the Animal Models of Diabetes Complications Consortium, and the Brehm Center for Diabetes Research. Dr. Arvan is named as its director. In addition, the Endocrinology & Metabolism Division's name is changed to the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes (MEND).


MEND/Podiatry Clinic at Domino's Farms, Lobby C

MEND/Podiatry Clinic at Domino's Lobby C

The new Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes / Podiatry Clinic opens at Domino's Farms, Lobby C, combining the former MEND clinics in University Hospital's Taubman Center and Briarwood Building 2. The enormous new clinic is a 23,000-square-foot facility with 24 outpatient exam rooms, offering more space to treat and educate even more patients. Other features offered include specialized endocrine testing services, a podiatry suite with dedicated exam rooms and treatment area, retinal scans for patients with diabetes that can be done on-site and sent to ophthalmologists, a Pre-Conception Pregnancy Planning program for patients with diabetes, a new Comprehensive Weight Management Program, an on-site blood-draw station, and increased expsoure to participate in research studies and clinical trials.


Brehm Tower at 1000 Wall Street

The Brehm Tower is built, an innovative new $132 million, 222,000-square-foot facility that houses the Brehm Center for Diabetes Research, along with an expansion of the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center. The Brehm Center for Diabetes Research unites U-M diabetes scientists from around the University in the search to prevent and reverse all forms of diabetes. The Brehm Center spaces were specifically designed to encourage collaboration among the multidisciplinary researchers, with features such as open lab layout, shared procedure and equipment areas, a central connecting staircase, a large multipurpose area and break room, and centrally located lab services. The Brehm Center comprises 33,000 net square feet in two floors of the new building.



  1. Davenport, Horace W. Not Just Any Medical School: The science, practice and teaching of medicine at the University of Michigan , 1850-1941 . Ann Arbor : The University of Michigan Press. 1999.
  2. Davenport , Horace W. University of Michigan Surgeons 1850-1970: Who they were and what they did . Ann Arbor : The University of Michigan Press. 1993.
  3. Davenport , Horace W. Fifty Years of Medicine at The University of Michigan 1891-1941. Ann Arbor : The University of Michigan Press. 1986.
  4. Bentley Historical Library archives • Medicine at Michigan Spring/Summer 2004
  5. Medicine at Michigan Summer 2002
  6. Mayfield, Jennifer. "Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus: New Criteria." American Family Physician. 1998