University of Western Australia: Lifetime achievement award for diabetes trailblazer

He’s a general physician, endocrinologist and tropical medicine specialist and Professor of Medicine at The University of Western Australia but it is his 40-plus years of research into diabetes that has seen Professor Tim Davis presented with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Australian Diabetes Society.

The award recognises an individual who has an established history of distinguished service to education, clinical practice or research and training in diabetes and has exhibited leadership and mentorship in these areas on a state, national or international level.

Professor Davis’ research interests in the disease, which affects around 422 million people worldwide, began in 1978. In 1993 he established the unique and internationally recognised Fremantle Diabetes Study (FDS) with his wife, Associate Professor Wendy Davis.

This longitudinal community-based natural history study has led to many discoveries and has been shared worldwide countless times through more than 170 peer-reviewed and recognised publications.

Close to 3000 men and women with diabetes have been recruited to the FDS. As well as recording data from questionnaires, clinical examinations, blood samples and special tests, the FDS has used the powerful WA Data Linkage System to characterise both how diabetes affects people and its implications for the community.

Its outputs have included a simple cardiovascular disease risk calculator for Australians with type 2 diabetes and identifying the best ways of monitoring glucose levels.

Professor Davis is now attempting to secure future funding for the FDS so that emerging clinical researchers on the team will take over the reins at a time of increasing case numbers, especially among young people, and substantial changes in treatment.

Professor Davis has also been involved in conducting clinical trials in diabetes, both those he has designed himself as well as multinational studies of new therapies. He has played an active role in management of patients at Fremantle Hospital and in the community.

Tim Davis and patient

“I’ve been researching diabetes at UWA for more than 30 years now and have been very fortunate to have worked with many skilled and dedicated staff,” Professor Davis said.

“My research unit has received great support from the University and Fremantle Hospital, and funding bodies such as NHMRC have made our work possible. Despite having a chronic disease with a substantial personal burden, the participants in our studies have been willing contributors. The success of the FDS is a testament to their involvement.”

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