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Diabet Med. 2011 Nov;28(11):1289-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03396.x.

Diabetes-science, serendipity and common sense.

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  • Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Consultant Physician, University of Birmingham and BioMedical Research Centre, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK. anthony.barnett@heartofengland.nhs.uk


This paper is dedicated to young researchers in diabetes. One such person was Frederick Banting who, with his colleagues, isolated insulin in 1921, saving the lives of literally millions of people. What factors allowed Banting and other scientists to produce work that has immensely benefited the human race? I propose that it is the combination of good scientific background (the 'prepared mind'), commonly some serendipity taken with a good dose of common sense and supplemented by enthusiasm, tenacity and good mentoring, which drives the 'power of observation' and the ability to take forward the good idea. I give examples from history to support this and then discuss some of the 'truths, perspectives and controversies' within the diabetes arena when I first started in diabetes research in the late 1970s. I describe how my appetite was initially 'whetted' for research by moving to an excellent clinical research environment with encouragement to test ideas and controversies initially in a clinical research programme, followed by more scientific/basic research. The work that I performed as a young doctor and research fellow led to a lifelong professional interest in three major areas-causes and interventions for diabetes vascular disease, studies of the molecular genetics of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and work on diabetes in different ethnic groups. I provide a summation of my own and other people's work to demonstrate how research can be progressed and lead to patient benefit as well as providing an incredibly rewarding career. I believe that we need to encourage and put more resources into development of young doctors and scientists wishing to undertake research in our discipline. Areas ripe for much-needed clinical research programmes, for example, include work on best practice/provision of health care, application of the evidence base from clinical trials to achieve public health gains, attention to adherence issues and better-tolerated therapies. Most importantly, a greater emphasis on prevention through public health measures and 'buy in' from the whole population is urgently required.

© 2011 The Author. Diabetic Medicine © 2011 Diabetes UK.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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