In 1921, insulin was discovered at the University of Toronto by four researchers, promising a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients. Today, the U of T Chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDAUT) is honouring that work in a new way. Founded in March 2012 by a group of friends – graduate students and diabetes researchers – the chapter aims to promote awareness, campaign for better lifestyle choices, advocate for students and staff living with diabetes and encourage interested students to participate in diabetes research.
“It’s really cool that this is the birthplace of insulin,” says Wilfred Ip (BSc 2008 St Mike’s, PhD 2014), one of CDAUT’s founders. Still, “We felt that there was a gap at the university for diabetes advocacy,” he says. Ip, 28, has been at U of T for nine years, studying first biochemistry and human biology, then medical science focused on diabetes research.
CDAUT is particularly active during Diabetes Awareness Month in November, and on World Diabetes Day on November 14. Last year, they set up booths on campus to provide educational information, raised money for diabetes-awareness events and research, and even held a sugarfree bake sale. Throughout the year, the chapter also serves as a peer support group for students living with diabetes. The CDAUT site highlights U of T’s insulin connection – for example, a recent interview with Dr. Mladen Vranic, Dr. Charles Best’s final post-doctoral fellow and a professor in the department of physiology. For his work with CDAUT, Ip received a 2014 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award.
“Diabetes is a serious illness, and obesity – which is associated – is becoming an epidemic,” says Ip. Diabetes affects more than nine million Canadians. Ip moved on to medical school at Queen’s University this September, but he hopes CDAUT can continue ringing a bell of awareness about the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise, which can prevent and also help manage diabetes. “We’re hoping that, through our work, we can convince people that these are important choices to make,” says Ip. “And the best time to start is when you’re young.”