"Joslin Medal recipients are individuals who have beaten the odds against diabetes, and Robert Bates is certainly no exception," says George L. King, M.D., director of research at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Dr. King will present the medal to Bates on Sunday. "Robert has continued to live a very successful and fulfilling life despite the challenges associated with the disease."
Bates is a retired chief train dispatcher for the Metro North Railroad in New York. He and his wife of more than 52 years, Carol Bates, have four children: Jacquelyn, Betsie, Robert L. Jr., and John W.
"I am grateful to receive the medal and feel a certain amount of pride in the fact that I have beaten the odds. At the time I was diagnosed, life expectancy was not favorable," says Bates. "I am appreciative that I received early training and education at Joslin Clinic and have benefited from ongoing advances in diabetes treatment, which have allowed me to live a full life."
Bates frequently communicated with Elliott P. Joslin, M.D., founder of Joslin Diabetes Center, who began treating Bates after he was diagnosed in 1931 and regularly inquired about his health. If Dr. Joslin did not receive a response, he would write again, once even sending a telegram. These letters dated through 1961 reflect Dr. Joslin's dedication to what is now called outcomes research, gathering evidence to support his medical recommendations and refining his approach to diabetes management.
By living more than 75 years with type 1 diabetes, "it shows that Dr. Joslin's mission was not in vain, and that my years of testing my blood glucose levels, doing calculations to balance insulin with food intake, and the many, many injections, have paid off," Bates says.
Bates continues to participate in clinical research at Joslin to help others with diabetes. In March, he came to Joslin to participate in the Medalist Study, which began in April 2005 and is led by Dr. King and Hillary Keenan, Ph.D. The Medalist Study is examining people living more than 50 years with type 1 diabetes to understand what factors contribute to the longevity among individuals who have received this honor. Of the 326 Joslin 50-Year Medalist Study respondents who have completed an extensive health questionnaire, 175 were female and 151 were male, with an average age of 70 years. The average age of diabetes onset was 13 years and average duration of type 1 diabetes 57 years. The data collected so far show that individuals who have survived 50 years or more have a greatly reduced risk of nephropathy and retinopathy.
Joslin Diabetes Center has awarded the 50-Year Medal to more than 2,400 people worldwide since 1970. The Award Program dates back to 1948, when Dr. Joslin, who wanted to acknowledge the accomplishment of managing insulin-dependent diabetes over the long term, began awarding his patients certificates for living with diabetes for more than 25 years.
Medal and certificate recipients come from all walks of life and represent a wide spectrum of life experiences, cultural backgrounds and geographic locations. Joslin has awarded medals to individuals across the United States and around the world, including people living with diabetes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Joslin Diabetes Center, dedicated to conquering diabetes in all of its forms, is the global leader in diabetes research, care and education. Founded in 1898, Joslin is an independent nonprofit institution affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Joslin research is a team of more than 300 people at the forefront of discovery aimed at preventing and curing diabetes. Joslin Clinic, affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the nationwide network of Joslin Affiliated Programs, and the hundreds of Joslin educational programs offered each year for clinicians, researchers and patients, enable Joslin to develop, implement and share innovations that immeasurably improve the lives of people with diabetes. As a nonprofit, Joslin benefits from the generosity of donors in advancing its mission.