July 22, 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As diabetes persists as a leading cause of preventable deaths and life-altering complications across Texas, the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center hosted its 13th Annual Diabetes Conference at the American Bank Center on July 21 and 22 to equip a wide spectrum of medical professionals with the latest information on improving medical care and outcomes for their patients.

“Over the years, this annual conference has strived to provide knowledge of how to change specific lifestyle choices that are root causes of diabetes,” said Sidney Ontai, M.D., M.B.A., course director for the conference. “Changes to one’s lifestyle can improve quality of life and even reverse the toll diabetes takes on one’s body.”

More than 220 medical professionals attended the conference, where they heard lectures on how diet affects diabetes, updates on weight loss medication, kidney disease and diabetes, diabetes and pregnancy, among other topics.

The conference is taking a multidisciplinary approach to diabetes care, which involves professionals in many fields of medicine collaborating more effectively. Professionals from many medical disciplines, including general medicine physician practice, nursing, pharmacy and others, received continuing education credits for attending the conference.

A large part of the conference’s topics focus on nutrition and lifestyle changes to augment medical treatment, a synergistic approach to diabetes prevention and treatment.

Leah Sarris, a dietitian at Tulane University, gave a talk on the benefits of Mediterranean-style diets for diabetes patients.

“A recent study showed that participants who more closely adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet had a 25% reduction in death over the same time period as those who didn’t adopt the diet change,” said Sarris. “Even small shifts in someone’s diet, such as focusing on eating more vegetables and less meat, can greatly improve their health.” 

Other lectures discussed the importance of meal planning, nutrition recommendations and how certain fad diets fit into diabetes management.

"The diabetes conference topics align medical professionals with our program's mission on the importance of diabetes prevention and self-management to delay on the onset of complications by adopting a healthier lifestyle," said Starr Flores, director of the Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

The conference will continue Saturday. At the same time on Saturday, the Coastal Bend Health Education Center is also hosting a workshop for community health workers on diabetes, obesity, nutrition and exercise at the American Bank Center . Since community health workers are frequently the boots on the ground in communities, this workshop is intended to provide these professionals with vital training to assist clients at the ground floor of patient care.

-Les D. Cockrell