UF diabetes expert wins award for leadership in litigation

From the clinic to the courtroom: Type 1 diabetes expert is leading the fight against the disease on all fronts.

Desmond Schatz, MD, medical director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence, was part of a team that won a civil suit for Jeff Kapche, a detective living with type 1 diabetes. For their efforts, the American Diabetes Association presented its 2010 Public Policy Leadership Award to Schatz, Dr. Ralph DeFronzo and Dr. James Gavin, and the attorneys who worked on the case.

Desmond Schatz, MD

Desmond Schatz, MD. Photo by Sarah Kiewel

Kapche, 41, a police veteran at the sheriff’s office in Fort Bend, Texas, was denied his dream job as a special agent with the FBI, which claimed that daily insulin injections could interfere with his ability to perform in unpredictable situations.

The bureau’s unofficial policy dictated that agents manage their disease with an insulin pump, which continuously manages glucose levels. Schatz provided expert testimony to disprove the myth that pumping is superior to sticking — monitoring glucose levels with a portable blood test — when it comes to managing the disease.

“I cited many instances in which I believed he would do just as well as he was already doing with injections of insulin, and that he didn’t need a pump,” said Schatz, a professor and associate chair of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine. “In fact, going on an insulin pump in an FBI-designated area such as Iraq could for him be detrimental to not only his health, but also to the security of the United States. To insist (so) in his particular case, when his blood glucose control was so outstanding even before … was definitely wrong.”

The federal court ruling in Kapche v. Holder set a precedent that people cannot be denied employment based on disease management. Schatz asserted that, indeed, therapy always needs to be tailored to a patient’s individual needs and should consider his or her support system, family dynamics and financial situation.