Joslin Moments: Dr. Joslin Addresses the Inaugural Meeting of The American Diabetes Association

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Elliott P. Joslin in 1948

On June 1, 1941 Dr. Elliott P. Joslin was awarded the first Frederick Banting medal, at the inaugural meeting of the American Diabetes Association [ADA]. Dr. Banting was the principal investigator who two decades previously discovered insulin. He had died earlier that year in a plane crash in Canada en route to Europe on a military mission. This award became the top honor that the organization was to give yearly to acknowledge the achievements of its most distinguished member. After receiving his award, Dr. Joslin accepted the title of honorary president of the ADA and addressed the assembly with a lecture that came to be known as the “Banting Lecture”; he chose the title: “Diabetes Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.” In the speech he tracked his pioneering career before the advent of insulin, followed by an account of the great progress that had been made since its availability.

Reports in the medical literature of that era had already begun to emerge of a cluster of specific complications in the retina, kidney and certain nerves that could occur in persons with diabetes. This new reality fostered an intense and acrimonious debate in the American Diabetes Association that would last for decades. It divided the membership into two camps: one group felt that these problems were part of the disease and others agreed with the conviction of Dr. Joslin and his group that they occurred as a result of chronic high sugar levels. “Control Pays” became Dr. Joslin’s mantra.

This year’s ADA meeting was held in San Diego, CA from June 9-13. The Joslin Diabetes Center was well represented with 37 posters, 19 oral presentations, and 4 major talks.

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