Federal Faces: Barbara Linder
Name: Barbara Linder
Position: Senior adviser, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Best known for: More than a decade ago, pediatricians across the country began seeing an alarming increase in children with Type 2 diabetes, particularly among minorities and youngsters from low-
income families. About 4,000 new cases of Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed nationally every year among those younger than 20, according to a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
Linder led two multi-year clinical trials sponsored by the NIH, which developed and tested strategies to prevent and treat the disease in youth. One of the studies demonstrated that a middle-school-based program to improve nutrition and increase physical activity could successfully reduce children’s risk for Type 2 diabetes. A second clinical trial compared the safety and efficacy of three treatment strategies for overweight children with Type 2 diabetes. Up to this point, doctors have been guided by evidence of therapeutic regimens tested only in adults. This study found that Type 2 diabetes is much harder to manage in teenagers than adults. Researchers found that 52 percent of the participants treated only with the drug most commonly used in adults failed to maintain acceptable blood sugar within one year.
Government work: Linder began working in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in 1998 as the program director for clinical endocrinology and diabetes complications. Since 2003 she has been the senior adviser for childhood diabetes research. She is also a member of or representative to several institute committees and working groups. From 1986 to 1989, she was a medical staff fellow in the Interinstitute Endocrine Program in the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Motivation for service: Linder has always loved working with children, starting with when she was a camp counselor in her youth. She became a pediatric endocrinologist to work with children and families to help prevent or treat and manage endocrine disorders and diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. At the NIH, she helps improve children’s health on a large scale.
Biggest challenge: The most challenging part of Linder’s job is bringing together people from different scientific backgrounds and perspectives to achieve consensus, while designing a thoughtful, clinically important study.
Quote: “When people get Type 2 diabetes in their teens, we’re talking about a huge public health problem. Getting Type 2 diabetes early in life may mean getting complications like heart or kidney disease in the prime of your life, since those complications are partly related to how long you have the disease, and these children will likely have it for the rest of their lives. I want to see where this epidemic is coming from and how to fix it.”
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