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Directors' Report

November 2023

Training the Next Generation of Diabetes Researchers

A critical function of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center is to train new generations of diabetes researchers. To this end, since 2017, the FOEDRC has received a “T32” grant from the NIH that funds up to six annual positions for postdoctoral fellows to receive advanced training in diabetes research. Postdoctoral fellows are scientists and/or physicians who have recently received their doctorate degree and who are in the final stages of training to become independent scientists.

We want to share the work of one of our recent T32 trainees who has now gone on to further success in the field of diabetes research. Dr. Catherina Pinnaro is a physician, who in 2018 applied to our T32 program in hopes to obtain advanced training in diabetes research. Her goal was to devise research approaches to better understanding why women with Turner syndrome (TS) develop diabetes. Women with TS have a much higher risk of developing diabetes mellitus compared to the general population; however, the reasons for this are unknown.

Dr. Pinnaro was accepted into our T32 program for two years of training. A research mentorship team helped guide her through learning about advanced diabetes research techniques. Dr. Pinnaro finished the T32 program in 2020 and joined the faculty at the University of Iowa as a physician scientist, splitting her time between taking care of patients with endocrine conditions such as diabetes and running her clinical research program studying women with TS. She recently applied for an NIH “K23” grant to support her new research program, and we are pleased to announce that her grant is now funded.

Her research will take three approaches to better understand diabetes risk in women with TS. The first approach will study the genetics of women with TS. She will determine if it is women with TS who are missing genes from their father or mother who are at risk for diabetes.  The second approach will determine whether there are changes in pancreas function among women with TS that might contribute to diabetes risk. The third approach will study the home glucose patterns in women with TS using continuous glucose monitoring.

Dr. Pinnaro was recently bestowed The Corridor Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award which recognize 40 leaders under the age of 40 who have made a significant impact in their business and community early in their careers. She was recognized for creating a positive experience for her patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, while simultaneously pursuing her passion for research on pediatric diabetes.

Congratulations to Dr. Pinnaro for achieving NIH funding and being recognized as a leader. We look forward to what her studies will teach us about diabetes and its causes.