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Physician driven to improve diabetes care

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Discovering effective treatments and improving the lives of patients with diabetes, osteoporosis and thyroid disease is a lifelong commitment of MUSC endocrinologist Kathie L. Hermayer, M.D.
Dr. Kathie Hermayer is one of eight women at MUSC honored this month as part of the National Women’s History Project.

Hermayer, who is a professor in the Division of  Endocrinology, Diabetes and Medical Genetics, is an advocate for improved hyperglycemia and diabetes care through the use of new treatments, protocols and documentation while improving overall patient outcomes. Today, more patients are being admitted to hospitals with diabetes. Hermayer is currently leading an interdisciplinary staff in the hospital’s multi-step effort to meet Joint Commission and American Diabetes Association’s Inpatient Diabetes Certification that will make MUSC one of the first academic health centers in the country to be accredited in this area of care.
She has arrived at a point in life where everything in her career as a clinician and active researcher, and life with her marriage and family, is coming full-circle.
The New Yorker has come a long way from her roots growing up as the youngest of four sisters on Long Island. Her father was an aeronautical engineer and her mother, a housewife and business woman. Her mother believed that women could accomplish much if they put their mind to it and therefore, had been a driving force in her daughters’ lives. Part of a smart and gifted family, Hermayer was the only sibling to select medicine over careers in math and science, which were chosen by her sisters.
“My earliest interest in medicine probably came from my visits to our family pediatrician,” said Hermayer, who later volunteered as a candy striper in a local hospital. “I’ve always liked the aura of a hospital. There was something that always drew me to it. Medicine is like that. You either love it or you don’t. It’s such a demanding profession and commitment that one must be willing to give up a lot in order to be successful at it.”
Another influence came after a young male cousin developed kidney failure and later died from complications at age 12. She found it ironic that her cousin’s death was just years prior to the invention of the country’s first kidney dialysis machine in the early 1960s. Later, she struggled to understand the news that her older sister, Anne, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“Having gone through these experiences, I’ve learned how to cope, understand and empathize with people, especially when they’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. I understand what it’s like to grow up with a family member afflicted by a debilitating disease,” Hermayer said.
Hermayer has emerged as a leader in MUSC’s management of hyperglycemia and diabetes among hospitalized patients. In 2003, she led a multidisciplinary Hospital Diabetes Task Force to define and establish protocols and procedures in the proper care of hospitalized patients. She later established the medical center’s inpatient Diabetes Management Service, which provides round-the clock diabetes care and consults, staffed by attending physicians and fellows in endocrinology.
Hermayer received her medical training from Albany Medical College after receiving her undergraduate degree in biology from Cornell University and a master’s in biochemistry and nutrition from the University of Connecticut. As a medical student, she worked a rotation with Albany community endocrinologist Mark Fruiterman, M.D., who treated a variety of patients with diabetes, bone, pituitary and adrenal disorders. Observing how he worked with patients and provided preventive care, she was hooked.
For her residency, Hermayer came to MUSC’s internal medicine program from 1982-84. She chose to remain in the Lowcountry to fulfill a two-year U.S. Public Health Medical Service commitment by working at the Appleby Medical Clinic in St. George, about a 25-mile drive Northwest of Charleston. She practiced rural doctoring and treated and cared for underserved patients, working alongside community practitioners Gavin Applebee, M.D., and other colleagues. As the only female physician working with the team, she was known simply as “Dr. Kathie” to patients and made house calls, provided primary care to the community and performed other duties.
“Back then, it definitely was a you, God and flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style of medicine. We had no back up or sophisticated equipment or lab tests available to us. We managed to work together and provide patients with the best level of care. It was a great experience,” Hermayer recalled.
After working several years in internal medicine, Hermayer returned to endocrinology and completed a fellowship at MUSC conducting research under diabetes pioneer John A. Colwell, M.D., Ph.D. Currently, she’s working on multiple grants with intravenous insulin and renal transplantation with patients with diabetes. She’s also collaborating with multiple grant partners for a new basal plus trial evaluating an insulin regimen and other diabetes drug discoveries. She also manages the endocrinology residents and fellows.
Maria Buse, M.D., distinguished university professor and colleague in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Medical Genetics, said she’s known Hermayer since the 1990s when she was an endocrinology fellow. “We shared many interests through the years, especially in the areas of basic and translational research, and became friends,“ said Buse. “Kathie also enjoys working with our endocrinology fellows. She’s always helpful in giving advice as they choose projects, seek information or start out in practice.”
Hermayer has balanced her roles as a physician, in marriage and motherhood, which she delayed to later in life. She married, Joe Dawson, a Lowcountry architect in 1995. She credits him in helping to manage the family. The mother of two daughters, Rachel, 14, and Nicole, 10, she’s proud of how well-rounded and independent they’ve become. She often reminds them that although they have an older mother, she’s also a wiser one.
“My life is a juggling act,” she said with a smile. “There’s a balance to wearing these different hats either as mommy, Dr. Kathie or Mrs. Dawson. The bottom line is that I’m still who I am and I wouldn’t change a thing.”


Friday, March 26, 2010

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