New JDRF Canada Emerging Clinician Research Award (ECRA) awarded to Dr. Alanna Weisman

The JDRF Canada Emerging Clinician Research Award (ECRA) is designed to provide crucial support to investigators who plan to pursue a career in type 1 diabetes (T1D)-related clinical investigation. Awards are made in the late stage of training or early career to support the development of the awardee’s independent research program.  

These awards are given to clinicians who have demonstrated superior scholarship and show the promise for future achievement in clinical research, particularly in those areas that require the unique training of a clinical investigator. An important focus of these awards is the development of a patient-oriented research program and the mentorship of the awardee by an experienced clinician-scientist.

Dr. Alanna Weisman is a clinician-scientist and endocrinologist at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes in Toronto, Ontario and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She obtained her MD from Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada and her PhD in Clinical Epidemiology and Health Care Research from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Weisman’s research focuses on the use of diabetes technology (such as insulin pumps and continuous/flash glucose monitors) across Canada. Her primary focus is examining the rates of diabetes technology use among people from historically marginalized communities and identifying barriers to use that can be addressed.

Dr. Weisman is also leading studies of the real-world feasibility of recommended glycemic targets in type 1 diabetes and is examining the impact of government-funded insulin pump programs on the uptake of this technology in people with type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Weisman has published more than 40 primary research articles in peer-reviewed journals to date.
The award is $400K over four years and will support Dr. Weisman as a clinician-scientist. Her research will also have implications on JDRF’s Access for All program, which advocates both provincial and federal governments for greater access to diabetes devices and technology and more research funding for T1D.

JDRF had the chance to speak with Dr. Weisman to learn more about her research and how it will potentially impact people living with T1D.

What started your interest in type 1 diabetes? 

 What first sparked my interest was one of my mentors, Dr. Bruce Perkins. Early on when I was training to become an endocrinologist, I worked with Dr. Perkins on some of his research projects in type 1 diabetes and these experiences convinced me that I wanted to pursue a career as an endocrinologist and a researcher. I was drawn specifically to type 1 diabetes through my experiences in clinic seeing patients who live with type 1 diabetes. There were and continue to be many challenges for people living with type 1 diabetes that are unique to those of type 2 diabetes, and I felt there were many areas where we could improve.  

Can you please describe your current field of T1D research?

My research is currently focused on two major areas. The first area relates to the widespread recommendation that adults with type 1 diabetes meet a specific blood glucose target (a Hemoglobin A1c value of 7.0% or lower). I have been analyzing health care data in Ontario for large numbers of adults with type 1 diabetes to determine what are the trends in Hemoglobin A1c over time, and trying to understand the factors that drive this gap we see between what is being recommended and what actually happens in the real world. The second area is focused on understanding how technologies like insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors are being used in Canada and how this relates to different funding policies for these devices. 

What are some of the existing barriers to diabetes technology in marginalized communities? 

 This has not been studied yet in Canada, and it is important to do so because of our unique health care system. In other countries, some of the barriers have been the costs of these devices, lack of access because of where someone lives or the type of diabetes team they see, or the devices not being recommended in the first place because of preconceived ideas about who would be able to use technologies or not.  

What novel interventions to improve outcomes for people living with diabetes do you foresee emerging from this research?
I believe our research will identify areas for improvement for governments, health care providers, and those living with type 1 diabetes. I hope we may see some policy changes to make technologies easier for all to access. I expect we will develop new tools and strategies for health care providers and patients that we can incorporate into clinics to increase awareness of the benefits of diabetes technologies and make them easier to use.  

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