CEO of Diabetes NSW, Mr Sturt Eastwood (left) Professor Lesley Campbell and Mr Jamie Parker MP
24 November 2014
Garvan’s Professor Lesley Campbell AM, Senior Endocrinologist and Director of Diabetes Services at St. Vincent’s Hospital, received the Sir Kempson Maddox Award from Diabetes NSW on World Diabetes Day.
The award recognises Professor Campbell’s “significant contribution to the area of scientific research, education and advocacy in diabetes”, and is the highest honour that Diabetes NSW can bestow.
Professor Campbell started endocrine training as a senior registrar at St. Vincent’s hospital with Professor Les Lazarus (Garvan’s first Director) in the late 1970s, in her words a “very rich period of research, although I didn’t appreciate that sufficiently at the time”.
“As a clinician researcher, I worked side by side with laboratory researchers, which taught me how mutually dependent scientific research and medicine are – a constant feedback loop.
“While working towards an artificial pancreas, I was one of those who advocated routine insulin infusion for diabetic ketoacidosis [potentially fatal levels of blood glucose in people with type 1 diabetes], which eventually became a worldwide phenomenon and saved many lives.
“In those days, we saw many with kidney failure, and saw too many young people die. While we still see occasional tragedies, we don’t lose so many so young.”
The humanist philosophy that underpins Professor Campbell’s practice of medicine is evident in everything she says and does. Very early in her career, she says, she learned the value of listening to her patients.
“If you take the time to listen, people will tell you why their blood sugar levels are fluctuating – and it isn’t necessarily the things you’d expect,” she said.
“You have to understand the whole person and what is happening in their lives, not just what they’re eating or how much exercise they’re getting.
“One of the first things I do is ask if a patient has a pet. That’s because I’ve seen so many patients tumble into a depression when their beloved dog or cat dies.
“That also happens when a great love or marriage partner dies – although not always. I remember one happily-married woman whose husband died and her blood sugars remained completely steady. Then her dog died and they went very high.
“That’s the other thing – we mustn’t judge! We’re not here to judge a person who grieves a lover or pet animal more than a husband or wife. We’re here to understand and help them. Some of my current research involves testing new ways of helping people reduce the anxiety and depression which is more common in people with diabetes and which stops them looking after their health properly."
Professor Campbell’s humanity is very clear in her article ‘Our patients remain with us: that is what experience means', published in the leading medical journal , and a runner up in the Walkley Awards for medical journalism.
Colleagues who have worked very closely with her are especially delighted – among them is Associate Professor Jerry Greenfield, Head of the Department of Endocrinology and her imminent successor as Director of the Diabetes Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital.
"I first met Lesley over 15 years ago," said Professor Greenfield. "She co-supervised my and many other Endocrinologists’ clinical training and PhD studies. She has been, and continues to be, a role model for clinical and research staff at St Vincent’s Hospital and the Garvan Institute.
"Lesley’s caring demeanour, her dedication to her patients and staff and her passion for improving the lives of people with diabetes is overtly evident on a daily basis. We are so thrilled that her achievements are being honoured in this way".
Garvan congratulates Professor Campbell for this richly deserved lifetime achievement award.