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Remembering Dr. Lois Jovanovic: Diabetes Research Pioneer and Icon

Oct 12, 2018

By now you should be home from AADE18, incorporating all that new information into your daily practice.  Don’t just let your notes sit on your desk or in your travel bag tucked away someplace. Take the information out, review it and make a plan for implementing the new ideas & technologies before you are distracted by the holiday season – which starts soon!

There is a LOT going on in the diabetes arena, but for this article I am going to highlight an event I feel is important and pertinent.

Unfortunately, it’s bad news. On September 18, 2018, diabetes research pioneer and icon Lois Jovanovic, MD passed away. Dr. Jovanovic forever changed the area of pregnancy and diabetes by developing protocols that made it possible for women with diabetes to deliver healthy babies. According to a report sent out by Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI), her university home for over 27 years, the institute became a center of excellence for diabetes and pregnancy and artificial pancreas technology under Dr. Jovanovic’s leadership.  She changed the world through her groundbreaking research, patient education, teaching, community outreach and direct work with thousands of pregnant women. Her guidelines were implemented around the globe as she shared her knowledge with international groups of health care professionals.


Moms should have “exquisite” diabetes control during pregnancy to achieve the best outcome — a healthy baby


I had the honor and privilege of working with Dr. Jovanovic in the 1980s and early ‘90s. When we were developing an in-patient Diabetes Center of Excellence at the old Humana Hospital in San Antonio (now part of Methodist Healthcare Systems), Dr. Jovanovic was our physician advisor and mentor.  She was always gracious, organized, informed and fiercely protective and supportive of moms with diabetes.  My favorite saying of her’s was that moms should have “exquisite” diabetes control during pregnancy to achieve the best outcome — a healthy baby.  At conferences, during the days of slides and before teleprompters were available for speaker reference, she was always cool, calm and collected. I always marveled how she could present for one hour and never have to refer to her slides. She would present her experiences and research results, clicking through as she spoke, never breaking eye contact with her audience. She was such a professional.

One fun story she shared with us was the time a flight home was delayed. As she entered the plane, she mentioned to the pilot her dismay that she was going to be late for her daughter’s ballet recital. As they were preparing to pull away from the airport, the pilot addressed the travelers by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen. We have a mom here who needs to get home for her daughters recital. So, we are going to do our best to accommodate her. Please buckle your seatbelts and remain seated as we get her home on time.” She said the plane went straight up and then straight down and she got to the recital on time. She was most grateful to that pilot.

I was very happy to see Dr. Jovanovic last year when she presented at a diabetes conference in Texas. I was dismayed to see her onstage in a wheelchair, admittedly looking older (it happens to the best of us, especially after being in the business for 40 years) but she stood erect at the podium presenting her latest research findings — still with grace, organization and commitment to her mission.

She will most certainly be missed, but her mission of “exquisite” diabetes management for moms with diabetes will continue.

For more information, please see her obituary and this article from Dr. Ian Blumer.


Barbara WalzAbout the Author

Barbara Walz is an RN, BSN and has been a certified diabetes educator since 1986. Since 2000, Barbara has coordinated a multi-site diabetes study examining the macro-vascular effects of diabetes at the South Texas Veterans’ Healthcare System under the supervision of Dr. Ralph DeFronzo.

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