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Medalist of the Month: Robert Bates

As he approaches his 80th birthday on Aug. 13, Robert Bates will surpass another important anniversary—75 years with type 1 diabetes.

His wife Carol, their four children and extended family are planning a special celebration to mark both achievements. In addition to birthday presents, Robert will receive his 75-year Joslin Medal that day, presented by Research Director George L. King, M.D.

In March, Robert participated in research that benefits the entire diabetes community. He came to Joslin for a one-day appointment as a participant in the Medalist Study. “I’m interested in what my body can do for others to benefit the greater good,” he explains. He first heard about the study from his wife, who shares his interest in diabetes, a disease that has been part of their life for as long as they’ve known each other.

Dr. Joslin's Lasting Impact

In the early days of their marriage, Robert and Carol regularly corresponded with Elliott P. Joslin, M.D., founder of Joslin Diabetes Center and Robert’s first physician. Dr. Joslin, who began treating Robert after he was diagnosed in 1931, would request an update on Robert’s health annually. If he did not receive a response, he would write again, once even sending a telegraph. These letters, which Carol saved for posterity, date through 1961 and reflect Dr. Joslin’s dedication to outcomes research, gathering evidence to support his medical recommendations and refining his approach to diabetes management.

It was also this type of support and education that equipped Robert to live healthfully with diabetes. Today, he is grateful to have been part of Dr. Joslin’s program, which he says “provided complete knowledge on treatment, with an emphasis on the need to pursue an active, independent and normal lifestyle.” 

Robert and Carol describe diabetes management as “a joint undertaking.” In addition to the support of his family, Robert believes education and “common sense, carrying out what he learned” have been instrumental to his health and longevity. 

Life Lessons: Robert and Carol Bates (pictured center with Dr. King and Medalist Study Coordinator Alysha Berger) are appreciative of the education Robert received from Dr. Joslin. This knowledge continues to help them manage the disease together.

Page last updated: July 26, 2014