Frank Newby Receives Joslin 75-Year Medal
George King, M.D. and Frank Newby
Monday, May 23, 2011
Frank Newby was only two years old in 1932 when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Last month, he received a rare medal from Joslin for living successfully with the condition for more than 75 years.
In between, Mr. Newby has enjoyed a full life, raising a family of four boys and teaching chemistry for many years at East Tennessee State University. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Julie Newby, in Johnson City, Tennessee and enjoys woodworking and gardening.
Living on a farm in Columbus, Mr. Newby’s family had to take their two-year-old 150 miles north to Kansas City for a correct diagnosis. Back in 1932, only a decade after insulin became available, the technology to manage diabetes was primitive. Before each injection, for example, Mr. Newby’s mother had to boil the syringe in distilled water.
“My mother watched me like a hawk,” Mr. Newby says. “She was the one who made it possible for me to survive.”
After graduating from high school in Columbus, Mr. Newby received a Summerfield Scholarship to attend the University of Kansas. A fan of chemistry since receiving an experiment set as a Christmas gift, he ended up getting a doctorate in chemistry. In 1959, he was offered a position at East Tennessee State University, where he taught until he retired in 1993. “I enjoyed teaching, except for grading lab reports,” he says.
His current endocrinologist told Mr. Newby about the Joslin 50-Year Medalist program, which recognizes people who have coped successfully with the condition for many years. Joslin gives medals to people who have had diabetes for 50 years, plus special awards for those who are veterans of 75 years with the condition.
“The 75-year awards are quite rare,” says George King, M.D., Joslin’s chief scientific officer. “We’ve only given them to about 40 people.”
The Newbys flew to Boston in late April so that Frank Newby could receive both 50-year and 75-year medals.
While they were at Joslin, Mr. Newby also volunteered to participate in the Joslin 50-Year Medalist Study, which investigates why so many Medalists have so few of the medical complications that often accompany diabetes after many years.
Unlike many others with long-term diabetes, for instance, Mr. Newby’s eyesight has not suffered significantly from the disease. The Joslin studies “may help to figure out this disease and help somebody else,” he says.
To stay healthy, “I just try to eat a really well-balanced diet, and when it’s not too cold I walk around the block every day,” he says. “It’s a long block.”
“I keep trying to do as much as I can and to keep things interesting,” Mr. Newby adds. “When I was diagnosed, my parents were told that I might not survive to graduate from high school. But I’m still here.”
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