The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has awarded Alan M. Delamater, Ph.D., ABPP, professor of pediatrics and psychology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the Richard R. Rubin Award — one of the highest awards attainable by a behavioral scientist in the field of diabetes. Dr. Delamater received the award at the ADA’s 82nd annual meeting, held in New Orleans this month.
The ADA presents the Richard R. Rubin Award to a researcher who has made outstanding scientific contributions to understanding the behavioral aspects of diabetes, a subject which Dr. Delamater has helped to illuminate for the past 40 years.
“Receiving this award is one of the greatest honors of my professional career, and I am truly humbled,” said Dr. Delamater, who is also the director of research at the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development. “Being recognized by one’s peers for having made significant contributions to the science of behavioral diabetes is perhaps the best kind of recognition one could receive.”
The Role of Psychology in Diabetes Care
The field of diabetes wasn’t on Dr. Delamater’s radar in the early stages of his career as a psychologist, when he was focusing on ADHD research. His outlook changed when a colleague invited him to write a paper on the role of psychological factors in diabetes. With the field wide open in terms of research needs, Dr. Delamater saw this opportunity as a way for psychologists to play a role in diabetes care.
What followed were decades of contributions to programmatic research in diabetes and an evolving track record in the discipline. Dr. Delamater has developed a focus on psychosocial and behavioral factors related to the management of diabetes in children and adolescents. Through his grants with the National Institutes of Health and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, he has addressed health disparities in adolescents with type 1 diabetes and obesity prevention in ethnic minority children.
With type 2 diabetes increasing dramatically among young people in the past 25 years, Dr. Delamater has also conducted research on this public health issue, mainly related to the prevention of type 2 diabetes and reduction of cardiometabolic risks.
Many Factors in Managing Diabetes
Further contributions to the field include publications in several peer-reviewed papers and chapters explaining the importance of psychological, family, behavioral, and cultural factors associated with effective diabetes management.
In addition to research, Dr. Delamater has taken on various leadership roles with the ADA and other organizations, including leading the working group for the International Society of Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes to develop consensus guidelines for the psychological care of children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes.
“I am recently focused on evaluating a psychosocial screening protocol to identify youth in need of additional supports for effective management of diabetes,” Dr. Delamater said. “I am also starting new studies on youth and parents’ diabetes management with another study targeting insulin misuse and disordered eating in youth.”
While at the ADA Scientific Session, Dr. Delamater presented a 30-minute lecture titled “Forty Years of Behavioral Diabetes Research: A Personal Journey.” In the talk, he highlighted some of the main achievements in behavioral diabetes from the 1980s to the present.
Future endeavors for Dr. Delamater include a grant currently under review that proposes to evaluate the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of integrated behavioral health care for youth with type 1 diabetes. He also plans to submit a new grant application to determine the feasibility of a mindfulness intervention program for young people with type 1 diabetes and their parents.
“Despite all the advances in medical treatment and behavioral interventions for youth with diabetes, it is clear that much more work remains to be done,” Dr. Delamater said. “We need to help more youth achieve glycemic goals, particularly those at heightened risk for less-than-optimal outcomes, such as youth from lower-income and ethnic minority backgrounds.”