People to Know: Martin Gillis, DDS, MAEd
While in dental school 24 years ago, Martin Gillis was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He has figured out how to manage his diabetes while making it his daily business to prevent and treat oral disease. Now he represents the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) on oral health issues and gives presentations around the world about the connection between oral health and diabetes.
"What I have come to understand is that there are many social and cultural differences throughout the world, but one thing that unites us is the drive to prevent, treat, and cure diabetes," Martin says. "Diabetes affects everyone in some way, so likewise we should all contribute in some way in the fight against diabetes."
Martin practices what he preaches. He's been a wonderful communicator about what some people consider the "sixth complication" of diabetes: gum disease. He has worked with many partners on spreading the word domestically and internationally, taking an active role in the National Diabetes Education Program's Pharmacist, Podiatrist, Optometrist, and Dentist Stakeholders' Group. He is a member of IDF's consultative section on diabetes education, has contributed to IDF's global oral health guidelines in diabetes, was an IDF delegate at the United Nations' high-level meeting on noncommunicable disease in 2011, teaches dentistry at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and volunteers for the cause.
The oral health–diabetes relationship is becoming more widely recognized, especially in people with diabetes. "I remember attending diabetes conferences in the past where I was asked, 'What is a dentist doing at a diabetes meeting?' " Martin says. "It was satisfying not to hear this question at the last IDF Congress. Progress is being made."
Pamela Allweiss, MD, MPH, is an endocrinologist and medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Diabetes Translation.