Gregg Gerety, MD: Empathy From Experience
Gregg Gerety was a junior in college on track to become a doctor when his body threw him a curveball. His energy levels were low, he was losing weight, and he’d been getting up five or six times a night to go to the bathroom. “I knew something wasn’t quite right,” he says of those few months in the winter of 1976. That something was type 1 diabetes.
After his diagnosis, Gerety’s journey to become a doctor continued, with one significant change: “The more I learned about diabetes, the more excited and interested I became about endocrinology,” he says. “So diabetes clearly created a path for me.”
Now, as an endocrinologist in Albany, New York, Gerety draws from his personal experiences with diabetes to treat his patients and share life lessons. “It makes a difference if you speak the same language that your patient speaks and can empathize, which isn’t so easy if you don’t live with it,” he says. “That’s something that I’m fortunate and blessed to do every day, and I find it very rewarding.”
Many of Gerety’s patients can’t afford the drugs and devices they need to manage their disease. Insulin, in particular, carries a high cost. That has Gerety looking to the past. When he was diagnosed with diabetes, he was treated with the human insulin NPH, which he now prescribes to some of his patients. It’s less precise than rapid- and long-acting analogs, carries a greater risk of hypoglycemia, and takes a bit longer to learn how to use. Considering the advancements in diabetes medication since Gerety was diagnosed, using NPH “is almost like taking several steps back, and that’s one thing I think is unfortunate,” he says.
But it works—and at a fraction of the cost. “I’ve used more NPH insulin from Walmart in the last three to four years than I have ever before in my career,” he says.
Finding a cure, which would eliminate the need for insulin, drives Gerety to raise funds for the ADA. Since 1992, he’s been involved with the ADA’s Tour de Cure®, asking his patients, other providers, and pharmaceutical companies to donate whatever they can to his team. One year, he raised over $100,000, earning his team the No. 1 fundraising spot in the country. “It gives me an opportunity to practice what I preach and engage patients and providers to raise money for diabetes,” he says.