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Genentech, American Diabetes Association partner to improve access to screening and treatment for diabetic eye disease

Video

As part of the American Diabetes Association's Health Equity Now program, the organization has partnered with Genentech, piloting a partnership within Alabama to specifically focusing on tackling barriers related to diabetic eye disease.

Bryan Wilson, Executive Director of Medical Affairs at Genentech, sat down with Optometry Times®' Assistant Managing Editor Emily Kaiser to talk about how the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Genentech are partnering to improve access to screening and treatment for diabetic eye diseases that affect underserved communities as part of the ADA's Health Equity Now program.

Video transcript

Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Emily Kaiser:

Hey everyone, I'm Emily Kaiser with Optometry Times. I'm sitting down with Bryan Wilson, Executive Director of Medical Affairs at Genentech, to discuss how the American Diabetes Association [ADA] and Genentech are coming together to improve access to screening and treatment for eye diseases that impact underserved populations within the diabetes community as part of the ADA's Health Equity Now program. So, welcome, Bryan! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

Bryan Wilson, PhD, MBA:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Kaiser:

Yeah, of course. To start, can you tell us a little bit more about this partnership between the American Diabetes Association and Genentech? How did this come about?

Wilson:

Yes, absolutely. So when we think about or talk about the partnership, it's a unique opportunity for Genentech and ADA to come together to tackle a really important health issue in the South. And we're specifically piloting this partnership within Alabama, and it's specifically focusing on tackling barriers related to diabetic eye disease.

Kaiser:

Fantastic, and what do you hope to achieve with this collaboration?

Wilson:

Yes, great question. So we hope to achieve a lot, but I'll give you a few pillars. One of the key areas that we want to focus on is truly understanding the barriers. So what I mean by that: What is truly driving a patient's ability to navigate through a health system or navigate through their community health centers to actually achieve to a status where they can actually get treatment for diabetic eye disease? We know that diabetic eye disease is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. And I want to harp on that: It is the leading cause of preventable blindness. And so it's imperative that we understand where our patients have gaps. Where are patients being lost in the funnel, that is enabling them to not get the care that they need?

Kaiser:

How can optometrists participate in this drive to address health disparities, particularly for patients with diabetes in minority populations?

Wilson:

Yes, optometrists can be involved at any stage, but optometrists play a really key role in making sure that patients actually get referred to proper treatment. We know that when patients have diabetes type 2 for a really long time, that they're at a higher propensity of having worsening diabetic eye disease. And so optometrists can play a key role in those patients who have worsening eye disease and ensuring that not only that they get screened, but that they get referred to retinal specialists at the proper rate.

Kaiser:

As diabetes continues to grow in our communities, what can optometrists do to improve their quality of care?

Wilson:

Yes, as diabetes continues to grow, it's really important that optometrists play and understand their role in the care coordination of patients with type 2 diabetes. And one fact also is that sometimes patients don't even know that they have diabetes, but it's manifested in the eye, and it's identified through an eye exam. So again, optometrists can play a key role in making sure that patients understand the comorbidity that diabetic eye disease can have when they do have type 2 diabetes, and then also, as I said before, ensuring that those patients navigate through the right sources, whether that's being connected to a retinal specialist, or being connected to the proper physician to manage their diabetes.

Kaiser:

And what initiatives are in the pike to address systemic health disparities?

Wilson:

So my organization is involved in several, and they're across a number of pillars. Health Equity is a cornerstone to a lot of the work that we're trying to do within the community in really making sure that patients have access. This pilot is one example of that. But there are other areas that we're focusing on, which include advancing inclusivity within research, and also understanding ways to empower the patient.

Kaiser:

And how are patients' needs being taken into consideration with these accessibility and inclusion efforts?

Wilson:

This pilot program, a partnership between the ADA and Genentech, is a prime example of that. It's a prime example of meeting the patient needs right in the community where they reside. And so everything we do, all the alignment within our Health Equity strategies are tied to a patient need. And so we feel it's imperative that we focus on [inaudible] first and allow that to drive our impact.

Kaiser:

How important is patient and community education and breaking down these barriers to eye health?

Wilson:

Patient education and community education is paramount, because the goal is to empower the community so that whenever we co-create with the community, that when the pilot program has shifted into a new phase, or when the pilot program has ended, that that patient is still left with an empowerment and a sustainability plan to continue the impact. And so one way that you empower the community and the patient is through education, and it helps us sustain the work.

Kaiser:

Okay. Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today. This sounds like such a cool program, and I can't wait to hear more about the continuation of this pilot program.

Wilson:

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.

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