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Patricia Whitfield, PhD student in the Department of Medicine

Understanding ethnic disparities in our rates of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes in New Zealand

Patricia Whitfield thumbnailI am a clinical endocrinologist at Wellington Hospital, after completing my medical degrees and training in Auckland and Wellington, NZ. I have seen first hand the devastating consequences of Type 2 diabetes, and am frequently struck by the ethnic disparities in our rates of, and risk of complications from, this condition. It is a real privilege to undertake a body of research which might go some way to understand more about what drives these ethnic disparities and what we can do about it. I have been awarded an HRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship to embark on a PhD in this area.

My PhD thesis focuses on ethnic differences in glucose metabolism in New Zealanders, aiming to understand whether there are pathophysiological differences in the cause of diabetes, dependent on ethnicity or body shape. Following on from this, I am investigating whether response to treatment for diabetes (eg diet and exercise) differs by ethnicity and body shape as well. Can we predict who would respond better to a dietary intervention versus exercise?

I am currently running the HRC funded PROGRESS NZ study, assessing markers of glucose metabolism in men with pre-diabetes who identify as NZ Māori, European, Pacific or South Asian. I intend to follow this with a prospective randomised study directly comparing diet vs exercise in individuals from these ethnic groups.

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