Oscar Crofford: On the horns of a revolution  pg. 2

Dr. Oscar Crofford (at microphone) testifies in 1973 for increased federal funding for diabetes research.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Oscar B. Crofford
In 1963, Crofford went to the University of Geneva to continue his studies under the late Albert Renold, a renowned diabetes expert who discovered the role of insulin in fat metabolism.

After returning to Nashville in 1965, Crofford became Vanderbilt’s first full-time diabetes specialist. He knew more about insulin action than diabetes care, but fortunately he was able to learn on the job under the direction of the late Dr. Addison B. Scoville Jr., a member of Vanderbilt’s clinical faculty who ran the Vanderbilt diabetes clinic.

“Virtually everything I learned about caring for people with diabetes I learned from ‘Ad’ Scoville,” he says.

Crofford also expanded his administrative skills. He established the Division of Diabetes, and helped bring the nation’s first federally funded diabetes research center to Vanderbilt in 1973.

“The person who sent in the application (to the National Institutes of Health) had to be a physician … so I served as the principal investigator (for the center),” Crofford says. “But it was really capitalizing on work done by … a whole slew of outstanding basic scientists.”

At the time, Scoville was president of the American Diabetes Association, and introduced his protégé to the potential and power of the non-profit organization. Soon Crofford was serving as vice chairman of its research committee, and he was called to Washington, D.C., to testify on behalf of a bill to increase federal funding for diabetes research.

“I had no earthly idea what to do,” he recalls. “I didn’t even know what you called your congressman or senator -- Your Honor, or what?” So Crofford went to the Vanderbilt library, and taught himself the art of testifying by poring over transcripts of previous hearings.

The hearing before Sen. Ted Kennedy’s health subcommittee, and subsequent lobbying by the diabetes community ultimately were successful, and in 1974, President Richard Nixon signed what the ADA describes as the first diabetes law in U.S. history. Among other things, it mandated establishment of a National Commission on Diabetes to formulate a “long-range plan to combat diabetes.”

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