A graduate of one of the world’s oldest universities, Dr. Rodriguez has dedicated herself to diabetes treatment and education –especially for the less fortunate in her country.
Everyday Diabetes Magazine recently spoke with Dr. Rodriguez at her office in Guadalajara, Mexico about her career, treatment in Mexico and her hope for diabetes patients everywhere.
What made you want to become a doctor?
I realized that not only did I enjoy knowing more about how the human body functions but I also enjoyed explaining it to people and helping them to be healthy.
What made you want to focus on helping people with diabetes?
Before specializing in diabetes, my medical practice had patients from low-income communities. I started to see there was a big need for education and prevention of metabolic diseases such as the diabetes. In Mexico a lot of people die from diabetes and it was natural that I wanted to do something to change that.
Diabetes kills 70,000 people a year in Mexico, but it gets far less attention than less deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Why is that?
It is actually very cheap to treat diabetes because it is only necessary that the patient improve their eating habits, get regular exercise and learn self-management. In the case of the other diseases I think that importance is decided by pharmaceutical companies who say what diseases should be given more focused.
What do you think of the current treatment options for people with diabetes in Mexico?
I think that Mexico offers good treatment options however, there could be improvements. I think the weakest point remains that there is a lack of prevention education and self-management of the disease.
Are there any treatments for diabetes in Mexico that are unique?
Well, I think the prickly pear cactus, that we call “nopal” in Spanish and some herbs such as tronadora and wereke, which have been studied by scientists here, have shown effects that were beneficial in glucose control. Both of these are mostly used only in Mexico.
Are there new treatments you would like to see more widely available in Mexico?
Yes, I hope that here in Mexico we get the drug Liraglutide. It was approved more than 5 years ago in US, but is still very difficult to get here. It seems promising since it is also effective against obesity, which is a typical comorbidity in people with diabetes.
I also hope their is increased marketing and distribution of insulin infusion pumps as well as continuous glucose monitoring devices.
Many people who have lived with diabetes for a long time have experienced periods of deep frustration and the feeling that “I can’t do this anymore.” How do you help patients overcome this?
It is vital to educate people who suffer from diabetes so that they understand that factors such as anxiety or insomnia can be harmful to their glycemic control, for example.
There has to be constant communication between doctor and patient to assure they have the best information that will help them make better decisions regarding the effectiveness of their treatment plan.
Despite efforts to educate people about diabetes they continue to give more credibility to the opinions people who are uneducated about what’s best and have less experience in the subject.
The evidence also says that mutual support groups are very effective to improve control of the disease.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that the treatment plan is led by a multidisciplinary group.
All of these will help the patient experience less frustration, allowing them to more easily live with the disease.
As a doctor treating diabetes, what frustrates you the most in dealing with the disease?
That is a good question. I would say that despite efforts to educate people about diabetes they continue to give more credibility to the opinions people who are uneducated about what’s best and have less experience in the subject, such as friends, family and even neighbors. It’s frustrating!