Bringing Light from Out of the Dark Days of Diabetes

Until the discovery of insulin, most children diagnosed with diabetes weren't expected to reach their first birthday. Without the regulatory presence of this hormone in their system, something as simple as a piece of cake could send a child's blood sugar to fatal levels.

Dorothy Frank knew what it was like to walk this diabetic tightrope between life and death on a daily basis. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1929 at the age of 19, eight short years after the first major breakthrough in diabetes treatment. Had she been born a few years earlier, she might not have lived long enough to meet her husband, Major General James Frank, and help change the face of the fight against diabetes.

Dorothy did live, however, to the ripe old age of 93, and because of her wealth of experience, wanted to help ease the burden of others going through the same thing.

Desiring to develop more specialists and improve patient education, the Franks began funding the diabetes effort at UCSF in 1979, which led to the Dorothy L. Frank Fellowship in Diabetes. Consequently most of the prominent diabetes clinicians in the Bay Area probably had their training funded by Dorothy Frank, says Martha Nolte Kennedy, MD, medical director of the Diabetes Teaching Center at UCSF and herself a Frank fellow in 1981.

James Frank was on the board of the UCSF Diabetes Teaching Center throughout the '90s – a time when funding for patient education came almost entirely through philanthropy. "Everyone involved was generous with their time. James Frank was generous with his time and his money," recalls Kennedy. During this period, the Franks also started the Dorothy Frank Diabetes Endowed Fund for the Diabetes Teaching Center.

Dorothy Frank passed away in 2004 and James in March of this year. Through their estate, the Franks left UCSF $672,000 to bolster the teaching center endowed fund, and $373,000 to endow their fellowship fund.

"Our parents were continual donors to causes investigating advances and new treatment in diabetic medicine and care," says daughter Barbara Harrison. Her sibling, Darol Nance, continues, "My sister and I are very proud of our parents' generosity to the UCSF Diabetes Teaching Center – a very worthy cause."

Adds Kennedy, "These gifts will further expand our community outreach – including the development of our website – and support the training of dedicated diabetes medical professionals. We're forever grateful for all that the Franks have done for us and for the fight against diabetes."

For more information about the UCSF Diabetes Center, please call 877/499-8273.