On World Diabetes Day (Nov. 14), the South Bronx celebrated the opening of a center designed to combat the condition that afflicts many of its residents.
Right off “The Hub” shopping area at East 148th Street and Third Avenue, the Diabetes Relief Center’s South Bronx location finds itself in ground zero of the epidemic. The Bronx is rated last in health among New York State’s 62 counties in New York State, and leads New York City and New York State in diabetes rates. Three of the top five neighborhoods with the highest rates of diabetes are located in the Bronx (including Fordham).
Ray Basri, the center’s medical director, said that it’s their job is to help people live at their healthiest through multiple means.
“I think the most important thing is that it’s a place that people can come for consultation,” Basri said. “And we can explore the possibility of optimizing treatment. We’re about providing better care that focuses, first of all, on education and, second of all, on nutrition. There’s emotional support for people to know that they’re not at fault for their diabetes. We want to try and make people feel like there are ways to receive care that aligns with what they want to see for themselves.”
“We’re hoping it’s gonna be part of the solution,” continued Basri. “We’re hoping we can add a kind of treatment that will reduce complications.”
That treatment is known as the Trina Treatment, named after developer Dr. Ford Gilbert’s daughter who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 2.
“This is a treatment that has proved itself in other regions around the country,” said Diabetes Relief Centers of America President and Co-Founder Lon G. von Hurwitz. “[Gilbert] came up with a way to use microburst insulin to mimic what the pancreas should do in people. It’s done through an IV and a pump he invented.”
More than 250,000 treatments have been administered, mostly in the South and Southwest, without an adverse reaction.
Carolyn Gershenson, a registered nurse, will provide diabetes education at the center. She said she will teach patients dieting skills and how to use insulin while working with the patient’s primary care physician or endocrinologist. She understands that the Bronx can be a food desert that lacks inexpensive healthy options and wants to help residents stay heathy while not putting holes in their pockets.
“Part of my job is to identify what’s available, what’s around and what are the options are and hopefully in walking view for the patients,” said Gershenson. “Hopefully we will have morning, afternoon and evening sessions and some weekends. We hope to accommodate everyone.”
The opening of the diabetes center brought out a famous Bronxite as well. Rapper Peter Gunz talked about how diabetes has affected his family and his neighborhood.
“I grew up less than a mile from this area,” he said. “It’s the area that we used to go Christmas shopping. To see this right here is something that needed more than anything. You see a lot of McDonald’s and Popeye’s opening making us sick. For this to go up is unbelievable.”
Gunz said that growing up, he was always asked by a doctor if he had any diabetes in his family or heart disease, and that was only because his parents never went to the doctor.
“This is something that I was dying to be a part of,” said Gunz. “And I really took it serious when my friend got sick.”
Peter’s friend was rap producer Rich Dollaz, who also attended the opening and gave a tearful account of how he found out he was diagnosed. His mom was considered pre-diabetic and took his blood sugar reading on a glucometer for fun one time and he realized the number was triple what it should be in a healthy person.
“And I started realizing ‘Wow…that one…that one…that one,’” said Dollaz. “Six out of 10. That’s kind of scary. I worked at Bad Boy Records for 12 years, did lots of things in the music industry and I took care of everything except my body.” He eventually improved his health with a better diet and regular insulin injections.
“A lot of times people don’t listen to their bodies,” said Dollaz. “And that’s the most important thing. You have to listen to the outside and the things that are being told to you. You can’t ignore them because it creates an inconvenience for you.”
Both Gunz and Dollaz are part of the VH1 show “Love & Hip-Hop.” The camera crew from the show was in tow, following them and Tara Wallace around. The network announced that in honor of the event, they would help fund two children in a diabetes camp in the summer of 2018. Hurwitz said he’d match that donation.