This center was established March 6 with a $5 million gift from the Lift a Life Foundation to create a comprehensive center that will offer care, education and clinical research focused on improving the lives of children with Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes.

The Lift a Life Foundation gift provides support to hire a physician, educator and nurse practitioner specialists; enhance medical, technological and educational resources and programs available to families; and improve inpatient and outpatient care facilities.

“This is a great opportunity to do something that can give children with Type 1 diabetes in our region a chance at a healthier future,” said David Novak, founder of the Lift a Life Foundation and chairman and chief executive officer of Yum! Brands, headquartered in Louisville. “Our family has been affected by Type 1 diabetes, and we felt this was an opportunity to build one of the best diabetes care centers in the country.”

“This generous gift provides the University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics and Kosair Children’s Hospital an incredible opportunity to work in unison to provide vital services to children with diabetes throughout the community and the state,” said Gerard Rabalais, MHA, chairman, UofL Department of Pediatrics. “Dr. Wintergerst is a superb physician and dedicated clinical researcher. I’m so proud to see him take the lead on this important initiative.”

“For kids with diabetes, it’s not just about living; it’s about living full, healthy, happy lives and reducing the negative impact that diabetes has on each child’s daily life,” Wintergerst said. “The Wendy L. Novak Diabetes Care Center will provide a personalized, integrative approach that will link the services we provide at Kosair Children’s Hospital to our Diabetes Center sites throughout the state. This amazing gift from the Lift a Life Foundation has truly given me and our families with type 1 diabetes new hope for the future.”

UofL specialists and Kosair Children’s Hospital are treating more than 1,200 children for Type 1 diabetes. Approximately 150 children are diagnosed each year; nearly half of these children require hospitalization.

“Type 1 diabetes has been on the rise for the past 50 years and is growing annually, especially in younger age groups. We’ve seen a 20 percent increase in hospital admissions due to Type 1 diabetes since 2008,” Wintergerst said. “The incidence of Type 1 diabetes is showing no sign of slowing here or across the world.”

Type 1 diabetes usually is diagnosed in children and young adults. It occurs when cells in the pancreas that have been damaged by the immune system produce little or no insulin. Insulin is necessary for moving blood sugar into cells for storage and use as energy. When the body does not make enough insulin, the blood sugar builds up and cannot turn into energy. While no one knows the exact cause, this autoimmune disorder can be fatal if not properly treated.

People with Type 1 diabetes must test their blood sugar five or more times per day. Treatment includes taking multiple insulin injections or using an insulin pump every day, along with maintaining proper diet and exercise. There is no cure, although advances have been made.

“The lifespan of children with Type 1 diabetes is no longer just a few weeks or a few years,” Wintergerst said. “The important thing we need to work on now is better blood sugar control to reduce the severe complications of diabetes, such as blindness, kidney damage, and cardiovascular and nerve disease.”

Established in 1999 through a charitable trust by David and Wendy Novak, the Lift a Life Foundation provides innovative grants to nonprofit partners serving Kentucky.

“The Lift a Life Foundation exists to provide individuals in need the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Ashley Novak Butler, director, Lift a Life Foundation. “Helping children manage their diabetes and avoid the devastating complications of the disease will help them meet, and hopefully exceed, their expectations for a full and healthy life. We can’t think of a better result from an investment.”