Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Epidemiology

University of Colorado, Denver

I am a physician-scientist with training in Internal Medicine, Diabetes and Epidemiology. My main research interest is the understanding of the complex and multifactorial etiology of pediatric diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, with a goal of reducing, delaying, and preventing its occurrence and burden. I am particularly interested in how early life risk factors, such as exposure to maternal overnutrition during the intrauterine life, other exposures during fetal or early post-natal life, and infant growth and feeding patterns, influence the development of childhood obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

My experience includes conducting perinatal and childhood epidemiological studies with community-based and clinic-based sampling, longitudinal follow-up, and extensive sample collection and storage. I have conducted landmark studies on childhood type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and perinatal determinants of future risk among the Pima Indians of Arizona. At this time, I am Principal Investigator (PI) on the multicenter “SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study,” a multiethnic registry study of childhood diabetes conducting population-based ascertainment of diabetes in youth, which also has a longitudinal component. I am conducting this study in the entire state of Colorado as well as on the Navajo Nation Reservation. This study was initiated in the year 2000 and we are now funded for another 5-year cycle to conduct surveillance of diabetes in youth in Colorado and Navajo and to follow up a cohort of participants with at least 5 years’ disease duration for sub-clinical chronic complications.

I also serve as Co-Chair person for SEARCH at the national level. In addition, I am an investigator on several SEARCH ancillary studies, including being the PI on the newly funded “SEARCH-CVD” study, which is exploring cardiovascular risk markers and outcomes (carotid intimal medial thickness, arterial stiffness) in Colorado and Ohio youth with type 1 diabetes and healthy controls. I am also the PI on “Exploring Perinatal Outcomes among Children” (EPOCH), which is exploring the long-term effects of exposure to diabetes in utero and of intrauterine growth restraint in children of different ethnicities.

I have recently started a new cohort study, “Healthy Start,” which will explore a timely public health problem by testing the hypothesis that maternal obesity programs neonatal growth, fatness, and metabolism, and by identifying specific mediators of these effects that can be targeted by future interventions. Recently, I was funded to conduct the National Children’s Study (NCS) in Colorado, the largest and most comprehensive long-term study of children’s health and development ever attempted in the United States. This study is unique in that it will develop a large, population-based cohort of 100,000 children recruited before birth and followed through 21 years of age. In addition, I serve as Director of the Graduate Programs in Epidemiology at UCD and have demonstrated continuous commitment to teaching and mentoring graduate students, post-doctoral and clinical fellows, and junior faculty in the areas of pediatric diabetes and lifecourse epidemiology.