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Focus on students and knowledge of diabetes

By Lorraine Nelson

College of Pharmacy

R. Keith Campbell is an international leader in the field of diabetes.

Having someone of his academic stature at Washington State University’s College of Pharmacy for the past 35 years has been beneficial to the university, college and its students. His presence has made it possible for the College of Pharmacy to attract other excellent faculty who are also working in the field of diabetes.

To assure that Campbell’s legacy is maintained beyond his eventual retirement, the college has launched a campaign to establish a permanent faculty position in his name. The initial funding has been secured.

Meanwhile, Campbell continues to educate not only pharmacy students but also practicing pharmacists and other health-care workers about the latest treatment options for diabetes:

Q. What is new in diabetes treatment?

A. “We have finally convinced most health professionals that the patient needs to take charge of his or her diabetes and to do this, the patient needs to be educated and motivated to follow standards of diabetes care.

We now have many new medications to treat insulin resistance and new methods to administer insulin are close to being approved. Much research is being done to better understand the complications from diabetes and how to prevent them. This is one of the most exciting areas of research that I have seen in more than 53 years of having diabetes.

Lilly has a Protein Kinase C inhibitor that prevents the development of new fragile blood vessels and it also stabilizes the endothelium of blood vessels. This product has huge potential in preventing complications and becoming a major treatment drug.”

Q. Do you think there will ever be a cure for diabetes?

A. “Not in the near future. I have heard since I was a young man that diabetes would be cured in five years. The more we study the specifics of what is happening in diabetes, the more we realize that we have just scratched the surface of understanding all its aspects. There could be some major breakthroughs now that we are better able to control the immune system. Transplants, DNA work and stem cell research are all exciting and could have an impact. But it will not be within five years, in my opinion.”

Q. You have lived with diabetes for more than 50 years. How do you manage it?

A. “I have always had a positive attitude and tried to keep up on the latest products to help me better manage my blood sugars, blood pressure and blood lipids. I am the longest continuous user of an insulin pump in the world, and that has really helped me. I also have been blessed to be in the right place at the right time, working with knowledgeable physicians who keep up-to-date and are willing to work with me.”

Q. What do you believe is your greatest contribution to diabetes study?

A. “I have been able to translate scientific and medical information into publications that are read by physicians, nurses, RDs and pharmacists as well as patients, that provide practical information on how to manage diabetes and prevent complications. To me, my greatest contributions have been to individual patients who I helped educate and motivate to better care for their diabetes.”

Q. What subjects are you teaching at WSU, and has that changed over the years?

A. “The better I teach, the more administrative responsibility I am given. Funny ‘eh?

I love to teach and it is still very rewarding to help students see their potential and live up to it. I teach the management course. I provide lectures in team-taught courses dealing with therapeutics, and cover diabetes and some other disease-state topics.

I met with the hospitals in Spokane in 1969 and worked out contracts with them to have our students do clinical clerkships. I am pleased with how our clinical programs have progressed and the impact that our programs have on patient care.

I used to teach on over-the-counter drugs, dispensing, most of the topics in therapeutics, and I have even taught pharmacology, law, and lectured to dietetic and medical students. I was in charge of the clerkships for many years and used to drive to Spokane three times a week. I was coordinator of externships and was director of Continuing Education for over 25 years. I especially enjoy teaching patients and health-care providers and give at least one lecture a month to health-care providers.”

Q. What do you enjoy most about your role at WSU?

A. “Each day is like going to a huge smorgasbord of things to do. There is teaching, research, service, advising, committee work, administering, writing, reading the latest developments in pharmacy practice and so much more. I love it all, but if I had to pick just one, it would be teaching and advising. Anyone can teach intelligent and already motivated students. The fun comes in teaching by motivation instead of intimidation and helping people overcome some problems and succeed. It is similar to the feeling that a pharmacist gets when he or she helps a patient to feel better.”

Q. Have pharmacy students changed much in the last 30 years?

A. “Not too much. We are blessed here at WSU with really nice students who are good communicators and who want to learn the course material and help people. Students are our greatest strength, and they graduate and go on to be great and very successful alumni who make a real difference in the lives of their patients and in the profession of pharmacy.”

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