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Family Endowment Funds Additional Endocrinology Fellow at UTHSC

Through an additional endowment to the James and Mary King Givens Endowment Fund, the UTHSC Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism will be able to raise its number of trained endocrinology fellows from five to six. Pictured left to right: Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, Mrs. Mary King Givens, and Love Collins. (Photo courtesy of Trish Hill/UTHSC)

The Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has received a sizable endowment that will fund in perpetuity the cost of training an endocrinology fellow.

The first James and Mary King Givens Endocrinology Fellow is made possible through an additional endowment to the James and Mary King Givens Endowment Fund. The Givens Endowment Fund was established more than 20 years ago to honor UTHSC College of Medicine 1956 graduate and renowned gynecological endocrinologist James R. Givens, MD.

The Givens Endowment Fund also awards the James R. Givens Distinguished Visiting Professorship, which brings endocrinology experts from around the world to present on the UTHSC campus. A parallel annual James R. Givens Award recognizes medical students and internal medicine residents who distinguish themselves during their endocrinology rotation.

“One can say that the Givens’ gift is a gift that keeps on giving,” said Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, professor of Medicine, and director of the UTHSC Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, and director of the General Clinical Research Center.

In the United States, medical school endocrinology departments train on average only two endocrinology fellows, according to Dr. Dagogo-Jack. Through the Givens Endowment, UTHSC will be able to raise its number of trained endocrinology fellows from five to six.

“The UT Health Science Center now joins the pantheon of the larger training programs in endocrinology, and for this we are eternally grateful to Mrs. Mary King Givens,” Dr. Dagogo-Jack said. “We believe that we join the fight against the diabetes epidemic at a crucial battle front, mainly with the production of specialists in the field of diabetes and endocrinology, who will champion best practices and who will also serve as consultants to primary care physicians in the area who will be referring difficult-to-treat patients who have diabetes to them in the future as specialists.”

Nisreen Abu Al Hommos, MD, has been named the first James and Mary King Givens Endocrinology Fellow and will start training in July. (Photo courtesy of Trish Hill/UTHSC)

Endocrinology departments train specialists in diabetes, thyroid, and metabolic diseases. Diabetes is an epidemic globally and nationally, and the city of Memphis and Shelby County sits on what is considered the “buckle” of the diabetes belt. In Memphis, it takes approximately 5 ½ months for a diabetic patient referred to an endocrinologist to be seen due to the shortage of endocrinologist in the city, according to Dr. Dagogo-Jack. There is also a shortage of endocrinologists nationally. One of the approaches to solving the diabetes epidemic is to train more specialists, but training can’t happen without resources for funding.

“To have these resources come into play to be used this way is just phenomenal,” said Love Collins, vice chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs at UTHSC. “It’s going to put another pair of shoulders permanently under the log that one day is going to be able to crack this thing.”

“Diabetes is critical with what we do here at UTHSC because we are surrounded by millions of people at risk for diabetes,” Dr. Dagogo-Jack said. “So the training of additional capacity, additional specialists to fight the diabetes battle is a most valuable contribution.”

A native of North Alabama, Dr. Givens graduated summa cum laude from David Lipscomb College, earned his master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, and his medical degree from UTHSC. After completing an internship at the John Gaston Hospital in Memphis, Dr. Givens served as senior surgeon in the U.S. Public Health Service, followed by a residency in internal medicine at John Gaston Hospital in 1961, and an endocrinology fellowship at Tufts University.

Dr. Givens held joint appointments as deputy director of the UTHSC Clinical Research Center and associate professor and professor in the Departments of Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology. He was a recognized expert on polycystic ovarian syndrome, authoring more than 100 publications. In 1989, Dr. Givens retired to South Georgia with his wife, Mary King. Dr. Givens died on December 13, 2005 at age of 75.