When Curt Thompson’s son was diagnosed with a paraganglioma, a tumor from the adrenal gland tissue, he was told that, due to the rarity of his son’s condition, the family would need to travel across the country for treatment.
Thompson’s family wasn’t alone. Adrenal diseases are generally uncommon conditions, and many centers don’t have specialized facilities to treat disorders associated with the adrenal gland, according to Dr. Carlos Isales, Chief of the Division of Endocrinology and professor of medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
While his son received treatment, Thompson, Senator for the Fifth District of Georgia, noticed that there were many Georgia families also at the clinic for treatment.
“This opened my eyes,” Thompson said. “There simply was no place anywhere in the South for patients with these sorts of adrenal disorders to get treatment. I knew that had to change.”
So, Thompson approached Augusta University Health with a challenge. What must be done to make AU Health a leading referral center for the southeast?
“We discussed what it would take to be able to reach that status,” said Isales. “We want to focus on patients and research but will also need cutting-edge technology. We presented these requirements to the Senator, and he said, ‘let’s do it.’”
Governor Nathan Deal supported Thompson’s vision and appropriated funds to help establish the Adrenal Gland Center at Augusta University. Isales hopes the center will be seeing patients by the end of the year.
“It has become part of my mission to make sure that Georgians have state-of-the-art medical care available to them for these conditions,” Thompson said. “I’m proud to be part of this and consider this a first step in the adrenal center becoming a major research and treatment center.”
Each patient at the Adrenal Gland Center will also be automatically enrolled as a research study patient in hopes of better understanding adrenal gland diseases and the best ways to treat them.
Isales is excited about the opportunity to help patients in both the Augusta area and the southeast who suffer from adrenal gland disorders.
“I think that part of an academic medical center’s job is to provide care for patients with rare conditions, and I think a specialized center provides a unique service that would otherwise be unavailable,” Isales said. “This is a big deal to patients with these conditions, because if the disease isn’t properly managed there can be serious health consequences. So, I think this center will be a great resource for those patients with one of these conditions.”
The multidisciplinary clinic will be located on the second floor of the Digestive Health Center and will be staffed by an endocrinologist, a surgeon, and a research coordinator responsible for enrolling every patient that comes through the clinic. For more information visit the Adrenal Gland Center website.