Marina Basina’s Masterful Teaching and Patient Care

Clinical associate professor of endocrinology Marina Basina, MD, has been caring for patients with Type 1 diabetes since she completed her fellowship and joined the Stanford faculty in 2003. She heads the inpatient diabetes service and has chaired the diabetes task force since 2009. Not only is she a beloved and highly regarded expert in diabetes and glucose control, but she also is an award-winning educator.

Basina has well-recognized and truly extraordinary teaching skills. After her first year on faculty, she won the 2004 House Staff Award for Demonstrating Excellence in Clinical Teaching. She was awarded her division’s Fellows Teaching Award in 2009 and 2010, and yearly from 2012 to 2018. Also in 2018, she received the Stanford University Master Teacher Award, which colleagues jokingly suggest might have been created to honor a teacher “who won so many awards a new one was needed.”

Expanding Her Teaching Skills

In addition to coaching trainees about the disease, the patients, and the technology, such as insulin pumps and glucose monitors that simplify life for these patients, Basina also teaches patients and their families, both in person and online. She serves as an advisor to several community groups, each of which was organized to meet the needs of a few patients and now has much greater reach via the internet.

The first of these is CarbDM which was started by the mother of a newly diagnosed 8-year-old who couldn’t find much support in the community. Beyond Type 1 is a second such organization; it currently has over 2 million members in more than 150 countries. The third organization, Sugar Mommas, is for women with Type 1 diabetes who have small children or are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Fifteen Years of Technological Change

Basina points out that things are much better for her patients with diabetes than they were when she completed her fellowship more than 15 years ago. She describes diabetes as “a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year condition. Anyone who has Type 1 diabetes will likely tell you that it is a difficult, demanding, and challenging condition, requiring daily attention. It is upsetting, and it never goes away.” Between personal glucose monitors and insulin pumps, daily life has improved somewhat but remains challenging. However, now there are options for those who qualify.

One option, which would eradicate the disease, is transplantation. There are two types of transplantation for diabetes: pancreas as an organ transplant and islet cell transplantation. Basina points out that organ transplantation has been used for many years, but only certain patients with significant diabetes complications are eligible for it. Patients are on a wait list for a long time and afterward must take immunosuppressive medications to avoid rejection of the pancreas. Many patients become insulin-independent for 10 years or longer, but some need to start using insulin again within a decade.

But, explains Basina, things continue to change: “Islet cell transplantation is a promising and developing field that has been shown in some studies to improve patients’ quality of life and prevent severe low blood sugars. This procedure is approved in Canada, Australia, and several European countries. Hopefully, it will be FDA approved and available here in the U.S. after clinical trials in the near future.”

Fredric Kraemer, MD, chief of the division of endocrinology, gerontology, and metabolism, recently had this to say about Basina: “Marina is a tremendous asset for the division, department, hospital, and school. She is the consummate master clinician and educator par excellence. We are all fortunate to benefit from having her on our faculty.”