Former Miss America Nicole Johnson Tours the Diabetes Reserach Institute

Former Miss America Nicole Johson toured the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami and got a first-hand look at the cure-focused research underway. Here she is with DRI Scientific Director Dr. Camillo Ricordi.

Miami, FL (April, 2009) — Ever since Nicole Johnson was crowned Miss America in 1999, she has been serving as an international diabetes advocate. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 19, Nicole has traversed the globe to speak out about the cause and has become a role model for many people affected by the disease.

On April 30, she visited the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) accompanied by Steven Blair from the University of South Florida, her alma mater.

Greeted by DRI Scientific Director Camillo Ricordi, M.D., DRI Executive Director of Medical Development Gary Kleiman, DRI Foundation President and CEO Robert A. Pearlman, and DRI Foundation Chief Operating Officer Deborah Chodrow, Nicole and Mr. Blair began their visit with an informative lunch. Mr. Pearlman then led them on a tour throughout the Institute, where they were able to meet many of the other scientists, like Luca Inverardi, M.D., Alejandro Caicedo, Ph.D., and Chris Fraker, who described the exciting projects underway in their labs.

Nicole and Mr. Blair learned more about UM’s Clinical Center for Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, an international research effort led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that is exploring ways to prevent and delay type 1 diabetes. Just last year, Nicole had her daughter, Ava, screened through TrialNet to find out if she is at an increased risk for type 1 diabetes. The Diabetes Research Institute’s Jay Skyler, M.D., serves as the TrialNet National Chairman.

Nicole peering through the DRI’s multi-photon microscope

They also met with the DRI’s expert team of diabetes educators, who conduct a variety of individual and group programs with a common focus: to empower those with diabetes to manage their care. With them, Nicole and Mr. Blair talked about the possible ways the DRI and USF could join forces and work in cooperation on the State of Florida Regional Diabetes Program.

Impressed with her in-depth tour of the cure-focused research and effective education programs underway at the DRI, Nicole expressed her desire to incorporate teamwork between UM and USF into her passionate work as an activist for diabetes education and research.

Former Miss America Nicole Johson and Steve Blair from the University of South Florida in one of the DRI’s labs with Bob Pearlman, President and CEO of the DRI Foundation

About the Diabetes Research Institute

The Diabetes Research Institute, a center of excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is a recognized world leader in cure-focused research.

Since its inception in the early 1970s, the DRI has made significant contributions to the field of diabetes research, pioneering many of the techniques used in islet transplantation. The DRI is now building upon these achievements by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies to restore insulin production.

For the millions of families already affected by diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute is the best hope for a cure.

DRI Researcher Chris Fraker showing Nicole and Steve the new biohybrid device developed at the DRI

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