$15 million gift to create the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute

Norton Children’s Hospital and the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation today announced the creation of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute. A $15 million lead gift from the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation is the starting point of a $60 million vision to expand diabetes care for children and adults

Norton Children’s Hospital and the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation today announced the creation of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute. A $15 million lead gift from the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation is the starting point of a $60 million vision to expand diabetes care for children and adults, as well as build the top diabetes institute in the country. It enhances services already available through the current Wendy Novak Diabetes Center.

The goal of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute is to become a national center of excellence by expanding and elevating diabetes care services across the region, while helping children and adults with diabetes manage their conditions. The institute also will make it easier for patients to transition from pediatric to adult care.

The current Wendy Novak Diabetes Center is a service of Norton Children’s Hospital, which is recognized as having one of the nation’s top diabetes programs. The hospital is listed 16th in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 rankings for pediatric diabetes and endocrinology. The program ranked 18th in 2020 and 2021, fueled by funding from the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation.

The Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation was established in 1999 through a charitable trust by David and Wendy Novak. It funds innovative, high-impact projects that are led by passionate leaders committed to outstanding execution. It first gave $5 million to the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation in March 2013 to establish the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center as part of a $12 million initiative to create of a comprehensive diabetes care center offering education and treatment for Type 1 diabetes to thousands of children and young adults with diabetes.

“We are confident that with the strategic partnership with Norton Children’s and Norton Healthcare, and the outstanding leadership of Dr. Kupper Wintergerst, one of the most renowned endocrinologists in the world, we can continue to climb the rankings and become the best practice institution others will want to emulate,” said David Novak, founder of the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation and former chairman and chief executive officer of Yum! Brands Inc., headquartered in Louisville. “We see this impacting not only Louisville but the world.”

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One of the first initiatives thanks to this transformational gift and the establishment of the institute will be to provide more patient support through expansion of the diabetes education program.

“Diabetes care and education specialists are key to helping patients live their lives with diabetes, from managing insulin and medication to guidance on eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise,” said Kupper A. Wintergerst, M.D., Wendy L. Novak Chair of Pediatric Diabetes Care and Clinical Research, and pediatric endocrinologist with Norton Children’s Endocrinology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Educators also provide invaluable support and assistance to patients between office visits. Living with diabetes is an enormous burden, and educators are able to help each child and adult face every one of life’s challenges.”

Nearly half a million children and adults in Kentucky have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a rate of 14%, making Kentucky the eighth worst in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norton Healthcare and Norton Children’s provide care for more than 69,000 patients with diabetes, spanning 137 counties in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Of those, approximately 1,400 are children. Most patients with Type 2 diabetes have their care managed by a primary care provider.

“Adding special resources to help our patients manage their disease is key to helping patients manage their diabetes and live long, active, healthy lives,” said Dr. Wintergerst, who also serves as division chief of pediatric endocrinology for the UofL School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

The institute will focus on developing and expanding four key areas to support adults and kids living with all forms of diabetes: 

Facility expansion: Create a dedicated resource center for diabetes education and research, as well as outreach treatment practices across Kentucky and Southern Indiana, and expand diabetes specialty care into West Louisville and across the region. Pediatric outpatient care is provided at the Novak Center for Children’s Health in downtown Louisville.

Expand workforce and increase patient support: Hire more medical professionals to support diabetes patients, including doctors and nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, diabetes educators, exercise physiologists and patient navigators. The institute also will offer expanded fellowship programs and create additional endowed chairs. This expansion will bring additional high-paying jobs to Louisville.

Expand programming: Expand resources, allowing patients access to specialty care, and fund programs focused on maternal-fetal high-risk pregnancy/family planning, genetic and Type 2 diabetes care, complex care management for high-risk children, neonatal diabetes, and sports and activity for those with diabetes. These programs will enhance Norton Healthcare’s multidisciplinary approach to care, allowing the diabetes care teams to better collaborate with providers in other specialties.

Research: Enhance the ability to conduct and publish original research and create a physician- scientist endowment program to recruit, hire and support promising physician-scientists in our community. This also is expected to increase funding for research. Recent funding, which includes grants from the National Institutes of Health, totals nearly $6 million. Additional research increases access to cutting-edge therapeutics that patients would not otherwise have.

“We have a great deal of research being done to help our children with diabetes, but there are tremendous opportunities to start a robust program for adults,” Dr. Wintergerst said. “With the formation of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute, we’ll be able expand our research initiatives, conducting basic, translational and clinical research that will give patients access to cutting-edge therapies and hope for a cure in the future.”

In addition to the $15 million gift, the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation and Norton Healthcare Foundation have committed to raising another $12 million for a total $27 million investment. So far, $2 million has been raised. In the coming years, the goal is to raise additional funds to reach the $60 million vision.

“The Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute will be the premier location for the treatment, education and research of diabetes regionally and nationally,” said Lynnie Meyer, Ed.D., R.N., CFRE, senior vice president and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “We appreciate the Novak family and the community for getting behind this institute, which will build confidence in all those touched by diabetes, empowering them to live long, active, healthy lives.”

“Over the past two decades, we’ve grown from one physician to a team of 30 specialists supported by a highly skilled, compassionate staff, solely focused on improving quality of care and the patient and family experience,” Dr. Wintergerst said. “Thanks to support from the Novak family and the community, we’ve been able to stay on the cutting edge to provide the very best for all those we serve.”

The growth has included the addition and funding of the Christensen Family Sports & Activity Program, which provides individualized monitoring and education for active children with Type 1 diabetes, on and off the playing field, and participates in research in the management of diabetes in young athletes.

Also included is a $600,000 donation from the Price family that established the Norah Price Diabetes Educator and the Norah Price Fellow in Pediatric Endocrinology positions through Norton Children’s Hospital and the UofL School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. A $1.5 million donation from the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation, paired with $500,000 from the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation, funded the Jack Henderson Chair of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes.

Multiple new endowed chairs, positions, and programs also have been established thanks to donations and the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation, including the Philip Sandlin Endowed Chair in Adolescent Transition in Care Diabetes Management, the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation Diabetes Research Endowment and the Carol B. McFerran Chair of Pediatric Diabetes Research. “I’m looking forward to this next chapter and to build on our exciting vision for the future,” Dr. Wintergerst said.