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McKeesport Diabetes center milestone celebrated during update event

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 10:07 a.m.
Emily Carlson | Daily News
Lions Diabetes Center program manager Jan Koshinsky presents a plaque to Dr. Leena Ahmad Matthews honoring the work and dedication of her father Dr. Usman Ahmad, who died earlier this year.
Emily Carlson | Daily News
People gathered in the Kelly Conference Center at UPMC McKeesport Wednesday evening for the 1st Annual Ahmad Memorial Diabetes Update.
Emily Carlson | Daily News
Sue Gibbons, the first dietician at the Lions Diabete Center, talks about what it was like working with Dr. Usman Ahmad while Carla DeJesus, left, and Annette Karnash listen.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Jim Littlejohn, a South Carolina educator whose consulting firm specializes in conflict and anger management, provided a program on understanding poverty for professional personnel at Duquesne Education Center on Wednesday afternoon. He also addressed school administrators earlier in the day at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Homestead.

Two decades ago, the Lions Diabetes Center opened its doors at then McKeesport Hospital.

That milestone was recognized during Wednesday night's diabetes event at UPMC McKeesport, an annual gathering to update the community of advancements in diabetes care.

The evening marked a new name for the gathering — the 1st Annual Ahmad Memorial Diabetes Update in memory of Dr. Usman Ahmad, who passed away earlier this year.

“Tonight we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Lions Diabetes Center at UPMC McKeesport,” Janice Koshinsky, the center's diabetes program manager, said. “But it's a bittersweet night for all of us. It is very odd doing this without Dr. Ahmad in the room.”

Four votive candles were lit in his memory and there was a moment of silence for the doctor, who died suddenly in May.

Koshinsky presented a plaque to his daughter, endocrinologist Dr. Leena Ahmad Matthews, who was the speaker for the evening.

“Thank you for having me. I'm sure you are used to seeing my dad here and I can't replace him,” she said.

She talked about complications associated with diabetes, stressing there is “good news” when it comes to the effects of the disease. “There are less amputations, fewer heart attacks and less vision loss because of diabetes than in the past,” she said.

Each year, $245 billion is spent on diabetes care in the United States, and the number of people diagnosed with the disease is increasing, she said. But there are steps that can be taken to reduce those complications.

Microvascular complications are those that impact vision, kidneys and feet, while macrovascular complications affect blood pressure, heart disease, peripheral artery disease and stroke. Steps to take to reduce those problems, she said, include having LDL cholesterol lower than 100, blood pressure less than 130/80, maintaining a healthy weight with a body mass index of less than 25, quitting smoking, limiting carbohydrates and processed foods and exercising 150 minutes each week.

After a question-and-answer session with Matthews, Koshinsky was joined by the center's diabetes nutrition specialist Carla DeJesus, the center's first dietician Sue Gibbon and coordinator Annette Karnash in sharing the history of the center and how Ahmad touched their lives.

“I was recruited by Dr. Ahmad and Annette in the summer of 1993,” Koshinsky said. “I started Sept. 20 and two days later we had the open house for the center.”

Lions in districts 14B and 14E provided funds for the facility and Lion Joe Donkin of 14B was one of the original members.

“When we started we had a lot of questions and Dr. Ahmad answered every question we had,” Koshinsky said. “He always said this was a grassroots effort.”

Koshinsky said that because of the Lions financial support, “we have grown the center to what it is today,” noting it has received national and international recognition by the organization.

Reflecting on Ahmad's passing, she said he “touched so many lives both professionally and personally. He prided himself on never using a complicated medical word when talking about the disease. I am proud to honor him by renaming this event in his honor.”

DeJesus said Ahmad had a “way of making you feel important and special. He always told the patients that they are lifetime members of the Lions Diabetes Center.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media.

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