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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –November is Diabetes Awareness Month. 300,000 Iowans have the disease. That’s about 11 % of the state’s population, and the number is projected to climb.

Taking care of her young children is a top priority for Tammy Schmidt. “And I didn’t really take care of myself. I just ate what I wanted to, didn’t exercise.”

The mother of three with Type 2 diabetes recently added her health to the list. “Back in May, I went to my doctor and my A1C was 10.5, and I was sick all the time. She said, do you want to see your kids grow up?”

The 50 year-old started working out. Then, she found Iowa Diabetes Research. “I’m part of a study they’re doing. It’s a once weekly injection that I do, and then I log all my food. I have access to a dietitian,” said Schmidt.

“Diabetes is a massive problem. I call it the diabetes tsunami,” said Dr. Anuj Bhargava. The Endocrinologist started Iowa Diabetes Research 11 years ago. It’s one of a handful locations in Iowa taking part in studies of new diabetes drugs. The medicine is free to participants and they get a stipend to take part.

“The pharmaceutical companies who are making these medications really need to prove these medicines work, they’re safe, effective, and that’s why they’ll provide the medications, they provide the protocol and then we’ll work with the patients under very strict protocol,” said Bhargava.

Schmidt still has a few months left in her study but has already noticed a change. “Tammy’s drop in A1C is quite remarkable. Going from 10.5, which I would say is very poorly controlled diabetes to 5.8 yesterday, like normal glycemic, that’s amazing,” said Dr. Bhargava

She’s also lost more than 40 pounds and gained a new outlook. “A whole lot brighter than it did. I want to continue losing weight, continue getting healthy and in the future. I want to help educate people on nutrition and preventing this disease,” said Schmidt.

Iowa Diabetes Research offers free diabetes screenings every Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. People with diabetes can get their A1C checked at that time too.

For more information on how to be a part of a study, go to the Iowa Diabetes website.