Dr. Henry Anhalt: A Passion for Pediatrics and Innovation in Diabetes Care
Continuing with our introduction of new Sanofi US Medical Affairs team members, today I’m excited to present Henry Anhalt, DO, who recently joined us as Senior Medical Director. Passionate about children and diabetes technology, he has dedicated a significant portion of his career to pediatric endocrinology and artificial pancreas research.
Q: What led you to become a doctor and sparked your interest in diabetes care?
A: As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. I remember in elementary school I contacted pharmaceutical companies to get desk models of the brain and heart that you could disassemble and use as visual aids for patients. They were very exciting to me and I filled my shelves with them.
After finishing my pediatric endocrinology training at Stanford, I opened a general pediatric endocrinology practice, where I came to realize how passionate I was about the care of children living with type 1 diabetes. In my quest to figure out how to best serve them, I became an early adopter of technology and new therapies. I realized if I could learn to individualize their care and offer up solutions that were culturally and educationally unique, I could break through some barriers and get better outcomes for my patients.
I do have a personal connection to diabetes; my grandmother passed away from complications associated with type 2 diabetes, and my mother and uncle live with type 2 diabetes. But I must admit, that played a very small role in my decision to pursue diabetes care. It was really about the kids who have type 1 diabetes, a very different condition than type 2 diabetes. The psychological stress on the children and the people who love and support them cannot be understated.
I continue to see patients and I am always inspired by the sense of privilege that I have watching a child grow and blossom. I have patients that I’ve been seeing for 17 years; now they’re getting married and having children. It’s thrilling to share some of the most challenging and rewarding moments of their lives. I get invited to weddings, confirmations, bar mitzvahs and, unfortunately, funerals. My connection to my patients is pretty intimate.
Q: Through your work in pediatric diabetes care you’ve focused on insulin pump therapy. Can you tell us when you started introducing insulin pumps to your patients and why you think they’re beneficial?
A: During my training I was taught that insulin pump therapy was not a solution for most people, because they had to be able to “prove” they could handle the complex technology. Years later, a colleague in my practice challenged me to re-evaluate how I felt about using insulin pumps. As part of a clinical trial I began to use insulin pump therapy at diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, and found it to be successful for many of those patients. I became a very strong advocate of insulin pump therapy and became a certified pump trainer for all the companies that manufactured insulin pumps so I could demystify the process for my patients. In my practice today, about 90 percent of my patients are on insulin pump therapy.
Q: You’ve also worked with JDRF on artificial pancreas research. What do you find most exciting about that technology?
A: I had the opportunity to lead a project called the Artificial Pancreas Project, in collaboration with JDRF. It was thrilling to design and complete two successful feasibility studies which really moved the technology forward.
An artificial pancreas seeks to combine two existing technologies: a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and an insulin pump. The CGM data is wirelessly ported to the insulin pump. Once that occurs, the CGM data is filtered through mathematical algorithms that can prospectively make changes in insulin dosing based on predictions of blood sugar level trends.
Lessening the concern that parents and caretakers have for their loved ones who may experience a life-threatening low blood sugar reaction at night is an exciting potential outcome for this technology.
Q: You know several people in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). How did you initially learn about the DOC and how have you been involved with its members?
A: The earliest connection I made to the DOC occurred after I gave a lecture at a Children With Diabetes conference. It was one of my most gratifying experiences professionally. It was at that conference that I started speaking with members of the DOC and from there it was sort of a natural progression. I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with a lot of the members of the DOC and consider them not only people I admire, but friends.
Now members of the DOC reach out to me to share my insights on the industry and new developments in diabetes like the feasibility of an artificial pancreas. It is a tremendous honor to be involved with the DOC, knowing the things I say are valued and projected to a broader audience.
When the opportunity to work with Sanofi US came up, I spoke to my friends in the DOC and other key opinion leaders about the position. I was basically advised to run and pursue an opportunity with Sanofi US because that’s where innovation and new patient solutions are going to happen. Now that I’m here, I see the true excitement about caring for the patient that permeates this organization. Being a part of this team is thrilling. I am excited to come to work everyday and partner with my colleagues to help make a difference.
Henry’s enthusiasm and excitement around his work is contagious; we are very lucky to have him on board and I can’t wait to see all that he’ll contribute. Many thanks to Henry for sharing his story.
All the best,