Dr. Andreas Stuhr: A Pediatrician Living with Type 1 Diabetes
Wrapping up our series on our new Medical Affairs team members, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Andreas Stuhr, MD, MBA, who has joined Sanofi US as Senior Medical Director. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age, Andreas has lived with the condition for more than 40 years, giving him a unique perspective when working with his patients, their families and his colleagues.
Q: What do you remember most about growing up with type 1 diabetes?
A: I remember going to play dates at friends’ houses. I had to get insulin shots in the evening, so my mom was always chasing me down to give me my shot at my friends’ houses. It felt like such a disruption of the fun I was having. I was just being a child, not thinking about living with a life-long disease.
Also, in the 1970’s there was a different perception of diet; at that time it was thought that diabetics should never have sugar. When I was invited to birthday parties, I had to bring a sandwich, while other kids enjoyed cake and ice cream. I understood that was what I had to do, but I negatively stood out. Some kids would ask me, “Why are you so weird? Why do you eat bread? You never eat cake.” I couldn’t always participate in the fun stuff; I had to be responsible. Thankfully that mindset about sugar alone has changed today.
Q: What led you to become a doctor and focus on pediatric endocrinology?
A: The obvious answer is because I’m diabetic. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was young, about five to six weeks at a time. I was exposed to that environment, and I enjoyed the questioning, the scientific elements around it. I probably would have become a doctor anyway if I was not diabetic, but I decided if I was going to pursue this career field, I was going to specialize in diabetes, and that’s clearly rooted in being diabetic.
I was attracted to pediatrics because it’s always different. What’s normal at a specific age is likely not going to be the same the following year. This change between ages and how children adapt and change over time keeps you on your toes, keeps things interesting and I like the challenge and changes.
Q: What made you decide to go back to school to get your MBA?
A: My goal in getting my MBA was to be able to speak the medical language in the business world and to translate medical needs into business language. I saw that if you were able to speak the language, you were more successful in translating your medical knowledge and vice versa. Medical doctors and business people think in certain ways; that’s how they are trained. If you better understand how somebody else thinks, you are more credible and can be a better communicator.
Q: You’ve worked for medical device companies. What were some of your biggest takeaways from those experiences?
A: I loved working for device companies and I love working in a pharmacological setting again. I like to combine those things because I know that with just one or the other, you’re not likely to win the fight against diabetes. Insulin is wonderful, but if you don’t have the ability to get it into your body, it cannot help. The ability to inject insulin, I would say, is as important as the treatment itself. To me, diabetes is a very sneaky disease. I believe you have to find its weak spots and outsmart it in every possible way – in terms of pharmacological agents, medical devices and lifestyle behavior – and combine them to your advantage. Whatever tools it may take, use them.
Q: You’ve been involved in the diabetes online community (DOC). Can you tell us how you learned about the DOC and why you got involved?
A: I first met members of the DOC at a Children with Diabetes conference. At the time I didn’t realize what they were doing and what reach or influence they had. I just talked to them, and they were saying, “Oh, I haven’t heard that before,” and “I hadn’t expected that. Thanks for sharing.” It felt like I was able to give something back. But also, with this group of people who have a personal experience similar to mine, I felt normal. There was a feeling of home and I didn’t have to disguise myself within the community. I could just be me. That doesn’t happen often. I have made some good friends. I like to support them and watch them make a difference for others too. I feel I have a responsibility to share positive examples of how to make a difference.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your new role at Sanofi US?
A: I’m excited that I have the opportunity to work in a company that actively invests in the management of diabetes. Once you truly engage in the management of diabetes, you have an opportunity to use all the tools available to outsmart it. I’m enjoying the prospect of bringing better management forward for people living with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. In the past, I have had the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time to influence decisions which try to help make the lives of people living with diabetes better. I look forward to having many more such opportunities with Sanofi US.
Andreas brings a unique perspective to the Medical Affairs team, with his medical and business training, as well as his viewpoint as a person living with diabetes. I’m anxious to learn of the insights he’ll bring to the team. Many thanks to Andreas for sharing with us.
All the best,