Kovler Diabetes Center dedicates library to the late James C. Tyree

When Kenneth Polonsky, dean and executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago, spoke at the dedication of the James C. Tyree Diabetes Education Library on Oct. 23, he focused on a side of the doctor-patient relationship not often discussed.

Tyree, who lived with diabetes for more than 25 years, was an advocate of patient education, counseling and behavioral health and wellness services. The former chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial Holdings, chairman of Sun-Times Media Group and board member at the University of Chicago Medical Center died in March 2011 at age 53 while being treated at the Medical Center.

“We always talk about the relationship that doctors have with their patients, and we usually focus on the regard that patients have for their doctors,” said Polonsky, who was Tyree’s endocrinologist when he was first diagnosed with diabetes. “What we often don’t think about is that doctors have great regard for their patients, and that was certainly true in my case with Jim.”

Polonsky’s remarks kicked off a festive evening that had the feel of a family reunion, as the Kovler Diabetes Center dedicated the new library to honor Tyree’s legacy.

Located in the Endocrinology Clinic in the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, the library will provide patients and their families with access to educational materials and new diabetes technologies, and will offer dedicated space for classes and support groups. It features a large video monitor and computer terminals to access a broad range of online content, social media and video produced by the Kovler Diabetes Center.

The library will complement existing services offered by the center’s diabetes educators, who are now equipped with touch screen monitors, iPads and handheld projectors to conduct educational seminars in the community and throughout the medical center. Trained volunteers and student support staff will work at the library Monday through Friday during clinic hours to guide patients to the appropriate resources and to coordinate their individual needs.

The library is the latest component of the James C. Tyree Program for Diabetes Care and Innovation, which promotes clinical programs for diabetes, research collaboration, education and outreach at the medical center for staff, faculty, patients and their families.

Under this initiative, the Kovler Diabetes Center is developing a strategy to increase opportunities for patients with diabetes to participate in clinical trials and to provide innovative professional education about diabetes to nurses, faculty and fellows. Kovler is also expanding psychosocial services and support programs for patients and families.

Before the ribbon cutting to officially open the library, Tyree’s wife, Eve, spoke about how he treated everyone as family, from his professional network to those he knew at the Kovler Diabetes Center to her and their daughter, Jessica.

“It seems fitting that we celebrate and honor his life by creating a space for people to feel not like patients but like family,” she said. “With people to talk to, and resources that they need, when someone is family, you don’t hesitate to help them and give them what they need to succeed.”