Single mum wins scholarship for diabetes studies
A single mother chasing her dream career in medicine has been elated to be among the winners of the Dr Barbara Ball Public Health Scholarships this year.
Elinor Lucas Quarterly said her study of diabetes, a serious metabolic illness, was about more than joining Bermuda's fight against a leading chronic health problem.
Ms Lucas Quarterly said: “I've come around to doing what I've always loved.
“I've combined helping to care for my son with helping other people.”
Her son, Thomas Quarterly, a competitive cyclist, had type 1 diabetes diagnosed at age 13. Although hereditary traits play a role, type 2 diabetes is predominantly caused by lifestyle factors such as diet, while type 1 is an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Ms Lucas Quarterly, who also has a daughter, Emily, said her son wanted to keep cycling after his diagnosis.
She added: “It was incumbent upon me to make this work.”
Ms Lucas Quarterly was one of six to receive the scholarships, announced last week by the Ministry of Health.
The awards, given on academic achievement, financial need and public health importance, are in memory of Dr Ball, an activist and the first Bermudian-born woman to practise medicine in Bermuda.
Ms Lucas Quarterly, 49, ranks as a mature student, but her passion for health and fitness goes back far.
She helped put herself through Ryerson University in Canada by working at the college gym.
“Things took a funny path,” she said. “I did my law degree and I worked as a lawyer for five years, which I enjoyed — but I hated being in an office, and I wanted to pursue my first love of swimming and fitness.” She started by recertifying as a personal trainer after the birth of her second child, and began to acquire further qualifications.
“I became more interested in the health and wellness side of being a personal trainer, not the perfect beach body.
“I also ended up with clients who had type 2 diabetes. I was the head coach at the Dolphin Swim Team, but I was getting more and more interested in diabetes.”
Ms Lucas Quarterly worked closely with the Bermuda Diabetes Association, and began to do “a huge amount of research on my own”.
Sara Bosch de Noya, a diabetes educator at the charity, recommended she take it further after seeing the level of her study.
Ms Lucas Quarterly added: “And so I did. It came from a love of health and fitness and being thrown in at the deep end with diabetes. It has always concerned me that we have such a high level of chronic disease in Bermuda — we are such an unhealthy country.”
Diabetes can lead to a drastic array of health problems, and tends to travel with a “pack” of other issues such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood lipids.
But Ms Lucas Quarterly said the diagnosis of diabetes, and the requirement for a total change of diet and lifestyle, including exercise, was still a difficult choice.
She added: “I'm really passionate about helping people to get there and look after themselves — and, better yet, getting younger Bermudians to look after themselves. If you can manage these issues, and get help managing them, it will reduce all kinds of other problems. I am all about making that change.”
Ms Lucas Quarterly said the scholarship would help her as an online student, getting her Master of Science degree at the University of Leicester in Britain and specialising in diabetes.
She said: “The programme is affiliated with Leicester General Hospital, which has one of the top diabetes programmes in the UK.
“I'm being taught by practitioners as well as researchers.”
Her course began last October and will finish this December, followed by a six-month stint of writing and defending her thesis on diabetes.
Afterwards, she hopes to work with the Bermuda Diabetes Association in battling the disease, which is estimated by the charity to affect 14 per cent to 20 per cent of the island's population.
Ms Lucas Quarterly said: “I just want to help people make the change. At the same time, I don't think there's enough resources in Bermuda for people with type 1 diabetes.”