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Q&A | Nuha El Sayed, M.D. of the Joslin Clinic


Monday, April 12, 2010

Since joining the Joslin Clinic last fall, Nuha El Sayed, M.D. has worked primarily with patients with type 2 diabetes. She is particularly interested in weight management, lifestyle coaching, women’s health and international initiatives. A native of Alexandria, Egypt, Dr. El Sayed received her medical degree from Alexandria University, completed her residency at Roger Williams Medical Center, and followed up with fellowships at Joslin and at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. El Sayed recently answered seven questions about her current roles and her professional plans.

How did you become a physician?

I come from a long line of physicians—I don’t think I have an immediate member of my family who isn’t involved in medicine. For example, my aunt was the first female surgeon in the Middle East. So growing up in my family, it wasn’t a question of becoming a physician or not, rather it was what area of medicine to specialize in.

What led you to become an endocrinologist?

When I was a teenager, I began volunteering at the World Health Organization’s regional office in Alexandria, Egypt and one of the initiatives that I got really involved with was diabetes. I was fascinated by the disease and the profound effect it had on patients and their families. From then on, I was hooked.

Both in the United States and globally there is a real shortage of diabetologists and if you look at the rapidly growing number of patients with diabetes, it’s staggering, and so I wanted to do my part.

How did you end up at Joslin?

While doing my residency, I wanted to do diabetes research. I connected with Dr. Osama Hamdy here at Joslin, and I ended up becoming his first obesity/diabetes clinical research fellow and worked on the development of the Why WAIT? program. I then joined Tufts Medical Center as a Fellow because of its very strong obesity and nutrition training. After completing my fellowship there, I rejoined Joslin in September 2009 as a staff physician.

What led you to return here?

Joslin is the pre-eminent center globally for diabetes care and research. You see it in the educators, you see it in the physicians, and you see it in the rest of the clinical staff. They come here because they want to be here. As a physician I know that when I have a patient, they will see an educator who will give them the right ongoing education. They’ll see the best dietitians. They have access to an exercise physiologist. And here in Longwood, I can refer them to other world-class institutions for their other medical needs. There is simply no other place like Joslin.

In your clinical research, what are your areas of interest?

My main areas of interest are obesity in diabetes, diabetes lifestyle management, diabetes and women’s health, and tackling diabetes in underserved areas and in third world communities globally.

What’s the core of the weight-loss approach?

I believe there are three core tenets for successful and sustained weight loss. First, it’s critical to have a structured environment. Second is a team-based approach which means that you have to have involvement from multiple disciplines, including nutrition, exercise physiology, behavioral health, all coordinated by your diabetologist. Finally, it’s about motivation. I coach my patients to understand that they are in control, and that they are able to conquer diabetes.

What will your international work focus on?

I plan to participate in Joslin’s work with its international affiliates. I am very interested in effective diabetes care globally.

There are micro-clinics internationally for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases. Diabetes is as big a problem, but there aren’t the resources focused on it. In a war-torn area there’s no insulin, there are no supplies, and there are no physicians, there’s nothing except a huge, huge need. When you see problems like that, you have to do something about them.

Dr. Nuha El Sayed

Page last updated: September 19, 2019