Durham VA Health Care System
HSR&D Award for Best Research Paper of the Year
On May 10, 2021, Dr. William Yancy, a research associate at the Durham VA Health Care System Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT) and director at Duke University Medical and Weight Lifestyle and Weight Management Center, was awarded the HSR&D Award for Best Research Paper for 2020. The award recognizes the top 10% of funded research papers submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs health and research department.
When asked about his dedication to research and medicine, Dr. Yancy states, “I have a deep love for science and biology in particular. I grew up in a family that had healthcare-related professions. My father was a pediatrician, my mom was a nurse. So, I was exposed, at an early age to healthcare and medicine. It was something I wanted to do since elementary school”. Dr. Yancy’s background in medicine has a direct association with the military. His father is a Navy Veteran and practiced medicine while on active duty.
The primary focus of Dr. Yancy’s work is weight management in association with dietary weight-loss interventions, and essentially medical issues related to obesity and treatments for obesity.
“What inspires me are the health improvements that can happen when people make lifestyle changes and their weight goes down. It inspires me when I can help a person to make certain changes and then they feel like they are more in control of their life and health”, said Dr. Yancy.
The greatest questions that remain in weight loss and management involve investigations into dietary interventions for weight loss, research about how people interact with dietary interventions, how people can benefit more from dietary medical research, and how to inspire long-term adherence to healthy dietary practices.
In regards to the future of weight loss management and research, Dr. Yancy states, “There are a lot of other treatments, including medication, procedures, and surgeries, but really it comes down to how people eat and how they can change the way they eat. Helping people to adhere to dietary interventions is going to be really important going forward”.
The HSR&D Research Paper of the Year examines two types of group medical visits for diabetes. The first type focuses on weight management and the other focuses on the use of medication for improving diabetes control. The hypothesis for the research is that helping people to lose weight aids in a reduction of medication while still improving blood sugar control.
“The benefits are a reduction in low blood sugar spells, a reduction in their weight, and an improvement in their stress or distress related to diabetes. This demonstrated that weight management in a group setting could improve diabetes outcomes”, said Dr. Yancy.
The research paper, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, explains how the group counseling helped Veterans to lose weight, improve blood sugar levels, lower the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and reduce medications.
Dr. Yancy is a past recipient of HSR&D’s Career Development Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers (PECASE), and the Duke University School of Medicine Excellence in Professionalism Award.
“I would like to acknowledge all the people that helped with this project. This was not a small project. It was a joy to work with several other investigators who helped to develop the research question and protocol, and then a great research staff. There was a lot of collaboration. Thanks to the Durham VA Ambulatory Care Team who allowed us to use their space and the Greenville Health Care Center, who assisted with bringing in more participants for the study”, said Dr. Yancy.