Diabetes Plus Broadens the Conversation


Peter Bergsten and Lina Nordquist in a conversation during a seminar.

Uppsala Diabetes Centre has launched the seminar series called Diabetes Plus, intended to disseminate knowledge, and encourage fresh and exciting discussions between researchers across academic fields of study. Chief organizer Peter Bergsten tells us about the initiative.

Uppsala Diabetes Centre (UDC) acts to bring together researchers and the public in a joint effort to understand, prevent and treat diabetes. For the new seminar series Diabetes Plus, this purpose is at the very core of its mission. Peter Bergsten is a Professor of Medical Cell Biology and leader of the format’s planning committee.

“A seminar is all about the conversation – about sowing the seeds for new thought in the audience.  With Diabetes Plus we want to achieve a broader consciousness about diabetes and its consequences with the public and the wider research community. This is supposed to be a two-way communication where the UDC can receive novel viewpoints from invited speakers, and in the first seminar I think that came to fruition,” says Peter Bergsten.

Diabetes Plus premiered on the 12th of November with the title 'Diabetes + Politics: Safe Societal and Social Actors for Sustainable Diabetes Care and Prevention'. For this session, parliamentarian and Dr Lina Nordquist (PhD) was invited to discuss the political facet of diabetes in an open conversation with Peter Bergsten.

“We received very nice feedback”, he says. “Not least thanks to our guest who was very open, and could adopt a broader UDC perspective when discussing her role in Swedish politics. Interactions went well with the seated audience, who entered the conversation and posed important questions. Now we must better involve the digital participants. That will be our next challenge”.

Meeting Across Boarders 

One of UDC’s most central purposes is to create the conditions for the unexpected to materialize – synergy effects that may emerge when researchers from diverse disciplines consider a common issue. With its focus on cross-disciplinary engagement, Diabetes Plus sticks out.

“Many other seminars focus on very specific issues and have clear boundaries. The Diabetes Plus format is freer – no one can really know where any given session will lead. As we want to encourage contrasting perspectives on diabetes, seminars are intended to be a meeting place for people who are perhaps not used to being in the same room,” says Peter Bergsten.

Diabetes is a research field where experts and organizations often have their own, internal arenas. This is where Diabetes Plus will act as a space to converge and communicate, and the name of the series comes from this idea of combining several approaches.

“A Diabetes Plus seminar adopts one perspective and then adds another. The central motivation for the UDC is that Uppsala diabetes research has for a long time been focused primarily on Medicine and Pharmacology. Now we need to enable other perspectives to complement, enrich and expand the discussion. A seminar of this kind typically brings two people from different backgrounds together to speak about diabetes, and so they must accommodate each other’s perspectives. They cannot be too internal or technical and so the conversation becomes more accessible and inclusive,” says Peter Bergsten.

Steve KcKeever speaks behind a podium
Deputy Director and Associate Professor Steve McKeever opened the first seminar.

A Long-term Investment

From 2022 onwards, Diabetes Plus will be an important element of the UDC. Lunch seminars are planned for the third Thursday of every month where researchers as well as the public are invited to attend. Each seminar will focus on a specific theme and usually a guest speaker will be invited. Two future sessions that are in the planning revolve around Medicine in Sports and Psychology respectively.

“I hope that we will be able to attract well-known guests, not least in the beginning. If we are lucky, pandemic restrictions will continue to enable us to meet in person. Then we will have to begin to think more long-term. Now that the ball is finally rolling, we can begin to think about where we want to be in one, three or even five years. What will be the best way to act as a resource for diabetes research and people who live with the disease?” says Peter Bergsten.

The concept of cross-disciplinary meetings does not only extend to the speakers and audience but also to the planning committee for the seminar series. UDC has four so-called focus groups – The Individual, Society and Diabetes; Islet Physiology and Regeneration; Metabolism and Complications; and Immunology, Infection and Host-microbe. All groups can send representatives to the planning committee.

“In that way, Diabetes Plus has another important function,” says Peter Bergsten. “It helps us maintain the cross-disciplinary conversation within our own network. We must then make sure that the ideas generated during the seminars are carried over to the UDC. I would wish for this series to become a way for the public to affect what this centre does”.

Diabetes Plus typically takes place between 12 and 13 o’clock on the third Thursday of every month.
Upcoming sessions are announced in the Uppsala University and SLU calendars as well as at the UDC web site.
Seminars are held at different venues in Uppsala and can also be attended via the video conferencing tool Zoom.
For those who have registered, beverages, coffee, and a light lunch is included.

Header image: Lina Nordquist (to the right) was the first Diabetes Plus guest speaker. In an open conversation with Peter Bergsten (to the left), she discussed diabetes in Swedish politics.

Anton Nyström

Last modified: 2022-01-03