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South Mississippi is getting a major research center for diabetes and obesity

A map shows the medical facilities under construction or planned for Tradition in Harrison County.
A map shows the medical facilities under construction or planned for Tradition in Harrison County.

The 12th Annual Cleveland Clinic Obesity Summit has long been held in Ohio, but this year a live simulcast originated both in Cleveland and Biloxi.

The two-day summit on Thursday and Friday at the Jeff Davis Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College drew about 130 healthcare professionals to learn more about obesity, diabetes care and preventive strategies. Another 400 participated in Cleveland.

The CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, came to the conference in Biloxi in part to see the facilities under construction at Tradition in Harrison County to research and treat diabetes.

Mississippi is No. 2 in the nation for obesity, he said, with 30 percent of residents diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes and 70 percent overweight.

That’s why The Cleveland Clinic, which is No. 2 in America for diabetes research and treatment, is focused on Biloxi. The center in Ohio has 33 million square feet of buildings, and he said what doctors have learned there will be shared with South Mississippi.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who spoke at the summit Friday, had proposed the idea of a center working to reduce obesity and diabetes in the state, developer Joe Canizaro said.

“The reason I’m back is because my dad was a doctor and I wanted to give back to the community I was raised in,” said Canizaro, whose father, Veto, was a doctor in Biloxi. For his part, Joe Canizaro is helping create the National Diabetes and Obesity Research Center at Tradition, something he said will elevate Mississippi, grow Tradition into a major research center and possibly bring a 200-student medical school to the Coast.

Four buildings are now under construction at Tradition: a clinic in partnership with Memorial Hospital, a Nursing and Simulation Center for MGCCC, a pharmacy school and a facility for an osteopathic medicine program, both at William Carey University.

Dr. James Young, chairman of the Endocrinology and Metabolism at The Cleveland Clinic, said the message of controlling obesity and diabetes in Mississippi has been well received. Mississippi is a leader is some areas, such as tele-medicine and team management, he said, and can benefit from learning about ideas such as the employee health plan at The Cleveland Clinic that has been successful in providing incentives to help people lose weight and decrease health costs.

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