Health

Norton Children’s Hospital has announced plans to expand its care for diabetic children and adults with the new Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute. 

The expansion, which will cost an estimated $60 million, received a $15 million donation from Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation. It’s the largest individual donation Norton has ever received, according to the health care provider.

“Our goal, our imperative, is to become the No. 1 diabetes program, not just in the country, but in the world,” Norton Healthcare CEO and president Russ Cox said at a press conference Tuesday.

Cox said the expansion of care will help Norton bridge the gap for diabetic children as they enter adulthood.

“Transitions in life are difficult. Those patients who suffer from diabetes have those transitions to deal with as well, and now we have an opportunity to help those pediatric patients transition to being adult patients,” Cox said.

The new institute will add to the existing Wendy Novak Diabetes Center, which was created in 2013 with a $5 million donation from the Novak Family Foundation. The latest donation is part of a larger initiative from the foundation to create more education and care for children and young people with Type 1 diabetes.

The donation is tied to the Novak family’s own connection to diabetes: Wendy Novak, the center and institute namesake, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child. 

Her husband, David Novak, is the former chair and CEO of Yum! Brands. Their daughter, Ashley Novak-Butler, said Norton’s commitment to expanding diabetes care has affirmed her family’s decision to invest in them.

“I can say from watching the diabetes center grow and seeing the growth of it, we saw what can happen when you have a team of talented people providing excellent clinical care, education and research for children,” Novak-Butler said.

In recent years, Norton Children’s has garnered accolades for its diabetes care.

“In 2018, U.S. News & World Report named Norton Children’s as having the 49th best diabetes program in the country,” Cox said. “In 2020 and 2021 we got better, we joined the elite programs as U.S. News & World Report ranked Norton Children’s as having the 18th best program.”

This year, the program was ranked the 16th best.

Dr. Kupper Wintergerst leads the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center as director and serves as endowed chair of Pediatric Diabetes Care and Clinical Research. He will be one of the leaders helping to shape and create the new institute. 

“The institute will focus on developing and expanding four key areas that will support everyone living with diabetes, from newborns all the way through our lifetime,” said Wintergerst. 

Plans include expanding diabetes care facilities, creating a community resource center, and bringing diabetes specialty care to west Louisville neighborhoods. In addition, there will be increased focus on transitional care from childhood to adulthood, resources to help patients manage treatment, and specialized care for pregnant patients with diabetes. 

This expansion of diabetes care also means Norton will need to hire more staff, including doctors, nurses, social workers and dietitians.

Beyond care, Wintergerst said the institute will focus on research.

“If you truly want to have an impact on the lives of those living with a chronic health condition, you can’t just focus on the excellence of care, you also have to be a part of advancing the science of medicine and be an instrumental part of finding cures,” Wintergerst said.

The institute plans to hire and support scientists to conduct research about both “basic science concepts” and diabetes treatment.

“All these strategies lead up to one goal and that’s to provide the best quality care and experience for patients with diabetes and their families,” Wintergerst said.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.