The Family on the Front Lines Against Diabetes

There are more than four million people in the state of Kentucky. Approximately 15%, or 600,000 Kentuckians, have diabetes. Kentucky ranks fifth in the nation for the highest number of residents with the condition. The Barnstable-Brown family wants to change that. 

Patricia Barnstable-Brown and her twin sister, Priscilla—identical middle-aged white women with blonde hair—stand in front of a lit sign reading Barnstable Brown Party. Both are wearing elegant dresses.
Patricia and Priscilla shine at one of the Barnstable-Brown Derby Eve Galas.
Note: Some photos in this story were taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diabetes is personal for Patricia Barnstable-Brown: her late husband, Dr. David E. Brown, had diabetes himself, and passed away in 2003 from diabetes-related complications. After that, the Barnstable-Brown family made improving the lives of Kentuckians with diabetes their philanthropic mission. The family is well known for their annual Derby Eve Gala, which has raised nearly seventeen million dollars for diabetes research and education. The heart of that effort is the highly regarded diabetes center named in their honor.

Jeff Bezos, a bald man in a brown and black suit, looks at a phone with Christopher Barnstable-Brown, a tall young man with brown hair, at the Barnstable Brown Gala.
The annual Derby Eve Gala attracts celebrity guests like Jeff Bezos, pictured here with Christopher Barnstable-Brown.

The Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center was established in 2008 with the support of Patricia, Priscilla (her twin sister), and their mother, Wilma. The Center is not only a place of leading-edge research, but a place for people with diabetes to seek education and further their knowledge of the disease. The Center offers access to clinical care, testing, classes and consultations for people living with diabetes, as well as those at risk for developing the condition.

A check presentation inside the UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center. Representatives of the Barnstable-Brownfamily present a check for $1.02 million, raised during the 2018 Barnstable-Brown Gala, to Dr. Mark Newman, Executive VP of Health Affairs at UK HealthCare.
The more than $1 million raised at the 2018 Derby Eve Gala is one of many donations presented by the Barnstable-Brown family.

“The Center has helped bring awareness and more open dialogue about diabetes,” said Lisa Deaton-Greer, Senior Director of Philanthropy, UK HealthCare. “Up until fifteen or twenty years ago, diabetes wasn’t talked about. The reality is people are living with diabetes, and we’re having a big impact on helping change that culture. People can have a normal lifestyle, and get it under control and treated. The Center has done a remarkable job of education on prevention, risk factors, helping people identify their risk, and the things they can do to keep from developing more progressive diabetes.”

An interior view of the lobby of the UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center where there is a spread of chairs and tables, paintings on the wall, various signs and informational monitors.
“We have a cohesive clinical center, where our patients can be educated in a class or do a one-on-one consultation.”

“In addition to providing excellent clinical care, we are able to support lab-based, clinical and community research,” said Shawn Crouch, an administrator at the Center. “This gives us the opportunity to better understand what causes diabetes and the complications of the condition. Because of the Center, we are able to focus on how to better diagnose, prevent and treat diabetes.”

The impact of the Center isn’t just apparent to those who work there. The people whose lives have been affected by the work of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center are proof of its impact. Eric Gettler is one such patient—the Center has been part of his life since he was diagnosed in childhood.

A silver sign reading “UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center,” mounted on the interior wall of a building.
“We are here to support the patient and make sure that they're empowered to take care of themselves.”

“Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center has been such a great resource for me,” said Eric. “I was just a kid when I was diagnosed and now am an adult attending the UK College of Pharmacy. Dr. Jackson Smith, a pediatric and adult endocrinologist, is my physician. He and the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center team—from the pediatric clinic to the adult clinic as well as outpatient education services—have helped answer my many questions as I’ve figured out how to live with diabetes. Having providers and educators that I can turn to for anything has been such a lifeline over the years.”

An exterior view of the UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center building, showing grey and cream walls and large windows.
“This is a well-supported clinical team backed up by research around the causes of diabetes.”

Eric’s story is just one of thousands—proof of the Barnstable-Brown family’s impact. Not only is the Barnstable-Brown family changing countless lives—their work in building diabetes awareness and funding research will change Kentucky’s health landscape for decades to come.  

Raising this level of funds is tough work, but the family is very passionate about it,” said Shawn. “When they come to the clinic to see the work being done, their faces light up knowing all their hard work has impacted so many lives. That’s very gratifying for us who are doing the work—to see them be very, very happy about the way they’re giving back to Kentucky.”

A group of people, including members of UK, UK HealthCare, and the Barnstable-Brown family, pose for a photo at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expanded UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.
“Seeing the impact on people's lives—that's very gratifying for us who are doing the work.”

Learn about the work we’re doing at UK HealthCare’s

Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

Jill Blake, a middle-aged white woman with brown hair, stands in an outdoor setting and smiles while she looks away from camera. She is wearing a dark red sweater.