Ernesto Roma

Ernesto Roma, 1886-1978. Portuguese diabetologist, founder of the Portuguese Diabetes Association, the oldest diabetes patient association in the world.

Ernesto Roma, born in 1886, was the founder of the APDP, the Associação Protectora dos Diabéticos de Portugal, the oldest diabetes patient association in the world.

He graduated in medicine at the Lisbon Medical school and later travelled to Paris and to Boston. It was in Boston, in 1922, that he witnessed the "revolution of insulin" in the Joslin clinic, where the discoverers of insulin had sent the first few vials of the product. This experience had a lasting impact on his future.

On his return to Portugal he became acknowledged as an expert diabetologist and many diabetis patients converged on his clinic. Frustrated by the growing number of deaths caused by diabetes in people that did not have the financial means to acquire insulin, Roma mobilised wealthy diabetics and created the Portuguese Diabetes Association, the APDP, in 1926.

After the creation of the APDP, he immediately introduced diabetes education as a vital means of allowing people with diabetes to perform selfmonitoring, self-injections and encouraging an adequate diet. With this, he introduced the concept of diabetes education to Europe, allowing a relatively unrestricted diet once diabetics had started insulin. He never gave up his studies in several fields of diabetology and for several decades maintained the only diabetes training school for nurses and doctors.

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