Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2008
Doctor credits God for his discoveries
Diabetes researcher Dr. Ray Rajotte named to the Order of Canada
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I'm a firm believer that God put you here for a purpose."
- Dr. Ray Rajotte
Raised on a farm outside Wainwright, Rajotte attended Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask., where he was deeply influenced by the words of Father Athol Murray, who urged each student to "set high goals for yourself."
From Murray he also learned to be a strong ecumenist and to respect all faiths. This has served him well over the years, as he has had graduate students from all over the world and virtually every denomination.
"I think it is interesting that diabetes doesn't differentiate if you are Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist or Jewish," he said. "So even though I'm a strong Christian I have always been very sensitive to other faiths and cultures."
Rajotte moved to Edmonton in 1965 to attend the X-ray technologist program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and was part of its first graduating class. During his early years working at the Edmonton General Hospital Ray met his wife Gloria, a nurse, whom he married in 1966. She used to make $450 a month and supported Rajotte for 13 years while he completed his doctoral work. The couple has two grown sons and a daughter.
At the General, Rajotte also met Dr. George Bondar, who involved him in research projects at the hospital. Rajotte's work developed into an interest in biomedical engineering and he decided to further his education at the University of Alberta. He tailored his studies to both medicine and engineering, earning masters in electrical engineering. He completed a doctorate in biomedical engineering in 1975.
Rajotte's research in cryobiology took a significant turn early in his career when he attended a presentation on islets, the small structures in the pancreas responsible for insulin production. Driven by curiosity, he began experimenting with ways to freeze islets for future use in research or transplantation.
Rajotte completed postdoctoral training at several top research laboratories in the United States and was recruited back to the University of Alberta in the mid-1970s to join the departments of surgery and medicine.
In 1982 he started the islet transplant group, a team of clinical scientists with the skills to successfully transplant islets into patients suffering from type1 diabetes. In 1989, his team carried out Canada's first islet transplant, using technology Rajotte developed during his doctoral work.
Their third transplant patient enjoyed long-term insulin independence. By 1999, the islet transplantation group demonstrated a 100-per-cent success rate in freeing severe diabetics from insulin injections. Transplantation centres worldwide have adopted the Edmonton Protocol.
"People often ask if islet transplantation is a cure, but in actual fact I always look at it as a better treatment," Rajotte said. "To me a cure would be when we develop a vaccine, like the polio vaccine."
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.