Third-year resident Thorarinn Bjarnason, MD, has another set of initials to add behind his name, PhD. A couple months ago, Bjarnason returned home to Reykjavik, Iceland, to successfully defend his dissertation “Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in the Acute Coronary Syndrome: Diagnosis, effect on atherosclerotic burden and prognosis” at the University of Iceland. The work represents years of research and study on Bjarnason’s part, including three publications: one in PLoS One and two in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, one an Editor’s Choice in 2017 and a more recent one earlier this year.
“We wanted to identify the most reliable method of diagnosing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in people with acute coronary syndrome,” Bjarnason said. In addition, the researchers hoped to gain a better sense of the impact diabetes has on atherosclerosis and who might be most at risk for future adverse cardiac events. More than 370 patients coming to the Landspitali National University Hospital of Iceland were evaluated and classified in glucometabolic groups according to current criteria outlined by the American Diabetes Association. Ultimately, among many other findings, Bjarnason found that reasonably certain diagnoses could be obtained through repeated measurements of HbA1c and fasting plasma glucose and that patients with prediabetes and diabetes have increased atherosclerotic burden compared with patients with normal glucose metabolism.
Asked about working on this while still also in Iowa’s Internal Medicine Residency Program, Bjarnason said, “It took a lot of organization, determination and many phone calls to my mentor, Dr. Karl Andersen. His encouragement, as well as witnessing the flourishing research activity among my fellow residents and faculty at UIHC, inspired me to work on and earn my PhD. Finally, this would not have been possible without the help and support from my wonderful wife, Ina, and my two daughters, Audur and Vigdis.” Bjarnason is also grateful to program leadership at Iowa for accommodating the often tricky schedule requirements that allowed him to manage both sets of academic responsibilities.