Do you know this giant lurking in SWS?

27th August 2020, Dr Chee L Khoo

I first met him in December 2014 just before he started work at Western Sydney University in 2015. For someone who has just arrived in south west Sydney, I was most impressed to see how well he grasped the problems we have with the quality of care in patients with diabetes in our area. His visions for the area instantly resonated with me in that one meeting over coffee. The rest is history, as they say. He has a career spanning 30 years working in his specialty, global research and epidemiology. He recently received the very prestigious Norbert Freinkel Award for 2020. I thought it might be insightful to preview his achievements this week. Who is this giant lurking in our backyard whose accolades just keep going on and on? Read on.

He is no other than Distinguished Professor David Simmons. Since joining Western Sydney University (WSU), he has worked with the communities of Greater Western Sydney to help find better ways for people to manage their diabetes and reduce the incidence of disabling and life- threatening complications. He has brought together, consolidated, organised and rationalised diabetes services in our area. He has streamlined standards of diabetes care across the area which is no mean feat.

As a junior doctor in Coventry, England, he established the Coventry Diabetes Study (1991), a household survey that subsequently became his doctorate (1). On moving to South Auckland, New Zealand, he was mentored by the late Dr David Scott, who established one of the first diabetes in pregnancy clinics and a community-based programme to prevent diabetes complications among local Pacific and Maori people. This led him to commence research into the epidemiology of diabetes in pregnancy. He has authored more than 300 publications and has supervised countless PhD students, Honours students and medical students.


He is the Professor of Medicine at WSU and the head of Macarthur Diabetes Service. He, of course heads the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Translational Research Unit (DOMTRU), our research hub in south west Sydney and Director of SPHERE Diabetes Obesity Metabolism Clinical Academic Group. He is also a Professorial Fellow at University of Melbourne, Visiting Professor at University of Orebro, Sweden and Guest Professor at First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, China.

He has had numerous appointments on international committees including acting as chair of the diabetes in pregnancy writing group for the International Diabetes Federation Atlas Committee, membership of the WHO working group on the Technical Report on screening for GDM and Chief Technical Advisor Tongan Gestational Diabetes Taskforce. In Australia, Professor Simmons was Chair of ADIPS from 1998-2002 and returned to the board of ADIPS in 2016 and is a current director. He remains Chair of the National Diabetes in Pregnancy Audit Programme which aims to establish a benchmarking program for diabetes in pregnancy in Australia.


Professor Simmons research is driven by his early work and is centred around the prevention, diagnosis and management of diabetes in pregnancy. His most recent research includes a randomised controlled trial of gestational diabetes prevention (DALI) (2) and a randomised controlled trial of early pregnancy gestational diabetes diagnosis and treatment (TOBOGM) (3). Both studies address critical research questions, the results of which will guide the clinical care of women with diabetes in pregnancy. Both of these studies significantly underpin the rationale and strategy of GDM screening and management in south west Sydney. The algorithm may all look terribly confusing initially (even to endocrinologists) but there is a solid foundation behind it. Have a look at the algorithm on healthpathways. We will review the issue in GPVoice next week.

He collaborates widely and has also recently been involved in the MiTY study (4), CDC4G study in Sweden (5), and the DCAPP (Diabetes Contraception and Pre-Pregnancy Programme) in NSW. He has been involved in population-based programmes including pre-pregnancy care programs, integrated diabetes care programmes across both primary and secondary care, diabetes care in young persons (18-25 years old) and diabetes detection and gestational diabetes management projects in Tonga. The depth and breadth of his research career is immense.

Under normal circumstances, Professor David Simmons would be recognised with the honour of the Norbert Freinkel award at the American Diabetes Association’s 80th Scientific Sessions and would deliver the Norbert Freinkel Award Lecture. But Covid-19 hit.

Let us all congratulate Professor David Simmons on receiving this prestigious award. We are so lucky to have Professor Simmons working amongst us in south west Sydney and I am so privileged to be able to work with Professor Simmons at DOMTRU. Let’s all work together to improve the care of our patients with diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes. He can’t do it alone.


  1. Simmons D, Williams DR, Powell MJ. The Coventry Diabetes Study: prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance in Europids and Asians. Q J Med. 1991;81(296):1021-1030. doi:10.1093/qjmed/81.3.1021
  2. Jelsma, J.G., van Poppel, M.N., Galjaard, S. et al. DALI: Vitamin D and lifestyle intervention for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) prevention: an European multicentre, randomised trial – study protocol. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 13, 142 (2013).
  3. David Simmons, William M Hague, Helena J Teede, N Wah Cheung, Emily J Hibbert, Christopher J Nolan, Michael J Peek, Federico Girosi, Christopher T Cowell, Vincent W-M Wong, Jeff R Flack, Mark McLean, Raiyomand Dalal, Annette Robertson and Rohit Rajagopal. Hyperglycaemia in early pregnancy: the Treatment of Booking Gestational diabetes Mellitus (TOBOGM) study. A randomised controlled trial. Med J Aust 2018; 209 (9): 405-406. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.01129
  4. Feig, D.S., Murphy, K., Asztalos, E. et al. Metformin in women with type 2 diabetes in pregnancy (MiTy): a multi-center randomized controlled trial. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 16, 173 (2016).
  5. Fadl, H., Saeedi, M., Montgomery, S. et al. Changing diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes in Sweden – a stepped wedge national cluster randomised controlled trial – the CDC4G study protocol. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 19, 398 (2019).