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Lois Jovanovič, MD: 1947-2018

Dr. Lois Jovanovič pioneered the protocols that make it possible for women with diabetes to deliver healthy babies.
Courtesy Photo

When Lois left this earth on the day before Yom Kippur, September 18, the world mourned. Word of her passing traveled from Santa Barbara to her “cousins” across the globe — Los Angeles, Israel, Spain, and beyond. Our inboxes at the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute were soon bursting with condolences and stories from patients whose lives had been forever changed by her gifted approach as a physician.

During my years following her around, soaking up as much wisdom as possible, she shared many stories. Some of my favorites were her reflections of simplistic pearls about her day-to-day life as a mother to her beloved two children, Kevin and Larisa. As a mother in New York City, she would use the N.Y.C. Museum of Modern Art as a playground. She also talked a lot about how proud she was of her grown children and their successful lives and her extraordinary grandchildren, Larisa’s Caitlyn and Madeline and Kevin’s Luke and Dylan.

My other favorite stories were about the challenges of being a mother in medicine with the added challenge of having type 1 diabetes. As both a physician and mother in the 1970s at Cornell, she needed to hide her pregnancies until she delivered. She’d later tuck her infants under the nurses’ station so she could do the rounds on her patients, her brazen tenacity opening doors that were previously closed to women. Lois was “leaning in” well before it was popular to do so. Dr. Lois Jovanovič was an exceptional speaker and teacher with an extraordinary stage presence.

Though Lois treasured Santa Barbara’s stunning sunsets, she loved traveling the world teaching how to better manage diabetes. The numerous accolades she received for her art of speaking were well-earned through years of practice and hard work — her poise and grace remnants of her accomplished past of dance, which included an audition at the New York City Ballet. While traveling, Lois adored seeing her many “cousins” — friends and colleagues who are endocrinologists throughout the world — at international diabetes meetings, and often seemed to be more at home in their company than she did in her office at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.

Lois was known for being the voice for women with diabetes. She taught her patients that they were perfect just as they were, that they were extraordinary, and that they must strive for nothing but the best blood sugars. She taught hundreds of budding physicians not only to be the brightest but also to be the most compassionate patient-centered doctors they could be. Lois was a bold, audacious trailblazer who could be challenging and obstinate, which could be frustrating, but these traits were what allowed her to break down barriers and change the world.

Lois was renowned internationally for her extraordinary contributions to medical science, specifically for pioneering the protocols that make it possible for women with diabetes to deliver healthy babies. Lois received so many awards, appointments, and accolades, and authored more than 500 articles in the field of diabetes, but she is best known for her loving heart. Those who knew her well would attest that even though her heart was often heavy with life’s challenges, it was filled with her tremendous capacity for love. Though our star has fallen, the light that Lois brought to this world shines brighter than ever.

Lois, you had many names from the many people who loved you — Lois, Dr. Jovanovič, Dr. J., Lea, Little Lois, LoJo, and Diva of Diabetes in Pregnancy, to name a few. On behalf of all the people whose lives you touched, we are deeply grateful for your love and compassion. You are a brilliant star that will continue to shine.

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