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An Uncommon Doctor

By David Mendosa

This is an uncommon book about an uncommon doctor. One of the ways in which the book is different is because it is divided almost equally between Dr. Joe Prendergast the person and Dr. Joe’s endocrinology practice.

John Joseph Prendergast, M.D., is an endocrinologist in Redwood City, California, about midway between San Francisco and San Jose. A practicing physician for more than 30 years, he is board certified in internal medicine as well as in endocrinology and metabolism. His office, the Endocrine Metabolic Medical Center, which he founded in 1986, is a clinic primarily for people with diabetes.

I have known “Dr. Joe,” as he likes to be called, for years. But until I read his book, I didn’t realize just how uncommon he is.

What amazed me the most about Dr. Joe, the person, as I read about him is that here is a man with a rare but severe learning disability. He has the inherited galactosemia trait that makes it difficult for him to learn. He just works harder to learn than most people do. My guess is that this is one of the reasons why Dr. Joe has so much understanding for the rest of us.

He says that the core of his practice is patient enpowerment. I know that from my own experience, because seven years ago when I was writing about a new thing called “telemedicine,” he was my telemedicine doctor, one of the first to reach out to people with diabetes in that way. I was living then in Santa Cruz, California, which is about 50 miles from Dr. Joe’s office, and all of our contact was by email, modem, and phone.

During the period of almost a year in which I participated in Dr. Joe’s program, I continued to see my endocrinologist in Santa Cruz from time to time. But the long-distance care and attention that Dr. Joe and his staff of nurses and educators gave me inspired me to take better care of myself.

One huge enthusiasm like telemedicine is enough to set a doctor well apart from common folk. But what amazes me about Dr. Joe, the endocrinologist, is the number of his enthusiasms.

I don’t know all of his enthusiams, and there must be many that he doesn’t mention in this book. For example, he is a leading advocate of Anodyne Therapy, a treatment for diabetic neuropathy, and wrote one of the leading research reports about it. But he doesn’t cover it here.

He does write at length about l-arginine, a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps our arteries. Dr. Joe’s personal discovery of l-arginine opened up the whole world of nutritional supplements to him.

A high level of Vitamin D — 3,000 IU daily — is a nutraceutical that he also believes in. He adds the caveat that if you take more than the recommended level, you need to have your blood regularly tested for toxicity. He doesn’s say what the recommended dose is, but it is much lower. However, the U.S. government’s new diatary guidelines endorsed much higher amounts — 800 to 1,000 IU per day — than they previously did.

Byetta is one of his most recent enthusiasms. In fact, he waxes so enthusiastic about it that I am about to try it!

The Uncommon Doctor: Dr. Joe’s Rx for Managing Your Health is a 176-page trade paperback listed at $19.95. Endocrine Therapeutics Inc. published it on January 15, 2006. The ISBN is 1-59975-022-8. 

This article originally appeared on, January 20, 2006.

    David Mendosa is a freelance journalist and consultant specializing in diabetes and lives in Boulder, Colorado. When he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in February 1994, he began to write entirely about that condition. His articles and columns have appeared in many of the major diabetes magazines and websites. His own website, David Mendosa’s Diabetes Directory, established in 1995, was one of the first and is now one of the largest with that focus. Every month he also publishes an online newsletter called “Diabetes Update.” He is a co-author of What Makes My Blood Glucose Go Up...And Down? (New York: Marlowe & Co., August 2003).

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