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St. Luke’s Tackles Legendary Football Coach’s Diabetes and Scores Big Win
October 22, 2014

Steve Shiffert is the winningest head coach in the winning-rich history of Easton Area High School Red Rovers Football.

The Red Rovers are ranked #2 all-time in Pennsylvania high school football team victories and have been ranked as high as #7 all-time in the USA.

Named a Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame member in 2011 while still coaching (a rarity), Steve Shiffert head coached the Red Rovers’ 100th season in 1994, their 1,000th game in 1999, their 700th win in 2004, and their 800th win in 2013.

Since he took over as Easton’s head coach in 1993, Coach Shiffert’s football teams have won five League Championships, five District 11 Championships (including seven runners-up and sixteen playoff appearances), five Eastern Conference South titles, four Lehigh Valley Conference Championships, three East Penn Conference championships, three PIAA Eastern Final appearances, and a Mountain Valley Conference crown. Easton football also has the most District XI class 4A championships in the Lehigh Valley with six.

Coach Shiffert was named The Express-Times Coach of the Year in 1993, 2004, and 2009 and District 11 honored him with Coach of the Year awards in 2004, 2009, and 2010.

Now in his 42nd season as a football coach, having started at Notre Dame in 1973 before moving over to Easton as an assistant coach in 1976, Steve Shiffert is going as strong as ever and says he has “no plans to retire any time soon.”

But he didn’t feel this way during halftime of a home game at Cottingham Stadium last season.

Not the kind of ‘spiking’ you want to see.

“I felt so lousy,” Coach Shiffert says, “lethargic, weak, dizzy, not the shape you want to be in while coaching a football game, or at any time, for that matter.”

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St. Luke’s/Easton High School athletic trainer Gary Gardiner was onsite for the game and noticed the distress Coach Shiffert was in. “Yeah, coach looked really bad,” Gardiner says, “flush white, ashen really. I’m a type II diabetic myself, I wear an insulin pump, and I knew Coach Shiffert had been diagnosed with type II diabetes some years before. So I tested Coach Shiffert’s blood and his numbers were super low.”

“Nobody was really managing my diabetes,” Coach Shiffert adds, “including myself, I hadn’t seen my doctor in probably over a year at that time. And when I did see him, the game plan was usually to just increase the same medication I had been taking. In hindsight, I really believe that the strenuous exercise I used to get officiating 60-70 basketball games a year is probably what saved me. But then I had two knee surgeries, one a knee replacement, the other an ACL replacement, and I couldn’t ref basketball anymore and that’s when things started to get less and less stable with my diabetes. That and my tendency to over eat after football practices and make anything I saw with chocolate in it disappear real fast.”

“Kind of a recipe for disaster,” adds Gary Gardiner. “I contacted St. Luke’s Sports Medicine doc and Red Rovers team physician Gregory F. Carolan, MD and he fast track/prioritized Coach Shiffert in to see St. Luke’s endocrinologist, Bankim A. Bhatt, MD

St. Luke’s Center for Diabetes & Endocrinology

“Our treatment goal of course is to prevent the complications of diabetes,” Dr. Bhatt says, “and they can include an array of very serious conditions such as blindness, kidney failure, peripheral nerve damage, amputations, heart attack, and stroke.”

Board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology, Dr. Bhatt graduated from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in chemistry. He earned his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA. Dr. Bhatt completed his residency at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. and a three-year endocrinology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Temple University’s School of Medicine and is particularly interested in treating patients with diabetes.

“I first saw Coach Shiffert in October 2013 when we assessed his medications, and how he was doing, and he was not doing very well,” Dr. Bhatt says. “His blood sugar levels were spiking all the time, especially pronounced after meals, and his insulin wasn’t regulating his blood sugar. He felt tired all the time, dizzy, and thirsty, and he was urinating frequently.”

The physicians at St. Luke’s Center for Diabetes & Endocrinology are certified specialists in treating diabetes and disorders of the thyroid, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal gland, ovaries, and testes.

“The first thing I recommended for Coach Shiffert, as we do for all our diabetes patients,” Dr. Bhatt says, “is take full advantage of the St. Luke’s Diabetes Education Center.”

St. Luke’s Diabetes Education Center offers individualized appointments and group classes for education on the self-management of diabetes. The Center offers education for insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring. Educators provide patients with the skills they need to manage diabetes more effectively, to prevent complications, and to take control of diabetes. The Center offers a variety of services including nutritional counseling, Living Well with Diabetes classes, diabetes and pregnancy classes, and one-on-one visits for needs such as insulin and meter instruction.

“For Coach Shiffert,” Dr. Bhatt continues, “we changed his insulin from two kinds of injectable medicine to one. And for the next three months, with Gary Gardiner monitoring him, twice a day, and faxing me the results, we kept adjusting his dosage downward, tweaking it, until we arrived at the least amount of medication returning the best outcomes.”

“I really appreciated Dr. Bhatt’s approach,” Coach Shiffert says, “he didn’t do anything drastic and he told me I’d feel worse before I felt better, and he was right, but knowing what to expect made that easier for me. We changed up my diet some too and made sure I stayed hydrated, and by April, we were both able to see that I had been feeling good for like 3-4 months and I have felt consistently good ever since. It feels like a victory to me.”

When asked about his many accomplishments on the football field, Coach Steve Shiffert says his “longevity” is what he’s most proud of.

St. Luke’s is proud to be helping Coach Steve Shiffert keep that going.

St. Luke’s Sports Medicine
St. Luke’s has assembled a team of highly qualified licensed athletic trainers that will work with your athletic program and your athletes and set a new standard of quality for comprehensive training and sports medicine services. When you’re on St. Luke’s team, your athletes benefit from fast track/priority scheduling and care. This means we expedite the diagnosis and treatment of your athletes’ injuries and get them healthy and back in your line-up ASAP. For more information about St. Luke’s Sports Medicine, call St. Luke’s InfoLink at 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537).