Medtronic Medtronic Medtronic Medtronic

Pumping in Kazakhstan - Might Not Be What You Think

By Dr. Francine Kaufman

Chief Medical Officer

Posted:  11/5/2012 5:33 PM


Kazakhstan is one of the best kept secrets in the world. If you think it is what was portrayed a few years ago in a rather irreverent movie, you are totally wrong. It is a vast country stretching across the Silk Road from Iran to China with a diverse ethnic/racial population and incredible resources – oil, gas and minerals – that have enabled the government to advance education, housing, industry and health for its people.  I went there to assess and advance Medtronic’s partnership with the Kazakh Ministry of Health to place 790 children on insulin pump therapy in a few months and to follow their outcomes for one year.

My time was spent in Kazakhstan’s two largest cities, its new and old capitols, Astana and Almaty.  Astana is 12 years old and filled with new towers, malls, and wonders; Almaty is ancient, revealing what it was like before and during the Soviet time. I was accompanied by some of Medtronic’s finest – Kirk Monson and David Okhoton – and we worked together with the Kazakh Medtronic team led by two highly committed, intelligent and engaging women filled with grace and charm –  Aigul Muratalina and Gulzhakhan Shamshatova.

Aigul and Gulzhakhan had already established a highly credible education program and support for the Kazakh endocrinologists, and I was thrilled to be able to add to it.  We had an advisory meeting with 12 physicians (and a working lunch and dinner) and we all rolled up our sleeves to get to the nitty-gritty of dosage adjustment. You could see light bulbs going off throughout the day, in part because they had already been trained and retrained on all aspects of pump therapy. An adorable 7-year-old boy, who was the size of a 5-year-old, was presented because he has hyperglycemia except for during exercise, when he gets low.  So we changed his pump settings, learned about management during exercise and then continued to see patients in one of their inpatient units and in one of their clinics. The patients were adorable, and excited to be on pumps, although the 12-year-old girl, who looked like any teenager anywhere, did roll her eyes occasionally at what I said about her diabetes control. 

The children going on pumps have not been well managed in the past.  Many of them have growth failure, delayed puberty, stiff joints in their hands (something no longer seen in the US), big livers and very high A1Cs.  Parents keep incredible logbooks, doctors upload to CareLink and review records, and Medtronic supports their efforts with a 24-hourHelpLine, ongoing education and data collection.  I will admit I didn’t meet one male doctor, and as far as I can tell, women dominate medicine, except for at the very top.  At least their glass ceiling appears to be as high as their mountains.

I did take a little time to see some sites, museums, the mountains, the Kazazh monuments, and I realized how proud they are of their nomadic past.  The Kazakh people revere their democratically elected President (for life), or at least appear to.  His picture and name are everywhere. Around since the Soviet time, he has taken his country’s riches and given them back to the people of Kazakhstan. They live well, get health care for free, including many recent advances, and have a standard of living that looks like it rivals ours (if not exceeds it).  And now that includes insulin pumps and supplies for children (they have committed to putting half of the children with type 1 diabetes between 5 and 15 years of age on pump therapy).  We ate – at least we were offered food - non-stop, including the great Kazakh delicacy, horse. Needless to say, I didn’t get near it.

In summary, what an experience to see a government committed to changing the lives of some of their most vulnerable citizens, to see a young and old city, vibrant and growing, to meet hard-working, compassionate, committed people and to be one of the few who has witnessed firsthand that Kazakhstan is not what was portrayed by a movie that put them on the map for most of the outside world. Enjoy the pictures of the cities and the doctors, patients and families.


Teri Mascuch

Posted on Tue Nov 06 04:11:49 GMT 2012

Dear Dr. Kaufman

I am very happy you wrote this blog and summary of your time in Kazahkstan. I live well with pump therapy. I lived in and traveled extensively for 2 years in China and Southeast Asia. So many indigenous with whom I traveled asked me to please come back and teach them how to live so successfully with diabetes. My dream is to begin an NGO for such purpose as you have written; to spread knowledge and access to pump therapy for better compliance and success with diabetes. Having read your blog I now realize Medtronic is doing just this, in Kazakhstan atleast.

I would be very glad if we could speak about these efforts at Medtronic. As the incoming Chair of the MD ADA, I have the privilege to associate with many fine Endocrinologists who agree my dream could prove successful. With the news from your blog, I know there is a path of success to follow.

Best regards and thank you in advance for your reply.

Teri Curran Mascuch
VP Product Development, McCormick & Co., Inc.
Incoming Chair, MD ADA

Jon Gurley

Posted on Wed May 01 12:01:46 GMT 2013

I am presently in Taraz Kazakhstan teaching for an NGO. I am on an insulin pump and was showing a friend my pump last night and learned of a young child with out of control blood sugar. She asked me to find a trusted endrocanologist nearby that could help. Your blog indicated that help is availble here in country. If you could please refer me to the best clinic for help I would be grateful. Thank you.


Posted on Wed May 01 16:02:46 GMT 2013

Hi Jon, thanks for reaching out. We are the US team, but please check the attached link for a local contact in Kazakhstan who would be happy to help

Jon Gurley

Posted on Tue May 07 01:30:18 GMT 2013

Thank you so much! I have passed the information on to the people in Taraz.

John Phelan

Posted on Sun Aug 25 07:12:26 GMT 2013

Hi there, I'm Irish but living in Almaty city. Unfortunately, self injecting, however disciplined I am, is just not working for me. I really would like to learn more about pumping and possibly move on to this control method.

I am happy to pay for this myself.

Could you put me in touch with the suppliers of these here please?

Thank you very much.



Posted on Mon Aug 26 15:58:47 GMT 2013

Hi John, I recommend following up with the local team in Kazakhstan at +7 727 31 05 80 or They should be able to answer all of your questions about insulin pump therapy. We wish you the best of luck!

Post a Comment

Thank you for posting on The LOOP!

We'll review your comment shortly. Please see our comment policy if you have any questions.

~The LOOP Team

Innovating for life.


You are leaving

You just clicked a link to go to another website. If you continue, you will leave this site and go to a site run by someone else.

Medtronic does not review or control the content on the other website, and we are not responsible for any business dealings or transactions you have there. Your use of the other site is subject to the terms of use and privacy statement on that site.

If you want to visit the other website, click

If you do not want to visit the other website, click Cancel