Medical Field: Ophthalmology
Award: Winner
Country: Croatia
Year: 2022
Research Work: HDL cholesterol is a protective predictor in the development and progression of retinopathy in type 1 diabetes: a 15-year follow-up study
Published in: Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice

It's a great honor to be a finalist, and it confirms that all that I do every day in my clinic and also in my research is worthwhile. It's also a great motivation to continue with further research and ideas.


Martina Tomić, MD, PhD, is an Ophthalmologist and Retina Specialist at the Vuk Vrhovac University Clinic, Merkur University Hospital in Zagreb, Croatia. She is also a lecturer of Biomedicine and Health Sciences and Specialist Studies in Endocrinology and Diabetology at the School of Medicine, University of Zagreb, and School of Medicine, University of Rijeka.

When she was young, a book called "Družba Pere Kvržice" (en. Pero the Lump's Gang) greatly influenced her. In it, a young boy always says, "I have an idea!". And as she always had new ideas and was very good at physics, chemistry and biology in high school, it was a natural path to becoming a physician.

Besides her clinical work, her motivation to do research is her great team and excellent mentors. They educated her and motivated her to fall in love with research work. Her inspiration also stems from her family, skiing, free climbing and hiking. But even on vacation, her work does not stop.

In fact, she loves her work so much that she always carries her laptop with her on vacation and does statistics. Even her application for the International Medis Awards was completed during her holidays in Austria. 

Her everyday clinical and research work focuses on diabetic retinopathy (DR) and achieving "one more" letter of visual acuity for her patients with diabetes. Identifying the risk factors for the start and worsening of DR is crucial for helping people with diabetes to stay healthy and avoid blindness.

The study showed that people with type 1 diabetes, despite achieving better control of their blood sugar levels and regularly checking their eyes, still develop a diabetic eye disease called retinopathy. The main things that make this more likely are concurrent diabetic kidney disease and already present signs of eye disease. High HDL – "good" cholesterol levels can help protect against diabetic eye disease. The study also confirmed that diabetic eye and kidney disease often happen together, and it's important to control things like lipids to avoid blindness due to diabetes and stay healthy.