Out of the classroom and into the Michigan Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics conference

nora-whiteA week ago Friday, a group of fifteen or so dietetics students trekked up to the outskirts of Bay City—a smallish town right in the thumb crotch of the Michigan mitt—for the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ daylong fall conference. Aside from being treated to a show as a leather-skinned old man wearing a flags of the world Speedo paced in front of the conference room’s picture window, which looked out onto the pool (I admit he had me entranced—sorry conference presenters!), our group was also exposed to riveting topics of an intellectual nature. On tap for the day:

  •  A presentation focused on malnutrition (highlighting causes of malnourishment for the actual underweight population, not for the growing number of overweight people with poor nutritional status)
  •  A lecture on the implications of polypharmacy, or the use of five or more medications (whether prescribed, over-the-counter, and/or herbal), typically by the 65+ crowd. Did you know that in the United States, the average number of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs used by adults is six medications, which jumps to nine if you are in an institutional setting? Wow.
  •  Right before lunch, which you know every attendee was silently clamoring for, was a rousing information session about a state proposal to deregulate the dietitian title and give non-dietitians the legal right to provide nutrition advice—the first I had heard of this issue. Judging from the constant stream of questions from conference goers (and the use of “those idiots” to describe the holistic practitioners rooting for the passage of this law), this was clearly the hot topic of the conference—at least for several outspoken Michigan Academy leaders who grappled for the mike and chimed in to emphasize deregulation’s hypothesized effects on job security and the quality of nutritional advice. For more back story on the proposal: http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/18690
  •  In an ironic twist, the deregulation brouhaha was followed by a presentation on best practices for working with the media.
  •  Last up was a talk about the patient centered medical home model, which unites the patient, his or her primary care physician, and a diversity of medical practitioners together to facilitate a more integrated network of care. Unlike the typical scenario of seeing your doctor, who just tells you, the diabetic, to watch your weight and monitor your glucose levels, this concept puts the patient in the driver’s seat to work in tandem with doctors, specialists, dietitians, social workers, and whomever else is needed to achieve tangible results. Judging from the presentation, the concept seems to be taking off at the presenter’s workplace—and reducing insurer costs—but still has yet to be implemented on a larger scale. Seems like doing so will be the wave of the future, and hopefully the ticket to better health outcomes, like chronic disease reversal instead of mere maintenance.

All in all, there was a wealth of information to be gleaned from the conference, and it was a welcome contrast to hear about happenings in the world of practice since the majority of our academic studies are focused on theory and knowledge acquisition.

Inspired by a suggestion from a Bay City native, I led my willing car passengers post-conference to a local pizza place, which turned out to be take-out only. So after a 20 minute look-see around the neighborhood while our pizzas were being made, we sat like hobos on a park bench and guzzled the slices. Not ten minutes later, while driving through Bay City proper en route home, we collectively couldn’t help ourselves from stopping at MaMa Lupo’s Homemade Ice Cream for single scoops the size of pint containers—a sweet way to end the day and reinforce that we live in America, the “land of plenty,” a fact we future nutrition practitioners will be battling for the rest of our professional careers.

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