Posted on 03/04/2011 at 01:04:13 PM by Student BloggerBy: Guest Student Blogger, ASN Student Interest Group leader Mary N. Henderson, RD
As a Registered Dietitian and fourth year graduate student in the Nutritional Biology graduate program at the University of California, Davis there is only one thing I look forward to on a daily basis – when I will be able to step away from the lab and my teaching responsibilities to take a break. Do not get me wrong, I am still completely passionate about my research and the career path that I am pursuing, however, for any of us that have been through or are going through graduate school, the process is intense and often that “me” time is lost.
With that being said, when I first heard about the ASN Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference, I really did not think much about it except that it sounded like a great conference but one that I would most likely miss. That was until a colleague pointed out that the conference was being held in San Francisco, CA. If anyone is familiar with California, San Francisco is a little over an hour away from Davis – definitely a manageable trip!
Very quickly that “good conference” turned into my “weekend getaway” and my opportunity to step away to have some “me” time. I would also be able to spend time with friends from our program outside of the UCD campus (something that is often the exception and not the norm!). I could also not feel entirely guilty about taking a whole weekend off because I was doing something academic and nutrition-related. This was going to be a great weekend …
I arrived at the conference on Friday and once I sat down to listen to the first talk I was completely captivated, which did not end until the last speaker on Sunday. I am not kidding when I say that I have never enjoyed or taken away as much information from a conference as I did at the ASN the Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition conference. I will not go through every single talk, but to summarize, the combination of excellent and knowledgeable speakers combined with the timely and pertinent topics that were presented provided me session after session, a balance of nutrition science and its translation into practice. I literally learned something new from every talk.
Each day of the conference there was a different focus of the presentations: Dietary Supplements; Obesity, Diet & Disease; and Nutrition, Diet & Aging. There were more informal presentations as well as “point and counter-point” talks to provide the attendees both sides of a current controversy in clinical nutrition. These sessions were moderated in manner to allow the speakers to field questions and openly express points of view. Although this can be considered uncomfortable, it was refreshing to see prominent researchers arguing, but with scientific evidence. In addition there were various workshops that attendees could choose to attend based on interest.
My favorite sessions of the conference were from Dr. RJ Seeley on “Brain Nutrient Sensing and Disease” and the last “point and counter-point” session on “Dietary Recommendations and Age.” Dr. Seeley was such a dynamic speaker that I actually stopped taking notes just to listen. He presented research on how nutrients interact with specific sensing mechanisms and how some of these interactions relate to angiogenesis and thus obesity. He took a very complex area of research and was able to use a “bathtub” as his analogy for adipose tissue in order to clearly deliver his message. My other favorite session had two very different speakers give two very different presentations on two very different opinions. Although Dr.'s Houston and Morley clearly disagreed, it was very interesting to see their points of view. Dr. Houston was very professional and presented great information on dietary and lifestyle interventions in the elderly. While Dr. Morley presented research findings, his presentation also included and emphasized his patients and their quality of life. I bring this up because at the end of the day all of our research and efforts are going to finding the best prevention and treatment for our patients, so it was nice to see his talk heavily include his patient interests as well.
I know that I have heavily reported on the actual conference content, since that was my favorite part. However, there were other aspects of the conference such as the poster session, workshops, the receptions, etc. that were also well executed and provided an environment for scientists, medical care providers, dietitians, etc. to come together to network and to discuss what we are all passionate about.
So how was my “weekend getaway” … even more of a getaway than I expected. I walked away from the conference rejuvenated and reenergized to continue my own research. Not only was I able to step away from my responsibilities as a graduate student, I was also reminded why I love Nutrition and why I have spent the last ten years of my life pursuing a career in this field. I applaud the ASN and the MNC on a job well done, as this graduate student cannot wait for next year's second Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition conference.
There was a group of students from UCD that attended this conference. I have included some of their comments below:
As a Registered Dietitian and Graduate Student, the Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition conference provided a unique blend of evidence-based guidelines for clinical nutrition practice that I am able to apply to the students who I teach as well as to my own critical thinking skills.
Due to the size of the conference, I had the opportunity to network before/after the conference - learning about industry positions and other research being conducted across the US and internationally.
It was so interesting to listen to the Q&A after the presentations and I hope that more time can be devoted to that aspect next year.
I look forward to attending the the Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition conference for years to come!
The conference was well organized and put together. The topics were relevant and invigorating. I really appreciated the collaboration and overlap between the medical/clinical and academic community as well as the diverse body of attendees. Due to the title of the conference, "Advances and Controversies," I would have enjoyed viewing an actual debate or some sort of panel discussion on the most controversial issues such as sodium and vitamin D. I would also suggest allowing for more time for questions. Other than that, they selected quality speakers who presented well-rounded body of evidence for each topic. In regards to the workshops, I only attended one of them regarding the therapies for post bariatric surgery and I must say that Margaret Furtado was an amazing speaker on this topic. She not only combined evidence-based practices but also incorporated pertinent case studies from her practice worth reviewing.