American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Dr. Robert Kushner, Clin Conf Planning Committee

Interview with Dr. Robert Kushner, Clin Conf Planning Committee

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
A Conversation with Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Planning Committee Member Dr. Robert Kushner

ASN is very pleased to present Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition, a conference to be held June 22-24 in Chicago. The conference is designed to keep health care professionals up-to-date on research advances and the most pressing controversies in nutrition. Early registration for the conference is available through April 2 and the call for abstracts has been issued. More information on the program can be found at the webpage.

Organized by the ASN Medical Nutrition Council (MNC), this conference is the result of many hours of hard work by ASN staff and the planning committee. Recently we spoke with one of the members of the planning committee, Robert F. Kushner, MD, Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Interviewer: What presentations or discussions are you most looking forward to?

Dr. Kushner: There are two. One is a keynote lecture from Dr. Dean Ornish. Many people are familiar with his early work on holistic approaches to cardiovascular disease.  I'm looking forward to hearing an update on where his thinking is now and how his programs have progressed from his early publications.  The other presentation is titled “How Can We Stem the Obesity Epidemic?,” given by Dr. Boyd Swinburn, who is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention.  The obesity epidemic is now global, and I am interested to learn what efforts or policies have been used or suggested to halt the epidemic.

Interviewer: Could you tell us a bit about your breakout session?

Dr. Kushner: Our breakout session is on bariatric surgery, specifically the nutritional concerns associated with the procedure.  As part of the planning committee, we decided that this was an important topic to address because of the need for proper nutritional care of the increasing number of patients undergoing bariatric surgery. Not all physicians are aware of those needs so there we must educate health care providers about how best to care for these individuals.

Interviewer: If a member asked you why it is particularly important to attend this conference, what would you say?

Dr. Kushner: As a planning committee member, we specifically chose topics that are cutting-edge, challenging and relevant.  Many of the topics are controversial, making it important for the learner to understand different points of view. We were fortunate to attract a faculty of national thought leaders who will share their visions and opinions regarding these important topics.

Interviewer: What initially made you decide to pursue a career in nutrition?

Dr. Kushner: Initially, I became interested as a medical student, because nutrition combined several areas that really captivated me, such as metabolism, gastrointestinal absorption, hormonal regulation and behavioral science.  I was also drawn to the field because I had the opportunity to take a fourth year elective in medical school in a nutrition clinic. That experience got me excited about nutrition as a viable field for someone who is going to be a physician and provided some excellent role models.  
More directly, nutrition is fundamental to health and wellness.  What you eat has an effect on the prevention of illness or, the advancement of disease. I felt that by pursuing a career in this area, I could really help my patients more than in any other way.

Interviewer: When did you first become aware of ASN, and what about the organization influenced your decision to join?

Dr. Kushner:  After medical school, I decided to earn a Master's in nutritional biology and complete a fellowship in clinical nutrition. It was during advanced training that I started to identify with the community and with other people interested in clinical nutrition. Everyone in the graduate program at University of Chicago submitted abstracts to ASN and presented their work at Experimental Biology and other meetings.

Interviewer: What aspects of ASN membership do you find most useful in your professional life?

Dr. Kushner: I appreciate the networking and the collegial interactions that I have with other members and leaders in the nutrition community.  In the academic world, most of us have two identities: the institution that you work for and the societies that you belong to.  ASN offers us the opportunity to identify with other members of the community that share our expertise and specialty interests.

January 2012