Dr. Regan Bailey has come a long way as a member of ASN--from a promising young doctoral candidate at her first ASN Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology, to a leader in dietary assessment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As a nutritional epidemiologist at NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements, Dr. Bailey researches the implications of combining nutrient intakes from foods and from dietary supplements in nationally representative populations. She is also an executive board member of ASN's Nutrition Epidemiology Research Interest Section, where she recently helped orchestrate a series of webinars to help members stay updated on the latest nutritional epidemiology research.
Dr. Bailey has published several articles on nutritional
epidemiology, dietary supplements, and geriatric nutrition.
Her most recent publications can be found in the August issue of
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
(AJCN). The first article, “Total Folate and Folic Acid
Intakes From Foods and Dietary Supplements of US Children Aged
1–13,” can be accessed
here. The second, “Unmetabolized Serum Folic Acid and Its
Relation to Folic Acid Intake From Diet and Supplements in a
Nationally Representative Sample of Adults Aged 60 y in the
United States,” can be found
here. Dr. Bailey was kind enough to speak with us about the two
articles while also offering us some insight into how ASN has aided
her career development.
Interviewer: How did your
academic background lead you to a career in nutritional
Dr. Bailey: I started my
undergraduate education at Penn State, which is a very
research-oriented institution. I was exposed to various types of
research because Penn State is unique in that they offer a wide
spectrum of nutrition research--from bench science to applied
science. After I graduated, I completed a dietetic
internship. Through that internship I began coursework
towards a Master's degree. It wasn't originally my intention
to stay on for a Master's, but I thought it was silly to get
halfway through one and not finish. After I received my
Master's, I worked as a clinical dietician in a long-term care
facility in an Alzheimer's and dementia unit. However, I
never lost touch with my contacts at Penn State or with my mentor
there, Helen Smiciklas-Wright. She was looking for a Ph.D.
student with experience working with the elderly, which I was
currently doing. Maintaining those contacts brought us
together, and I went back to Penn State for my Ph.D. work.
Interviewer: What were your
first experiences with ASN like? What convinced you to join the
Dr. Bailey: I was very
fortunate as a first-year graduate student because Dr. Wright sent
me to an Experimental Biology meeting. That was a luxury that
a lot of graduate students don't have. That experience was
wonderful exposure and a great networking opportunity for
I was actually on a bus to attend the graduate student breakfast
when I met Krisitn Carnegie, who was leading the research interest
section (RIS) for graduate students. She introduced me to
what the RIS groups are and how to get more involved. I was
just looking for a ride (laughs), but she talked me into applying
to be on the board for the student interest group. That was
how I got introduced to ASN: through Experimental Biology and
through this serendipitous meeting. Working with a RIS group
is a great experience for a graduate student because you interact
with so many different people through ASN. I made several
professional contacts that, without my involvement with the
organization or going to Experimental Biology, I would not
When I went that first year, a senior-level graduate student said
to me, “You will learn more in this week than you will the entire
year.” And it was true! It was cutting-edge research, it was
exposure to all different types of research, and it was fabulous
networking. I haven't missed a meeting since!
Interviewer: What aspects of
ASN membership have you found most helpful in your career?
Dr. Bailey: Through the
membership you are exposed to a lot of unique opportunities.
One of the things that we did this year in our Epidemiology RIS was
to host a Webinar series. There are a lot of perks that come
with ASN membership that I find rewarding. There's so much
going on. I get a lot out of ASN beyond the journal.
Interviewer: How has your
experience with ASN changed as you have made the transition from
being a student to a postdoctoral member?
Dr. Bailey: Well, not a lot
has changed in that transition in relation to ASN. It really
comes back to the networking and what you use it for. You can
meet people in the organization that you would want to do a post
doc with. For example, my mentor at NIH is Mary Frances
Picciano, who is very active in ASN. She's been the treasurer
for a number of years. It's really the connections you make
and the people who can help you with your next career steps.
Interviewer: Tell us a bit
about your upcoming article in AJCN and your experience working on
Dr. Bailey: This month, we
have two articles in AJCN. Both of them explore folic acid
exposure in different ways in non-target populations.
Folic-acid fortification is targeted for reproductive-age
females. But in my first paper, we look at how folic acid
relates to un-metabolized folic acid in the blood of older adults,
while the second paper looks at exposure in children. So, we
are studying both ends of the spectrum and the possibility of
concerns associated with excess folic acid levels.
Interviewer: What aspects of
your research do you foresee being most important for ASN
Dr. Bailey: A lot of the
work that we are doing is looking at total nutrient exposure.
That's really what I've spent much of my postdoctoral work
doing. Many studies up until this point have only looked at
nutrient intake from the diet in relation to health outcomes.
What we're doing in my research group is looking at how supplements
are in the United States. Do people use supplements to meet
dietary recommendations? Are they exceeding them? So
really for the first time we are examining total nutrient exposure
in United States.
Interviewer: Ideally, what
is the next step you'd like to take in further
Dr. Bailey: I think what we
are doing--and what I'd like to keep on doing--is to determine the
best ways to assess dietary intake and nutrient exposure. We
know that dietary assessment is fraught with errors because people
don't accurately report what they eat. I think that the
logical next step of these types of investigations is to reduce
measurement error in nutrition research.
Interviewer: Is there
anything else about your work or your experience with ASN that we
haven't covered that you feel is important for your fellow members
Dr. Bailey: I just want to
stress the value of having good mentors. They are so
important. I think that is where a lot of ASN members can help: by
reaching out to students interested in our field. I have been
so lucky to have Helen Wright and Mary Frances Picciano guiding me
along. I think that ASN members have a great opportunity to
help guide students the way these two women have done for me.