American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Dr. Marian Stone Neuhouser, ASN Secretary

Interview with Dr. Marian Stone Neuhouser, ASN Secretary

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice

Interview with Dr. Marian Stone Neuhouser, ASN Secretary

Dr. Marian Stone Neuhouser has been a passionate advocate for nutrition research and an avid member of ASN for quite some time.  When asked about her election to the organization's Executive Board, Dr. Neuhouser called it “an honor” and “a wonderful opportunity to give back.”

In addition to her work with ASN, Dr. Neuhouser is an Associate Member of the respected Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.Her work there focuses on nutritional epidemiology, methods to improve diet and physical activity assessment, diet and physical activity in relation to energy balance, nutritional status and cancer risk, and lifestyle factors related to breast and prostate cancer prevention and survivorship.

Dr. Neuhouser took time out of her busy schedule to speak about being a leader in ASN, the benefits of membership, and her views on the future of nutrition research.

Interviewer: What originally drove you to become involved in nutrition?

Dr. Neuhouser: I was an undergraduate at University of California, Davis; I took one nutrition course and I was hooked.Nutrition science is a blend of so many different disciplines.It is perfect for people, like me, who are interested in both biology and behavioral science.It runs the gamut, which is what really drew me in.

I also loved that the emphasis in nutrition is on the prevention of disease.Nutrition has an important role in all major chronic diseases.In that sense, nutrition professionals have the ability to affect health in a meaningful manner.Everyone has to eat.It's the choice of what we eat that makes the difference.Our science-based approaches have the potential to guide people to wise choices at the population level.

Interviewer: On a similar note, how did you first find ASN and what convinced you to join?

Dr. Neuhouser: When I was an undergraduate, all of the faculty members I respected were members and subscribed to the journals.It was their mentoring and guidance that encouraged me to join.

Interviewer: What aspects of membership do you find most valuable to your professional development?

Dr. Neuhouser: I don't know if I can limit it to a few things!Certainly, our annual meeting held in conjunction with Experimental Biology.It's outstanding because we get such good attendance, and such a wide variety of nutrition research is presented. Our two journals--The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and The Journal of Nutrition--are the top publications in the field.That makes them an extremely valuable source of information as well as a great source to publish research.The organization has also provided such wonderful opportunities for education, professional development, and networking as well as collaboration with other researchers at other institutions.

Interviewer: Tell us a bit about your experience as Secretary of ASN's Executive Board. What organizational initiative or goals are you most invested in?

Dr. Neuhouser: As Secretary, some of the areas I focus on include membership and bylaw changes.We have recently made changes to the bylaws that I think will benefit the membership.We have also seen a great increase in membership, including international members, which has been the result of hard work by all of the members of the executive board.

I'm also very interested in the organization's governance and the ways that ASN finds to push the science forward.Most of us in science are not specifically trained in governance.We learn it as we go along, but it is not part of our standard training as it might be for a business major.

Additionally, I serve as a liaison to some of our committees, which is where a lot of the organization's work takes place.One that I am working with now is the Public Information Committee.I feel that it is extremely valuable, because we focus on how best to communicate nutrition science and knowledge to the public.

Interviewer: What about your board position would make you encourage ASN members to pursue similar leadership opportunities?

Dr. Neuhouser: The other members of the executive board are such stellar people.It is an honor and a great opportunity to work with them.The ASN staff is also amazing.I have been so impressed with many of them who, although they may not have a background in nutrition, have learned quite quickly to be as excited about nutrition as the members are.They deserve a lot of credit

Interviewer: What current issue or challenge in nutrition research do you think has the most potential to lead to major changes in the field?

Dr. Neuhouser: There are a number of challenges facing the field today.First, in order to continue our research programs, we need funding.Biomedical research is an expensive proposition.Most of us get our funding from the federal government, particularly the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Based on what we have heard, the NIH budget over the next several years does not include substantive increases in research funding.That is a significant challenge.

A second challenge, which is not unique to nutrition science today, is the increase of obesity in America and around the world.We have a lot of work to do to understand why some people are more susceptible to obesity than others, and to determine how we can stem this rapid increase, particularly in resource-poor areas.It is really a paradoxical problem that many economically disadvantaged areas are areas that see the greatest incidence of obesity and the most expensive obesity-related conditions: heart disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease, certain cancers, etc.

Interviewer: Is there anything else that you'd like to convey to the organization's membership?

Dr. Neuhouser: Just that I would characterize the American Society for Nutrition as having strength in diversity. Most organizations like ours focus on a particular disease or a very narrow research area.Our members include nutrition scientists, behavioral scientists, medical doctors and other clinicians, lab-based bench scientists, public policy and public education researchers, and international partners who all come together on common themes.I don't know many other organizations with that type of diversity, all working together for common goals.

January 2011