American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Diabetes Educator & Speaker Amy Campbell, MS, RD

Interview with Diabetes Educator & Speaker Amy Campbell, MS, RD

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
A Conversation with Diabetes Educator & ACCN Satellite Presenter Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

The 2013 Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition meeting is nearly here. This year's meeting, held Dec. 5 through Dec. 7 at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C., provides a unique opportunity for nutrition researchers and clinicians to confer on the latest advancements and best practices in clinical nutrition.

These opportunities come via lectures, workshops, scientific posters, and satellite symposia. One of these satellite sessions, "The Controversial Role of Dietary Protein in Diabetes and Related Disorders," is sponsored and organized by the Egg Nutrition Center. This symposium, which will be held from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm on Dec. 5, brings together Kevin Maki, PhD, Biofortis/Midwest Center for Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health; Theresa Nicklas, DrPH, Baylor College of Medicine; Barbara Gower, PhD, University of Alabama; and Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, Joslin Diabetes Center. Campbell, who shares here her role in the session, has served as a diabetes and nutrition educator for over 20 years. Last year, she was awarded the 2012 Will Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Communication for her article on probiotic and prebiotics for “Diabetes Self-Management.

Interviewer: Can you give us a preview of your presentation at the upcoming Advances and Controversies meeting?

Campbell: My presentation will focus on the role of protein in the practical care and management of people who have diabetes and pre-diabetes.  My co-presenters, on the other hand, will be approaching protein and macronutrients from a more research-based perspective.  That research is certainly important too; the great thing that our presentation will provide is the combination of research with the practical side.

As dietitians and diabetes educators, we need to translate research in order to help people who live with diabetes every day make sense of those findings. In the case of protein, that means discussing how our thoughts about protein in the diet have changed over the years when it comes to diabetes management.

Interviewer: What other presentations or events at the meeting are you looking forward to in addition to your panel?

Campbell: This is my first time participating in the meeting, so there are a number of presentations that I'm interested to attend. One that I'm most excited for is one of our other satellite symposia, “The Role of Yogurt in Improving the Quality of the American Diet and Meeting Dietary Guidelines,” as well as the workshop on "Evaluating and Implementing Popular Diets for Your Patients".

Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit more about what you do at the Joslin Diabetes Center?

Campbell:  As a nutrition educator, I have counseled patients on all aspects of health management, from weight management to cancer.  For the past 17 years, however, my focus has been solely on diabetes education.  I've taught classes for people with diabetes, I've provided patients with one-to-one nutrition counseling, and I teach other healthcare professionals how best to help their patients with diabetes better manage their care.  This has been a growing part of my work, as diabetes specialists are few and far between, and with the epidemic of diabetes in this country, every health care professional needs to know how to manage people who have diabetes.  Another growing focus of mine is prediabetes and thinking about ways we can intervene with lifestyle management, maybe with medication, as well, to help prevent them from developing diabetes. 

Interviewer: What do you think are the most important recent advances in diabetes research?

Campbell: We have learned a lot about managing diabetes over the past decade or so. At Joslin, we are one of the top diabetes treatment centers in the world, both in terms of research and clinical care.  What we're learning from our programs is that how people eat and the level of physical activity they get can really help people with diabetes manage their condition. We have, for example, a weight management program at Joslin called “Why WAIT.”  Our medical director, Dr. Osama Hamdy, developed the dietary approach used in this program, which provides 20 to 30 percent of calories from protein, about 40-45 percent of calories from carbohydrate, and the rest from fat. So it's a moderate carbohydrate, slightly higher protein eating plan.  What we have found is that patients who come to this program do well in losing weight and keeping it off, but they also see improvements in other biomarkers and in quality of life.  So we are finding that by tweaking the macronutrient profile with a slightly higher protein intake and a slightly more modified carbohydrate intake, we can see major differences.  

Interviewer: What are some of the biggest challenges researchers face going forward?

Campbell: I think one of the biggest challenges is how much our health care climate is changing and what that means for helping people manage their diabetes.  An ongoing challenge, however, is just educating people about healthy eating habits for diabetes and healthy living habits.  One of the biggest problems I face as a diabetes educator is the number of misconceptions that patients have: for example, many people think that having diabetes means that they can't eat certain foods or that they have to give up the foods that they like.   We spend a lot of time teaching people the right way to eat for diabetes.  There's no one diet that works for everyone, but we do recommend a macronutrient profile where we see significant improvements.

Interviewer: How did you first get interested in nutrition? What motivated you to pursue a career in the field?

Campbell: I studied nutrition in college, and I did an internship at what is now Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.  It's right across from Joslin, and there happened to be an opening there.  I had already been working as a dietitian with diabetes patients at Deaconess, so I thought, “What better place to work with other clinicians and researchers who focus solely on diabetes care?” It's also rewarding to see the success stories that come with that focus.  Diabetes is very much a disease of self-management; there are so many things you have to do to take care of yourself.  With the right education and the right support, however, patients can live a long, healthy life with diabetes.   

November 2013