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