By: Nikki Nies
Since moving to the Greater Chicago area, I can’t applaud the value of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND) valiant efforts to provide resources, connections and some good ‘ol fun to its members!
Recently, We Dish Nutrition (WDH) had the pleasure to interview CAND’s President, Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN, a Registered Dietitian at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, IL. In addition, she’s been busy coordinating future CAND events, getting ready for the holidays and has even squeezed in a trip to Myanmar!
WDN: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a RD?
GH: I love being a dietitian so much. Working closely with clients over time, I get to see the amazing changes they can make. Gaining or losing weight, getting a clean cancer scan, improving labs or curing nutritional deficiencies…any of this is possible when I get to work with someone and see them often. It’s rewarding to see someone empowered that they can improve their health through nutrition!
WDN: What is some of the background work that goes into being a RD at the Block Center? [i.e. what are some responsibilities and/or duties one may not realize is part of your job?]
GH: The Block Center is a very unique place to be a dietitian, but one that allows me to use the skills I worked to develop at Bastyr University where I did my graduate work. For example, the dietitians cook four days per week for our patients and their families; we have a fantastic demo kitchen and I develop recipes and cook for 10-30 people when I’m there! I also specialize in supplementation, namely vitamins, minerals and other natural products that are research-based to help treat deficiencies, lower inflammation, stimulate the immune system or whatever else my patients might need (based on blood labs, of course!). Having a background in research is critical to working in oncology environment and this is another big part of my job. Cancer research changes constantly so combing articles daily is part of what I do to stay current.
WDN: For those interested in learning more about the oncology concentrated aspect of the nutrition field, how can they learn more?
GH: I would start by joining the Oncology Dietetic Practice Group: http://www.oncologynutrition.org/. They are a fantastic resource for new research, webinars, an annual symposium and nutrition resources. Other than that, I love the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics book Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, published in 2013. It gives a broad approach to all aspects of nutrition oncology including medical nutrition therapy for different types of cancers. Finally, as we know that people with cancer are hugely interested, statistically, in complementary and alternative medicine, I use Natural Medicines Database almost daily in my practice: http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/home.aspx?cs=&s=ND.
WDN: What exciting things are planned with CAND for 2015?
GH: The Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been on fire this year! We have National Nutrition Month events in March with a special meeting to celebrate “RD Day” mid-month. Policy leaders from our organization will be attending Illinois State Advocacy Day in Springfield and we have a fantastic line up for the State Spring Assembly in April where several of our members will be earning prestigious Academy awards at a special educational dinner. CAND has two more education dinners for our members and I’m hoping that we can participate in a spring run or walk to help raise money for a charitable organization – with all of our physically active members, I think it makes sense to set a positive example in the community, as we have been doing all year at nutrition events around the city. I’m also really excited about CAND’s social media – we have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest to help connect our members in so many ways.
WDN: What opportunities are available for CAND members that not as many people know about?
GH: Great question – there are many! First off, aside from the educational meetings, all members are always invited to attend board meetings. It is more exciting than it seems to see how the organization is ran and also a great way to become more involved. Our website is really a wonderful resource that we’ve worked hard on; we have an active blog (which members can post to!), a speakers bureau, and job/volunteer postings which we update weekly both on the website and in e-blasts. Some of my members miss out on the e-blasts when they go to “Social” boxes in Gmail so be sure to pull over those important pieces of CAND communication. Joining a committee is easy; all you have to do is reach out to me and I can connect you with the next meeting of whichever group you are interested in becoming involved with. We have about 10 very active committees within the organization that are always looking for new talent
WDN: You recently spent three weeks in Myanmar, what made you choose to visit this country as your vacation? What was your impression of the culture, food and the people?
GH: Myanmar was an incredible experience. As the country very recently opened to tourism due to a change in government control a few years ago, we thought it would be an opportunity to experience a somewhat unchanged culture because of their limited access to outside influences. The culture is predominantly Buddhist and this is a very important aspect of daily life for Myanmar. Myanmar is also one of the safest places I’ve ever traveled; we had so much fun taking pictures with curious local people and experiencing their daily lives. The food was absolutely delicious – noodle and rice based, they have an emphasis on vegetables including different greens, cabbage, broccoli and hot peppers and serve egg in almost every dish. They offer a lot of seafood dishes including fish-based soups and have the most delicious tofu which is made from chickpeas instead of soybeans.
WDN: What was your most memorable meal in Myanmar?
GH: There is a state in Myanmar called Shan State and the people there are Thai decedents. Shan noodles are a staple dish served with tomato sauce, crushed peanuts and lots of garlic. The noodles are spicy and served with broth on the side, and even though the daily temperatures reach into the 90’s and above, eating hot soup for lunch and dinner is strangely satisfying. I hope to learn how to make Shan noodles at home if I can.
WDN: What do your future travel plans entail?
GH: I have a lot of US travel planned this year; I try to go somewhere new every month if I can. Also, I cannot WAIT to go back to Southeast Asia. I would love to visit Myanmar again, maybe to stay and work in a school there for awhile. I am also fascinated by Vietnam and Cambodia. I have a dream of visiting China as well, hopefully in the near future.
WDN: What’s a holiday tradition that your family continues today?
GH: We always play board games! Now that we’re adults, this might also include drinking red wines from Washington State, where I’m from originally. It’s fun to try new games each year – the ones with a lot of interaction are best and I really enjoy spending this time with my parents, brothers, husband and close family friends.
WDN: What’s your favorite food? How do you take your coffee?
GH: Spicy food – Pho, enchiladas, tofu, pizza….I love it all! I am a veggie so I’m always trying new vegetarian restaurants around Chicago. Being from Seattle, coffee is important to me. I have a cup or two a day and take just a splash of almond or soy milk on top.
Thanks Ginger for this enjoyable and informative interview! We sincerely appreciate your hard work and dedication to the dietetics profession!