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Diane Meehan, MS, RD
Briefly describe your practice (business model).
I am the Research Dietitian or Bionutritionist at the Rockefeller University Hospital in New York City. The Rockefeller University Hospital is a freestanding hospital dedicated solely to medical research. We have an outpatient clinic and an inpatient unit. My job is designing research diets for studies that have a diet component. I offer my nutrition expertise and support to investigators in the development of research study protocols. Each study diet has a specific diet prescription based on what investigators want to study. Diets are designed according to the study diet prescription, availability of food items, ease of production preparation and storage in the metabolic kitchen, and the palatability of the foods. I also conduct nutrition education consults and monitor tolerance and compliance for each participant on a metabolic diet. We currently have both inpatient and outpatient feeding studies.
How is natural medicine and/or a whole foods approach to nutrition accepted in your region?
The natural medicine and whole foods approach is becoming more accepted but still has long way to go in New York City. The general population is more accepting then the medical community; New York City is a stronghold of Western medicine. Many New Yorkers are looking to natural medicine therapies to deal with their conditions and diseases because they have tried everything else with their doctors. In a city as diverse as this, you can find any kind of approach to health and well-being you want. The medical community needs to change and keep up with the general population or they will be left behind.
Describe how your education at Bastyr has made a difference in your career.
My education at Bastyr has helped me tremendously in my career at Rockefeller. Bastyr has a strong sense of community and an environment accepting of creative and experimental thinking. I knew that I wanted to find that supportive work environment for my career. I also was given a great background in biochemistry, disease processes and statistics as well as research at Bastyr. When I found my job at Rockefeller, it was like coming home again. Rockefeller has a wonderful community; everyone works together to make a study successful. I use my creativity everyday in designing diets or nutrition education. With my herbal and whole foods background, if a study participant is taking an herbal therapy, I’m consulted on whether the herbal may conflict with the research. Most of my co-workers do not have the herbal knowledge that I have, so my education at Bastyr has made me more useful then I could have imagined.
What do you find to be the most interesting aspect of your work?
I enjoy my work so much because it’s like being an explorer. It’s great detective work; I create a diet and find foods that fit into the prescription, trying to find a food item that will be the perfect food to finish the puzzle. I also love being privy to medical research information even before the professional medical community knows. I’m right on the edge of new discoveries — pretty exciting!!
What keeps you motivated in your work?
I love the people I work with; the communication is very open and free. All studies are new ground for everyone so we all work together as a team. Everyone is so willing to help each other out towards a common goal, to keep our study participants happy and compliant so the research is unflawed and we get a clear answer to our questions. I have the luxury of time to be creative in my work. I’m not overwhelmed with unattainable deadlines. Research takes careful planning, implementation and patience; this is perfect for me because I love the day-to-day challenges of research. The results are always worth the wait.
What’s next for you? Where would you like to place your energies?
I’m working on setting up an anthropometrics lab in our department to analyze body composition in our study participants.