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November 12, 2009 | 4 minute read

Q & A: Thoughts on the Research Conference from AICR’s Alice Bender, MS, RD

Alice Bender 1Dietitian Alice Bender‘s job here at AICR is to take the research we fund and turn it into practical advice for the public.  Last week was the first time Alice attended an AICR Research Conference.  She attended sessions, blogged a bit, hosted one of the roundtable discussions which were created to help the health professionals who attended our conference network with one another, and anchored our press conference, where she released the results of AICR’s biennial survey on cancer risk factors.

Now that the conference is behind us and things are starting to settle down, we were eager to get her impressions.

Q: What was the most exciting part of the conference for you?

A: Finishing the press conference (laughs)– because once it was over I could really  focus on the research that was being presented.  Actually, there were many highlights – the first one was dinner with [AICR Nutrition Advisor] Karen Collins and Diana Dyer [a cancer survivor/RD and longtime friend of AICR; sales of Diana’s book go towards an special endowment at AICR for research on cancer survivorship.]  It was an exhilarating conversation that stretched to four hours before we knew it — we talked about all kinds of things related to nutrition, organics, sustainability and AICR.

Q: This was your first AICR conference. How’d it compare to what you expected?

A: It was even better than thought it would be. I knew there were going to be many presentation on basic research, but I was surprised — pleasantly so — to see the talks including so much applied information.  It was a nice mix of the science and its real-world implications.

After the jump: Alice talks networking, messaging and new technologies.

Q: Anything that stood out in particular?

A: I liked the session on policy and messaging – turning the research into actionable advice that motivates healthy changes – because that’s most applicable to my work.  It gave me a few ideas for how we might work with health professionals and educators to tailor and target our message.

Also, the roundtable discussion was great. It was fun to do, but also provided a great opportunity for dietitians to network. And that’s important, because many dietitians don’t often get the chance to share the latest research and talk about it with one another.  Many oncology dietitians, for example, are the only trained dietitians in their hospital or clinic.

Q: What did your group talk about at the roundtable?

A: We talked about the messaging.  We shared lots of ideas on ways to motivate patients and clients to make healthy changes. That discussion sort of morphed into the area of oncology rehab. Many rehab dietitians and nurses work with patients while they’re going through the process, but not regularly, and once rehab is over, not at all.  So the HPs from the rehab environment talked about how they’d like to be able to offer their patients a program they could follow, like a  group support program.

And, of course, given the times we live in, we talked about how to harness new technologies to help more people.  There was a doctor at our table from Italy — he told us he has a blog that many of his patients follow, which allows him to follow up with them and continue to interact with them long after their treatment is over.   We all agreed it was a vast improvement over the “treat ’em and street ’em” philosophy that used to hold sway, but we also agreed that something like that works best if it’s an addition to, not a replacement for, good old fashioned face-to-face counseling.

It really was a packed two days, but full of the kind of energizing conversations that spark new ideas and ways of thinking. Which, of course, is why we have conferences like this in the first place.

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