Rush Dietitian: Using Nutrition to Empower Patients

By Cheryl Sullivan

When I was younger, I used to think, “everyone has to eat, might as well make it good.” But my definition of “good” has changed over the years. Growing up as a kid and teenager, “good” meant things that tasted good: French fries, candy, burgers, candy, pizza and more candy! But now “good” has a different meaning to me.

In college, I was trying to discover what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took several science classes as this was always an interest to me. One day I enrolled in a nutrition course and everything just clicked. We are what we eat. Our bodies will function no matter what type of food, or fuel, we provide it. But through nutrition we can impact the degree to which our body will function. And thus, the phrase “everyone has to eat, might as well make it good,” changed for me that day.

I loved learning about how different vitamins and minerals affected cell function and about different calorie and protein needs for our bodies during growth. But what was most interesting is how the fuel requirements for the body differ when we are sick. I was surprised to learn that during illness, different “diets” can help the body to function optimally. I am now a registered dietitian providing medical nurition therapy to all types of patients, but my passion lies on oncology.

During my training, I completed a rotation on the cancer units, and again, something just clicked and felt right. I love being surrounded by such motivated patients who want to make an impact in their lives through nutrition. Every day I get to help empower individuals by providing them with nutrition knowledge that could improve their health and their quality of life.

Cheryl Sullivan, MS, RD, CNSD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian and graduate faculty member at Rush University Medical Center. She’s part of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team.

One thought on “Rush Dietitian: Using Nutrition to Empower Patients

  1. It is amazing how many people have not yet made the connection between what we eat and how we feel. This is especially important for children, whose bodies are still growing. Their food provides the building blocks for the development of all their cells and body functions. What they make now, they will live with later.

    We can still change and make better nutrition choices, no matter our age. A change for the better will still help us to feel better. It really doesn’t take too long to start feeling the benefits of healthy eating.

    Healthy nutrition also affects our ability to fight off disease and bounce back after a sickness.

    As the article points out, eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals also gives us the energy when our bodies need it the most.

    With so much evidence to support healthy eating, it is too bad that low nutrition foods “taste good” to so many people. Why do french fries, burgers, candy, chocolate, etc. taste so good to people? Is it because we don’t get enough healthy fats in our diet so we crave the bad fats as a replacement? That would be an interesting question to answer.

    As a dietician, Cheryl, you educate people on how they should feed their bodies. As a tutor, I educate people on how they should feed their minds.
    Be a tutor to change the world one person at a time.
    I have noticed that proper diet plays an integral role in effective learning. You are doing a great job sharing your knowledge. I appreciate your influence. Keep up the good work!


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