ECU clinical nutrition specialist to receive national “excellence in practice” award

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has selected ECU clinical nutrition specialist Kay Craven as the recipient of its 2019 Excellence in Practice – Community Dietetics Award.

The award recognizes dietitians and nutritionists who have exhibited outstanding execution, invested in the furtherance of practice and attained success in leadership through nutrition-focused organizations.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsis the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, with more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners, and works to improve the nation’s health and advance the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

Kay Craven, director of clinical nutrition services at ECU Physicians, talks with patients during a free program at ECU’s Family Medicine Center.

To qualify for the Community Dietetics category of the Excellence in Practice Award, nominees are expected to have improved efficiency to the areas they lead and continue to produce exceptional quality in their work. Craven’s community work in free programs – such as the Building Healthier Families program, which teaches patients how to make healthy recipes and provides the ingredients for free – reflects the standards expected of her award.

Dr. Jason Foltz, the medical director of ECU Physicians, said Craven was worthy of the national recognition because she is a constant advocate for her patients, helping to coordinate nutritional services across the practice and highlight important areas of food insecurity.

“Her advocacy has resulted in a collaborative partnership in the creation of the Medical Food Pantry which is helping many of our patients with much needed access to healthy food options” Foltz said.

Craven said her passion and drive to pursue these efforts stems from being able to see first-hand, through more than six immediate family members, the negative health effects of not taking care of or fully understanding diabetes.

“Once you start, you meet a lot of people that were like your family, struggling with it,” she said. “You watch them being able to change their lives through what they know now and that’s what kept me interested. My family started me, but it’s other people’s families that have kept it going for years.”

Craven said working on policies and programming that affects wider groups can help change more lives.

“You can impact their lives before they get diabetes and help them avoid chronic illness,” she said. “I think that’s how ECU changed my vision. Helping one person at a time was great, but there is a bigger mission here.”

Craven hopes that her work in the community, such as coordinating a healthy food pantry at Brody School of Medicine can have a societal impact.

“If we don’t get obesity under control, we’re going to see more diabetes even though it happened to go down just a little bit right now,” she said. “We’re going to see more hypertension. We’re going to see more heart disease and we’re going to see more people not being able to thrive and live their lives the best they can because obesity is hard on the joints.”

Craven said she was shocked by the award recognition, but is grateful to be recognized by others in her field. She hopes the recognition will bring resources and awareness for volunteers and funders toward work being done in the pantry.

She dreams of building a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen and expanding the learning opportunities for the patients to have the ability to do hands-on cooking of healthy recipes. The cooking classes are currently held in an auditorium, which limits the opportunity for the hands-on learning experience.

“We can also incorporate it into the medical school curriculum,” said Craven, adding patients’ lives can be greatly affected by better educating individual that does the cooking for the family.

I think that’s how ECU changed my vision. Helping one person at a time was great, but there is a bigger mission here.
- Kay Craven, ECU clinical nutrition specialist