June 17, 2013

Nancy Solomon

Nutrition and Dietetics Chair Honored for Milestone Work, Vision

Mattfeldt-Beman Propels SLU as National Leader in Sustainability, Culinary Arts, Food Education

Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D., will receive a Medallion Award, which is one of the most prestigious recognitions from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for guiding SLU's department of nutrition and dietetics to become a national powerhouse.

Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D.      

In addition to educating the next generation of dietitians, she has built a program that is a community resource -- advising congressmen on food issues, creating healthier and tastier school lunches in local districts, promoting business in the region and spreading the word that food can be both good and good for you.

Mattfeldt-Beman, who came to SLU in 1982 as chair of nutrition and dietetics, began weaving sustainability through its curriculum long before composting, growing your own vegetables and supporting local farmers became trendy. 

"I came up with the idea of sustainability in 1996-98," Mattfeldt-Beman said. "I was looking for a way to bring my students closer to food. Our students were absolutely outstanding when it came to biochemistry and understanding nutrients. But people don't eat biochemistry and nutrients, they eat food. When you get involved with food, you get involved with where our food comes from and how our food is handled and prepared."

Under Mattfeldt-Beman's leadership, SLU's dietetics program became the only one in the country that blends the art of cooking with the science of nutrition. Its teaching garden is a hub of community activity that educates students of all ages. Its restaurant, Fresh Gatherings, is an eco-friendly café that serves seasonal, locally grown food and is a teaching lab for dietetics students. 

When Mattfeldt-Beman arrived at SLU more than 30 years ago, the department had only eight graduate students who were interns and one other faculty member. Its 16 faculty members now teach students in three undergraduate programs including food entrepreneurship and culinary options, and four master's nutrition and dietetics programs -- medical dietetics, physical performance, public health and culinary arts. Its selective dietetic internship program has more than quadrupled and now accepts 34 applicants who complete 10 months of clinical rotations. Those interns trained at SLU who seek jobs land them.

Mattfeldt-Beman has set her sights on reaching the big picture goal of helping people eat healthier, and is a role model, said Marjorie Sawicki, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics, who with colleague Lori Jones, instructor of nutrition and dietetics, nominated their department chair.

"Those who receive Medallion awards are people who have done milestone work in the area of dietetics," Sawicki said. "These are the people we look up to as mentors and leaders in innovation in dietetics. Millie is one of those special people."

In her nomination letter, Pauli Landhuis, assistant professor of the coordinated program in dietetics at the University of Missouri, praised Mattfeldt-Beman for her intelligence, entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and vision and ability to balance many roles.

"What a legacy Dr. Mattfeldt-Beman has built," Landhuis wrote. "I recall the department of dietetics prior to her arrival at Saint Louis University as a quiet, small set of people. What Millie has built is a top-notch graduate branch populated by talented students, a strong dietetic internship, numerous and talented faculty, research exchanges with clinicians and a wide assortment of health care professions, in addition to having maintained and strengthened undergraduate dietetics happenings.

"Millie is seldom bound by the standard protocols of the day, yet she is grounded in the common sense required to keep ideas practical and doable...I applaud her spirit, her intelligence and fresh approach within our profession."

Elizabeth Tuckermanty, Ph.D., a retired national United States Department of Agriculture program leader, was a medical dietetic graduate student with Mattfeldt-Beman in the mid-70s. They collaborated when Mattfeldt-Beman helped to lead clinical trials on preventing hypertension through diet, then again on community food programs.

"Dr. Mattfeldt-Beman loves her work -- all her work. It definitely shows in the outstanding faculty she has assembled at Saint Louis University and the outstanding dietetic professionals she has trained," Tuckermanty wrote.

Mattfeldt-Beman understands how good food is a social justice issue that can mobilize low income communities, a concept that most nutrition professionals didn't grasp, Tuckermanty said. SLU's program was among the few dietetics programs that received a competitive grant from the USDA's Community Food Projects.

"I was amazed that Dr. Mattfeldt-Beman, working in a traditional dietetics program, was able to respond to the challenges of inner city St. Louis by creating programs for low income children and their families, and bringing the training of dietitians right along into the work," Tuckermanty wrote.

Given to members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who are service-oriented visionaries and outstanding leaders, the Medallion award will be presented in October at the 2013 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Houston.

Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences offers degrees in physical therapy, athletic training education, clinical laboratory science, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics and information management, health sciences, medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, occupational science and occupational therapy, and physician assistant education. The college's unique curriculum prepares students to work with health professionals from all disciplines to ensure the best possible patient care.

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