Home > Cooper Updates > History of Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services: Part II

History of Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services: Part II

Our first nutrition director, Georgia Kostas, was a dedicated professional who paved the way, built the foundation and set the standard for the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services. Her innovation helped ensure our patients received the gold standard of care by developing cutting-edge programs. At the same time, our professional associations at both state and national levels recognized her achievements.

The majority of the work in nutrition in the early days focused on in-person outreach as well as writing and publishing numerous books on nutrition. This solid foundation paved the way for an increased focus on diabetes, sports nutrition, children/family nutrition, corporate wellness based on community needs. With this condition-specific nutrition knowledge, we expanded our reach through media relations, technology and social media.  

Broadening Expertise and Services

Kathryn (Kathy) Miller and I served as coleaders of the nutrition department for 10 years. During that time, our staff expanded as we hired registered dietitians with a variety of specialties and expertise. These specialties were not only available to Cooper Clinic patients but also to the public. Physicians recognized Kathy citywide as a Gastrointestinal Specialist. She was our go-to dietitian to refer patients with celiac disease, food sensitivities and other GI issues. Kathy served as Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s nutrition consultant for PepsiCo when he helped eliminate trans fats from its Frito-Lay food snack line.

Our culinary program flourished with hands-on demonstrations, home pantry makeovers, grocery store tours, dining out experiences and lectures at Cooper and in the community. Led by Kathy Duran-Thal with her practical, down to earth approach brought to life technical information in easy to understand terms.

To better serve our community, we hosted an annual Nutrition Expo led by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Meridan Zerner. The Expo attracted numerous outside vendors and was held for 10 years, reaching nearly 1,000 attendees each year. With a broadcast journalism background as well as being certified in Sports Dietetics, Meridan appears on news segments addressing the importance of nutrition for total health and wellness. In addition, she teaches group exercises classes at Cooper Fitness Center, which has helped expand our reach to area athletes no matter what age.   

Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services Team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists – 2020

Next, we added to our services with recipe calculation and consulting with local restaurants for menu analysis. We’ve worked with restaurants such as Start, Rise #1, Luby’s Cafeteria, TGI Fridays and Cedars Woodfire Grill at Cooper Fitness Center. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Cynthanne Duryea has advised on many of these projects and worked with individuals on product development with detailed recipe calculation included.

In response to the increase in obesity rates—among adults and children—we added more emphasis on child and family nutrition as well as diabetes. We launched Cooper Healthy Habits for Kids, which remains active today. This program is geared toward families with children and offers personalized sessions to build a positive food environment, including a positive relationship with food, healthy meal ideas and portion management.  

We hired two Certified Diabetes Educators, Colleen Loveland and Elana Paddock, to our staff. We also added resting metabolic rate (RMR) testing to see how many calories a person burns at rest, which is a key tool we use today.

Providing Nutrition to the Corporate World

Working with Merit Energy was one of the highlights of my career. Merit Energy sent its oil field supervisors to Cooper Clinic for a preventive exam and nutrition evaluation. Cynthanne Duryea and I then worked with the supervisors by phone for eight months providing weight loss counseling and performed follow-up physical evaluations to see how this intervention affected their health. The next year I traveled to different parts of the country giving presentations to Merit Energy employees who worked in the oil fields, providing them with practical nutrition tips they could live with.

These are just a small sample of our department’s work over the last two decades. Additional projects included providing our services to Bain & Company, Perot Systems, Dallas Cowboys, Sonic, Southwest Veterinary state meeting, All Saints Catholic Church, Lovers Lane Methodist Church, Alcuin School and Dallas Baptist University. From nutrition counseling to health fairs  and lectures to lunch and learns, our staff is always ready to rise to the occasion and deliver excellence.

Without hesitation, Kathy and I agree we had one of the best teams any department could ever wish for. These talented women had knowledge, caring hearts and enthusiastic attitudes to deliver the message of better health through nutrition.

Kathy retired in 2014, and I decided to “retire” from my leadership role in the department and return to my first nutrition love, consulting patients. This year I celebrated 33 years at Cooper Clinic. We hired a Gastrointestinal Specialist, Gillian White, who continues to work with people who have celiac disease, food sensitivities and other GI issues. She also speaks to universities and trade associations on behalf of Cooper.

Going Virtual

Today, under the leadership of Nutrition Director Ginny Ives, we offer many of our services virtually including our Cooper Weight Loss program led by Lizzy McCrary. Our recipes and tips are shared through social media as well as in The Cooperized e-newsletter produced by Cooper Aerobics. You will often see Meridan in the media, specifically on the Dallas-Fort Worth FOX and ABC affiliates. Our team writes blogs and a monthly online article, Nutrition Bites, which is free by subscribing to The Cooperized.

A great deal has changed in 50 years of Cooper Aerobics, but our philosophy remains the same: Nutrition for Life – a healthy eating program custom fit to your daily routine. Working with our registered dietitian nutritionists, you will learn to make choices right for you, developing habits to keep you eating sensibly and enjoyable for a lifetime.

Article provided by Patty Kirk, RDN, LD.

Read Part I of the blog here.

Categories: Cooper Updates
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