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Spark of Innovation: Dan Nadeau

What project/research are you working on? My book, “The Color Code, A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health,” is about the health benefits of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The book has helped spark a well-deserved interest in how foods like blueberries, carrots, kale and avocados reverse aging and the fight chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and even diabetes and cognitive decline.
What is your specific role in moving this project/research forward? My role was to help to connect the research to the people. For example, to give hope to people with diabetes.
What would be the most successful outcome of your work and what impact would it have on how we live? My dream would be to help people become more aware of the dramatic impact their food choices have on their health, their family’s health and the health of the planet.
What about this project is important to you personally? It has been my lifelong ambition to change the world through better nutrition. In high school, I opened a natural food store. I sold tea, freshly ground whole wheat flour and read the progressive nutrition books of the day. I gained a respect for the power of food as medicine, not only for the individual, but also for the world in general. I went on to study for a master’s in Nutrition at Tufts University and have continued to focus on nutrition throughout my medical career.
What is the very best part of your job – when do you feel the most satisfaction?Working with patients is No. 1 and knowing that the administration at the Mary and Dick Allen Diabetes Center is supporting innovative approaches I am taking in managing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. To unlock a door through insulin pump technology or new medications that facilitate weight loss while controlling glucose is extremely satisfying.
Why did you choose this career? I chose endocrinology because there is no other specialty in medicine more nutrition-related. Type 2 diabetes, cholesterol disorders and obesity can be thought of as primarily nutritional disorders that fall into the category of endocrine disorders.
Who or what inspired you to study in your field? I had a wonderful professor in college, T. Franklin Grady, who was an inspiring lecturer and true believer in the value of higher education. Teachers truly can make a difference.
What makes you particularly well-suited to this work? It comes down to communication. Reflecting an understanding of a patient’s situation, knowing the steps needed for progress, assessing where the person is in terms of change, keeping an eye on the long-term goals, choosing newer medications and technologies that help to achieve those goals, and maintaining enthusiasm for success.
Where did you go to college? I started in my hometown, attending a branch of the University of Maine system, in Fort Kent. I went to Harvard summer school and to Tufts for a master’s in nutrition and for medical school.
During high school and college, which courses helped best prepare you for your current position? English composition. If I can write, I can think, and vice versa. It’s fundamental. Physics, anatomy and physiology, ecology, biology all brought to life the wonders of the universe. Spock on “Star Trek” also had something to do with getting me interested in the sciences.
What is the best advice you received that has helped further your career? My adviser in the master’s program, which led to a Ph.D., at Tufts, was Dr. Earnest Schaefer, a thoughtful professor. He suggested I apply to medical school to have a chance to work with people more directly. For me, at the time, it was good advice.
What advice would you give, particularly to the student who may think math, science or engineering are “too hard” for him or her? Follow your heart, not what specialty seems “hot” at the time. When I first focused on diabetes, there were few interesting treatments, and those available caused weight gain and low blood glucose. Now, Type 2 diabetes treatments are exciting, remarkably diverse. Medicine is rapidly changing, and if you believe in what you are doing, you can make a big difference and have a very satisfying career.
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