Plymouth State University Professor Mardie Burckes- Miller knows first-hand about the struggles of coping with an eating disorder both personally and professionally, and every two years she organizes the N.H. Eating Disorders Conference where healthcare professionals gather under one roof for two days of speeches and exhibits.
The event began yesterday and also takes place today at Church Landing. It is focused on clinical issues, prevention, education, and diversity/integrative therapies. This year’s conference is titled “Untangling the Web of Disordered Eating and Weight Disorders,” and involves 17 sessions, a keynote speaker each morning and 15 eating disorders experts from treatment centers across the country.
As eating disorders and obesity have become major public health issues, the conference focuses on new knowledge, tools and strategies for eating disorders. These include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and bariatric surgery. Conference topics include current medical and therapeutic issues like eating disorders, treatment, medical issues, pharmacology, psychodrama and weight stigmas.
Another topic is education and prevention in the age of neurobiology; integrative therapies and eating disorders in diverse populations like children, athletes and middle-aged women.
Attending the event is a variety of mental health counselors, psychologists, dieticians, nurses, physicians, school professionals, athletic trainers, social workers, eating disorder survivors and students.
Thursday’s keynote speaker was Carolyn Costin, who is known for founding Monte Nido and Affiliates treatment centers. She recovered from anorexia in her twenties and then went on to treat others with eating disorders. Costin is also known for being an advocate and activist in her field. She has received various awards including the National Eating Disorders Association’s Award for Advocacy in 2009, the Spirit Recognition Award from Sierra Tucson in 2011 and Clinician of the Year from Project Heal in 2015.
The keynote speaker this morning is Michael P. Levine, who is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He is part of the Academy of Eating Disorders and has written two books and three prevention curriculum guides. He has also co-edited three books on prevention and has written or co-written 110 articles and book chapters on the subject.
“These are all top speakers and experts in their field,” said Burckes-Miller.
Burckes-Miller explained that team approach is very important when it comes to treatment of eating disorders, so bringing the experts of different types together is vital.
“This is definitely an important issue,” said Burckes-Miller. “Eating disorder issues are not something talked about all that much. This is my passion. I recovered from an eating disorder 35 years ago. I did research in the area and I have a graduate program- the only one in the country to train professionals in eating disorders.”
The Eating Disorders Institute Graduate Certificate Program at Plymouth State University offers a 15 credit program for graduate program, as well as a M.Ed. in Health Education or Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies. It provides professionals with research-based tools, strategies and techniques to use for medical treatment, mental health counseling, nutrition counseling or education and outreach work.
Marcia Herrin of Herrin Nutrition Services and Dartmouth College is a nutritionist, and she said it is important to bring local providers up to speed. She did a talk about intuitive and mindful eating, and using techniques in treating eating disorders.
“Eating disorders are a significant problem,” said Herrin. “Whether it is a growing problem is tough to say, but I see eating problems in people aged 5 to 85.”
Bob Bordonaro of Walden Behavioral Care is a licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of experience in the eating disorder field.
“As professionals we come together to update each other on what we are seeing in the clinical field to provide strategies in how to treat these eating disorders,” said Bordonaro.
Prevention Specialist Stephanie Haines, also of Walden but through the non-profit arm called the Center for Education and Research, is speaking today and she is discussing prevention and what can be done in the communities.
“One of the things I think we forget as clinicians, practitioners and educators is that we may be the only eating disorder prevention or treatment that anyone ever sees, so we have to embody prevention,” said Haines. “I will be breaking that down in my talk.”
Haines said the conference is great for sharing information about what works. She said she hears people talk about how much they appreciate tips from working with clients about what is being used in practice. She said many of the speakers are well known internationally and are the editors and writers of the text books in her field.
“All the hard work done by Dr. Burckes-Miller and the people who come here is so impressive on the eating disorder stage,” said Haines.