by Kendal Ecker, MS, RD, LD

Improving quality of life and medical outcomes are key objectives for clinical dietitians. Becca Gray, clinical dietitian at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, knows first hand what it is like to make an impact in people’s health and nutritional status at home and abroad.

Becca Gray, MA, RD, LD, CNSD is a part of an interdisciplinary trauma team that saves lives everyday. Her role as a nutrition support dietitian and her desire to measure and improve patient outcomes has opened the door to conducting research in the hospital’s intensive care units. Research is performed everyday in universities, but few clinical dietitians working in hospital settings venture into field of research. Becca believes that an important step to advancing the registered dietitian’s role in patient care is to have the dietitian manage the nutritional care process from start to finish. Becca and the Baylor dietitians are involved in developing a protocol which allows them to have clinical nutrition related order writing privileges. This lets them manage the patient’s diets as well as nutrition support. Her current research focuses on the timing of small bowel feeding tube placements and the initiation of nutrition support to the patient.

Frequently it may take many hours from the time an enteral small bowel feeding is ordered in the medical record and the actual initiation of that feeding. This can ultimately affect the patient’s recovery time. One of the barriers is the placement of the tubes, so Becca is speeding up this process by using an electromagnetic tube placement device that allows a dietitian and a nurse to place a small bowel feeding tube at the bedside. The data collected is providing evidence to show the impact that the dietitian has on improving patient medical outcomes. Last February, Becca presented some of the initial findings at ASPENs nutrition week. Becca also has been involved in researching survival skills diet education materials which targeted an inpatient population. The findings were presented at ADA FNCE in October 2004.

Becca is also involved in nutrition projects outside of the hospital setting. Last summer she traveled to Gabon, Africa to volunteer her nutrition expertise to help the residents of that community. She worked with malnourished children and their families that were stricken with life threatening diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS. She learned about the culture and lifestyle of the community which helped her compile a nutritionally sound and inexpensive menu of common foods used to educate the residents of Gabon.

Becca has an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and completed her dietetic internship at Baylor University Medical Center. She received her master’s degree in cross cultural ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary in December 2006. Becca has been a registered dietitian for over four years and is on the ballot to become the nominating chair elect for the American Overseas Dietetic Association. She enjoys researching, teaching, presenting, and traveling and plans to travel back to Africa in the future.