Emily Rubin: Registered Dietitian, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital & Celiac Advocate
From April 2008
“A friend in need is a friend indeed,” as the age-old saying goes. Nothing could be more true of Emily Rubin. Whenever the celiac community needs a helping hand, sometimes at the drop of a hat, Emily is there to lend her assistance.
All of us at NFCA know this as Emily has become a fabulous volunteer at NFCA events, conferences and workshops. Some of you may have met her at the NFCA booth at last year’s ADA Conference or at Celiac Awareness Night at the Philadelphia 76ers. When we need the advice of an expert in matters of nutrition and the gluten-free diet, we know that we can turn to Emily for advice. Some of you may have consulted with Emily, as well.
This help is even more appreciated because of the knowledge and patience that Emily brings to her work. Emily is a Registered Dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal and liver diseases. She has been part of the Thomas Jefferson University Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology for almost 9 years.
While at Jefferson, she has added a specialty in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet to her medical repertoire. Emily has given numerous talks on celiac disease and has developed educational materials on the gluten-free diet for patients and health care professionals.
As a Registered Dietician, Emily also specializes in weight loss and weight management. She has a focus on high risk pregnancies and pre-natal nutrition, caring for those with poor weight gain or who have gestational diabetes. And, she is a star! Emily has appeared in the media on local news programs, including ABC, FOX 29, CBS, and CN8.
While the main focus of Emily’s work at Jefferson is seeing patients, she also participates in studies that can further our understanding of celiac disease in its many facets. Emily is participating in celiac disease research studies at Jefferson, including a fertility study and a gluten blocker study.
Emily’s interest in nutrition began in high school. Like so many young women, she was interested in losing weight and eating right. This interest continued during her college years at the University of Pittsburgh where she took a coordinated program majoring in nutrition with a minor in chemistry. Most people don’t realize that the first two years of this program is, basically, pre-med studies.
Emily actually began her work with celiac disease shortly after college when she worked at the University of Pennsylvania Food Service Department counseling students with eating disorders. While there, she encountered students with celiac disease who needed help acclimating to the gluten-free diet.
The biggest challenge that Emily sees related to celiac disease is summed up in one word: compliance! Asymptomatic patents often don’t see the need to maintain a gluten-free diet, failing to understand the damage that is being done in terms of long-term risks. Newly diagnosed patients often don’t know what to do at all and can fail to be compliant as a result. Emily now sees 1-2 new celiac patients per week demonstrating that awareness is increasing in the celiac world. New patients seem most concerned about eating out.
Today, all of us can get a world of information on the Internet, including information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. Emily cautions that not all of the information on the web is 100% correct and advises consultation with a dietitian to get an individualized diet for the treatment of celiac disease. In other words, don’t guess. Find out for sure. She recommends focusing on what you can eat and not on what you cannot eat.
Another area that concerns Emily is gluten in medication. She notes that brand name versions of a medication often do not have gluten while the generic version does. She cautions patients to ask lots of questions.
Asked about her wish for celiac disease, Emily cited three: a cure, more awareness, and the availability of more gluten-free food. One prime example is that there is not always gluten-free food available for in-patient meals at hospitals, even when it is available in the cafeteria. Finally, Emily is eager for the day when food products include gluten in their labeling.
Emily notes that the very best thing about celiac disease is that it is 100% controlled by diet. Maintain a gluten-free diet and you won’t have symptoms. Compliance is key!
NFCA and Emily Rubin have been working together since 2003. Emily met Alice Bast at the Greater Philadelphia Area Celiac Support Group when NFCA was founded. She even helped pick the NFCA logo! She has watched the NFCA website emerge and has cheered NFCA on as the organization has grown over the years. And, she sees much more awareness of celiac disease as a result of such things as NFCA’s Public Service Announcements and Gluten-Free Cooking Sprees. She notes that there are more doctors diagnosing celiac disease now and referring these patients to a doctor specializing in gastroenterology.
NFCA thanks Emily for the outstanding work she does every day on her job as she works with celiac patients. We also thank her for her superb “after hours” work as a volunteer for NFCA.
A friend indeed!