By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The food favorites of the new dietitian at Grand Canyon University are a good clue to the advice she will dish out to students.
“If I’m cooking for myself, it’s a veggie stir fry,” Liz Cook said. “But if I’m being honest, my favorite is Mexican food – a bean taco.”
Cook’s goal is to improve students’ health with a focus on their nutrition, so vegetable stir fry and vegetarian tacos aren’t a bad start.
“I think habits rule all our lives,” she said. “Getting into good habits makes it much easier to make the right choices later.”
After graduating from Penn State University, Cook worked with many older folks in three years in Philadelphia, trying to reverse bad diets to address obesity, diabetes and other health issues.
At GCU, she’s trying to prevent those issues as part of a new team in an expanded Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic (Building 47, east end of Lopes Way). The clinic has added offices and exam rooms, expanded its waiting room area and has hired Cook, an athletic trainer and a radiology technologist.
“What we’ve been trying to do is provide as many services as we can on campus, so students don’t have to leave to get care,” said Connie Colbert, Director/Nurse Practitioner of the clinic.
Colbert said it is important for students and staff to have good information on food choices. But it is especially critical for athletes.
“They are performing and a lot of them don’t know how to eat – a lot of them barely eat or drink anything,” she said. “It’s hard to run a 100 when you only had a cupcake and a soda.”
Cook will have sessions with sports teams, work with students with health problems such as eating disorders, diabetes or obesity, and be available for advice to all students.
Students, especially incoming freshmen, don’t typically enter college thinking a lot about their food choices. Their parents worried for them, Cook said, so they didn’t have to think about it. That’s why it’s good to reach them at the beginning of their food independence.
“The unhealthiest choice is the easiest choice,” Cook said. “Finding something healthy usually requires some effort. It’s easier to grab a bag of chips on the way to class – until you are familiar with healthy options.”
As a general rule, she likes natural foods with less processing, little added sugar and the fewest ingredients on the label: “Foods that look more like when they were picked.”
Eating right is more than just an avenue to prevent illness, look good or play well in athletics.
“It’s also just to feel good,” she said. “Who wants to feel bad when they are young in college?”
Students will see a clinic with much more to offer. The X-ray suite was added last year but operated for only about a month with a technician, so this will be its first full year.
“There’s a lot of musculoskeletal injuries,” Colbert said of mishaps in athletics, club and intramural sports, not to mention spills off skateboards and scooters.
Athletic trainer Trent Morris will work with the general population of students and staff and intramural sports and also provide physical therapy services. Erick Nova is the new Radiology Technologist.
Colbert is going into her ninth year at the clinic, and the capacity continues to grow. On average, more than 80 patients a day visit the facility.
In addition to sports physicals and screenings, colds, the flu, mononucleosis and strep throat are the big reasons students visit the clinic.
Colbert and Cook are hoping good eating habits will go a long way to preventing those illnesses.
● Hours: The clinic will expand its hours this year by staying open through the lunch hour: The hours are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. To make an appointment, call 602-639-6215. After hours and on weekends, call the nurse advice line, 877-602-7271.
● Services: illness diagnosis and treatment, including medication prescriptions, ordering tests and specialist referrals; physical exams for school, sports and employment; laboratory testing; EKG testing, blood pressure checks; ear lavage; pregnancy test; low-cost prescription and free over-the-counter medications; women’s health exams; travel health; immunizations; nebulizer treatments; glucose test; wart removal; titers; radiology.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.