Thursday, May 19, 2011

Miles of Smiles for Ellen Coleman

Ellen Coleman, MA, MPH, RD, CSSD, a founding member of SCAN, has been chosen to receive a 2011 Medallion Award, one of the American Dietetics Association's (ADA) highest honors.

This award "honors ADA members who have shown dedication to the high standards of the dietetics profession through active participation, leadership, and devotion to serving others in dietetics and allied health fields."

Ellen Coleman is synonymous with sports nutrition. When I first began teaching at Fresno State in the early 1980s, the student dietetic association wanted to sponsor a speaker in the emerging area of nutrition and athletic performance. Ellen was already the go to person. She was animated, funny, and very smart. She started her talk by telling the group an important lesson she had learned as a graduate student at UC Davis: Never come in late or you will be the one chosen to participate in the next experiment that requires a rectal temperature (Everyone laughed, but I did notice that students were more attentive to coming to class on time that semester). I was so impressed with her knowledge of physiology and the way she could explain the basis for each sports nutrition recommendation. But Ellen was more than book smart—she knew about sports nutrition from personal experience, having finished the Ironman Hawaii (twice).

As new fields emerge, so do its leaders. Those leaders have to make a choice—do they primarily promote themselves or do they focus on helping others and, in doing so, ensure that the entire profession is strengthened? Ellen has always focused on mentoring others. In the sometimes dog-eat-dog world of sports nutrition, Ellen has set the standard for selflessness.

I still have a signed copy of Ellen's 1988 book, Eating for Endurance. It is a slim 150 pages, but it contains pretty much all that was known at the time about what was needed to support endurance performance (a bargain at $8.95!). In the front she wrote, "Miles of Smiles!" a phrase she still uses today. When she handed it back to me, she encouraged me to pursue the field of sports nutrition. Fast forward to an email message she sent just last week in which she encouraged me to pursue my newest dream--hiking the GR 10 (a French hiking trail that runs the length of the Pyrenees). Ellen has encouraged so many of us over the years to pursue our professional and personal goals.

More than encouraged, she has inspired. And there is no greater inspiration than her perseverance in the greatest test of her life ( It's no surprise that her account starts with this: "Well, I broke the first rule of hiking—never end up on the 5 PM news." because Ellen never loses her sense of humor.

Miles of smiles, Ellen, and congratulations on receiving the 2011 Medallion Award. Best, Marie

Marie Dunford, PhD, RD
SCAN's volunteer Web Editor