New Duke Medicine evening program targets eating disorders

Oct. 16, 2013 @ 06:20 PM

Duke nursing student Danna Alvarado said she began to notice the signs, the symptoms creeping up again from her early teen years.
At 26 years old, Alvarado is interested in pediatrics and neonatal nursing. She’s in the 16-month fast-track program at Duke.
And she also has an eating disorder. She noticed herself starting to cut back on meals or just starting to skip meals altogether. The number of times she chose not to eat began to add up, and she began to subtract weight. After talking with campus counseling services, her doctor, dietician and counselor began to take notice she was reaching 100 pounds.
Alvarado is a few weeks into the new intensive evening program offered by Duke’s Center for Eating Disorders. A class of about 10 people meets three times a week instead of the usual outpatient treatment model that comprises a weekly, one-hour session that may not be enough.
Now that they meet a total of nine hours a week, the evening sessions on nutrition, values and relationships still allow people to stay in school, take care of their children and work while working through their eating disorder.
Nancy Zucker, the director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders, came to the university in 1999, at a time when there were no eating disorder programs in the state. Duke’s program began in 2000, and she regularly sees patients with anorexia, bulimia, selecting eating and binge eating issues, her patients ranging from toddlers to the elderly. 
Zucker calls the new intensive evening program “a stronger dose” of treatment.
“It’s a way for people to maintain to the degree possible their current daily routine while getting more support,” Zucker said.
She added that right now they’re trying out the program in the university environment, where students may be dealing with an eating disorder while juggling classes and going after a degree.
Alvarado said she’s now in school part-time, and she tutors other nursing students in subjects such as pharmacology. In the first few weeks of the program, they’ve discussed life goals and have had meal plans formed by a dietician.
“I’m being forced to talk about it and face it so often that it’s just, I don’t know, I just had lessened symptoms and a more positive outlook on my treatment,” she said.