Researcher, Administrator, Educator
Maria Steinbaugh RD, PhD, LD,
Chippewa Tribe of the Turtle Mountain Reservation, North
Dakota enjoyed teaching. First, as a clinical dietitian,
she taught patients. Then, as an instructor in the
Department of Medical Dietetics at Emory University, she
taught future dietitians. To better prepare herself for
teaching, Steinbaugh earned a PhD in educational
development at Ohio State University.
In taking a position as Associate Director of Medical Nutrition Education at Ross Labs, a division of Abbott Labs, she began a career that lasted almost 25 years. Initially she focused on educating physicians and other healthcare professional about the relatively new field of medical nutrition therapy and how innovative medical nutritional products could be helpful, particularly in caring for hospitalized patients. “This work provided an opportunity to utilize a variety of educational mediums, including lectures, print materials and publications, films, and also computers, which were a new educational form at the time,” says Steinbaugh.
Later Steinbaugh and her staff became involved in the design and research of new medical nutritional products. “I enjoyed being involved in the entire development process,” says Steinbaugh. “Many of the people in our department were dietitians. We had lots of connections with doctors, nurses and dietitians, so we were in touch with the shortcomings of medical nutritional therapy options, available products and the need for new ones.” This information enabled Steinbaugh and her colleagues to design products with precise amounts of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. Once food scientists formulated a product, Steinbaugh and her colleagues conducted the clinical research at universities, hospitals, and long-term care institutions to determine the value and therapeutic benefit of the product.
Steinbaugh enjoyed the teamwork involved in education and research. Early in her time at Ross, Steinbaugh was promoted to director in her department. Part of her success as an administrator perhaps came from the high value she placed on the unique perspectives and experienced that the diverse members in her group brought to their work.
This article was originally published in the Summer, 2009 issue of Winds of Change. (The cover artist is William Rabbit, Cherokee.)