Over 31 years ago, Starr Seip left her small family farm in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania to join the Pennsylvania National Guard as a combat medic and pursue her education in nutrition.
That one decision set the current registered dietician in the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence supply chain on the path to find her passion for diabetes education and ultimately become a published author.
“In my last job, I worked for a research company and was pursuing my Ph.D. but my contract came to an end, Seip said. “After that job ended, I got this job. Six months into this job, I completed my degree.”
Seip, who received her Doctor of Philosophy in Public Heath degree from Walden University in December 2018, decided that diabetes education would be the topic of her 108-page dissertation. A portion of her dissertation was published in the December 2018 issue of the Journal of Food Science and Nutrition.
While working as diabetes educator she realized that many of her patients would diagnose themselves from web-based sources of information long before ever seeing the doctor.
“While conducting my research, I wanted to understand the impact on one’s health if they just went to the doctor and got their information on diabetes there or would it be more helpful to supplement it with these web sources or alternate forms of information,” Seip said.
Her research included people from different backgrounds because she wanted to understand what barriers to education existed with each group.
“In my previous job, I was diabetes educator. I constantly found numerous barriers that people had to go through to receive quality education,” she said. “I wanted to research the possibilities on how our society may decrease these barriers and how multiple streams of communication may decrease the barriers and how that may impact a participant’s chronic limitations due to diabetes.”
At the completion of her dissertation, Seip had one word to describe her experience.
“This whole experience was awesome,” Seip said. “I said ‘yahoo!’ I could not believe they accepted my article. I wanted to tell everyone.”
She considers the research project very rewarding and a major accomplish both the personally and professionally.
“Starr has had the unique opportunity to share her expertise with the services and work closely with the other registered dieticians employed by the services,” Kevin Burza, chief, Subsistence standardization & cataloging branch said. “We are proud of her accomplishment and congratulate her on this achievement.”
At Troop Support, Seip not only provides diabetes education to its employees but she is very instrumental in facilitating the services’ buyer’s guide standards.
“When working to put together all these specifications, these [research] articles oftentimes come up,” she said. “My job is to breakdown the research and make sure that they understand the research and how it relates to Food and Drug Administration guidelines.”
Seip described that her role simply is to break down the information to the very basic level of understanding.
“My job is to get to the bottom of how much sodium or fat should be in the food,” Seip said. “The services request high quality food for the cost that we pay to feed our military folks. We owe it to them to ensure optimal performance and decrease their exposure to chronic diseases later in life.”
For future research proposals at DLA, Seip has requested to sit on the project review board. Over the last couple of weeks, Seip spent some time editing an article about the impact of energy drinks in the military services. Currently she is working to develop a topic to pursue research in the subsistence area that will enhance the performance of the military service member.
“Being a military member myself on a part-time basis, I could criticize the food that I received in my past.” Seip said. “Instead, I want to somehow change the types and quality of the food that service members receive. “Personally, I understand how important food is to service members in the field. Food is a major morale boost so if I can make little changes, this is huge.”