Dana Lewis of The University of Alabama community has
probably changed the way most people in the area eat lunch.
It all started with a simple request. Lewis, a University of
Alabama senior who has Type 1 diabetes, wanted to be able to give herself the
right amount of insulin while eating in the dining halls on campus.
In order to do so, she needed to know how many carbohydrates
are in her meals. The information, at that time, was only available through the
Bama Dining Web site. Lewis said that it was nearly impossible to go online and
decide what to eat the day before and stick to it. She asked her friends to go
online and plan out their meals for the week. "They failed miserably," she
said. She felt that the easiest and most accessible way for students to view
the nutritional information was either inside the dining hall or right before
entering the dining hall.
Lewis said, "As a college student, food should be a
Lewis worked with Bama Dining to place nutrition labels with
the entrees in the dining hall. She feels that this not only helps students
with specific dietary confinements and allergies, but also those students who
want to avoid the dreaded "Freshman 15" weight gain. Her simple suggestion to
Bama Dining escalated into an internship with their marketing department, which
was a perfect fit for Lewis, a public relations major from Huntsville.
A.J. Defalco, the resident district manager for Bama Dining,
said that Bama Dining wants to foster a relationship like they have with Dana
with all students. Bama Dining, Defalco said, wants students to feel as if
their kitchen is the student's kitchen.
During spring 2008, Bama Dining continued to make the
information more accessible by placing kiosks outside of the dining halls to
allow students to view nutritional information for that day. This works, Lewis
said, because students are able to make a decision about their nutrition
without having to pay to go into the dining facility or find a computer to
visit the Web site on.
Bama Dining was the first Aramark location to have
nutritional labels at both the point of service and on their Web site.
Lewis said, "My goal is to make sure that the information is
there for those who want and need it."
While having the nutrition labels was certainly a step in
the right direction, Lewis took it further by creating a class for students who
are transitioning to college life with diabetes.
Her class, "Living with Diabetes," which had its debut this
semester, centers on healthy living for college students with diabetes. The
class is a casual seminar that helps students understand the relationship of
diabetes with academic, social, nutrition and emotional changes during their
first year of college.
Lewis said she wanted to teach about the transition because
there are not any resources available for students with diabetes who are
adjusting to college life. The class is primarily about helping people find the
resources that are available to them. Lewis teaches the class, along with three
UA professors, Drs. Rebecca Kelly, director of health promotions and wellness,
Pamela Payne-Foster, deputy director of the Rural Health Institute, and Felicia
Wood, associate professor in the Capstone College of Nursing.
"Dana Lewis was the spark behind the fall 2008 Living with
Diabetes Course," said Kelly. "As an innovative student leader, and an
individual living each day with Type 1 diabetes, Dana is passionate about
educating others about diabetes."
Lewis' diabetes advocacy reaches beyond than the UA campus.
She has testified before Congress at the request of Sen. Ted Kennedy about the
need for diabetes research and the needs of people with diabetes. During the
summer, she also worked with the American Diabetes Association in Washington,
D.C., as an intern. She previously has served as an advocate for youth living
with diabetes, traveling to Africa, Germany and New York to speak on their
Currently, Lewis is working with Close Concerns, a diabetic
consulting firm, as a public relations consultant. She has also been invited to
speak at the 2008 World Diabetes Day in New York City.