Life gives us unexpected opportunities and new passions.
I must admit, I didn’t expect to spend most of my career working with cancer patients. My training and first jobs involved working with children, a path I might still be following, except for a merger with our Children’s Hospital that took over all our pediatric patients in 1990. I had my first midlife crisis at 37, looking for another population where the science was challenging, nutrition was valued, and patients were willing to make changes. I chose oncology.
We were opening a Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the University, and overnight I moved from being an expert outpatient pediatric dietitian to a “student” inpatient, intensive care adult team member. I HATED the change, but learned something invaluable. I could learn, and even love, something new.
In 2001, there weren’t any cancer centers in the Denver area that funded nutrition support for patients in the outpatient setting, although this is where 90% of patients are treated. While continuing to work with the oncology patients on the University’s inpatient floors, I began Nutrition Foundations as part-time private practice, believing that patients should have that support throughout their treatment. A year into this second mid-life crisis, after a lot of lobbying, I began working 20 hours a week in the new University of Colorado Cancer Center at Fitzsimons. Since 2002, our oncology nutrition staff has grown to 3.7 FTE’s, and several other centers have added nutrition support as well.
I feel strongly that every patient should have access to a dietitian at their own cancer center, or at least on referral to someone in private practice. I encourage you to search out the information and nutrition support you need, and to let your team know that it is helpful and should be part of their plans for the future. You deserve to learn the strategies that manage your symptoms during treatment and the nutrition and lifestyle choices that can help you survive and thrive.
Colleen Gill, MS RDN CSO (The official, if boring biography)
Colleen Gill is a registered dietitian nutritionist, speaker and author with 25 years experience working at the University of Colorado Hospital. Her 12 years of inpatient experience included work with pediatric, renal, bone marrow transplant and cancer patients. Since 2002, she has combined work at the NCI accredited University of Colorado Cancer Center with her private practice. She has been a board member of the Oncology Nutrition Practice Group, worked on the original exam writing group that developed the certification for a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO), and now serves on the Board of Trustees for the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Colleen attends conferences across the country each year to stay current with the latest nutritional research and therapies for cancer.
Colleen was born to a military family and as a child lived in Germany, Boston, Anchorage, Portland and Pendleton (OR), and northern California. After stops at the University of Washington and Stanford, her husband took a job at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and they relocated to Denver, CO. Loving the novelty of stability, they have lived on the same block for 31 years. The Gills are empty-nesters, fortunate to have 4 preschool grandchildren who live within 5 miles.
Training and Credentials
- Bachelor’s degree in Biology
Whitman College; Walla Walla, WA
- Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences;
University of Washington; Seattle, WA
- Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN);
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics # 687331
- Board Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO)
Colleen is a member of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and these specialty practice groups:
- Oncology Nutrition
- Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine
- SCAN, Sports Nutrition and Cardiology
- Nutrition Support
- Board of Trustees, Association of Community Cancer Centers, 2013 – Current
- Affiliate Member, Oncology Nursing Society
- Oncology Nutrition Practice Group, Board Member: 2005-7; Executive Board 2010 – 12
- Member, Oncology Certification Work Group, ADA, 2007 – 2009
SPEAKER (Selected Topics/Events)
- Defining Optimal RD Staffing in NCI Cancer Centers; Oncology Nutrition Symposium, Orlando, 2014
- Integrating Nutrition for Metabolic Syndrome, Rocky Mountain Metabolic Syndrome Conference, 2014
- Lecture series, Mountain Blue Cancer Center; Lakewood CO; 2013 to current
- Fighting Pancreatic Cancer with a Fork, PAN CAN conference, San Francisco, 2012
- Addressing Oncology Nutrition Controversies; 2012 New Frontiers in Oncology Nutrition, Dallas
- Demystifying Detoxification; 2012 Texas Dietetics Association Meeting, San Antonio
- Fighting Breast Cancer with a Fork; 2011 Breast Cancer Conference, Fairbanks AK and NE Dietetics, Lincoln
- Managing Malabsorption-Related Diarrhea; CSPEN meeting, Denver, 2011
- Fighting Fatigue with a Fork; 2010 meeting Federal Drug Administration, Denver
- Does Sugar Feed the Tumor?; 2006 NW LA ONS Meeting; 2005 Colorado Cancer Conference
- Monthly Lecture Series; 2004 – current; University of Colorado Cancer Center
- GI Oncology Medical Nutrition Therapy, in Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, AND, 2013
- Nutritional Support, in Oncology Nursing Secrets, R. Fink, R. Gates, (Eds). Hanley and Belfus, 1997 and 2001 editions; Mosby, 2008: American Journal of Nursing “2008 Book of the Year”.
- Immunonutrition, specialized nutrients in cancer care. Nutrition Issues in Cancer, ONS, 2005