Sandy Sutton: Leading Disaster Response

Sandy A. Sutton, RD, LDN

“Hurricane Katrina made a definite impression on my work ethic and on the value I now place on everyday life,” says registered dietitian Sandy Sutton. “I also see the value of my job more clearly and how it impacts patient care. The shortage of food supplies was a definite awakening—I never take a meal for granted anymore.”

In 2005, the Coram healthcare facility in St. Rose, La., relocated to Houston before the hurricane hit in order to continue serving home nutrition support patients. Evacuations, downed power lines and blocked roads made it difficult to track down those patients, and Sutton’s job as a clinical dietitian took on new meaning. In addition to consoling patients and providing basic care, she found herself helping out in any capacity—from relaying messages to transporting paperwork in order to ensure medical supplies could be ordered in time.

“The challenges that Katrina presented came at a difficult time in my personal life, but helping others helped me forget about my own problems, especially my concerns about where I was going to live,” says Sutton. “And the help I received from family, friends and coworkers was astonishing.”

Today, Sutton continues in her position at Coram and also works at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, La. She says it was her father’s struggle with high cholesterol and the lack of diet education he received that first inspired her to become a registered dietitian. “I had to investigate this,” she recalls, “and so I researched how I can help him with his diet. The most rewarding part was seeing his health improve.”

Food & Nutrition Magazine
Food & Nutrition Magazine publishes articles on food and diet trends, highlights of nutrition research and resources, updates on public health issues and policy initiatives related to nutrition, and explorations of the cultural and social factors that shape Americans’ diets and health.