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Advocate Brings Celiac CME to Asheville, NC Community

10/27/2011

“I knew more [about celiac disease] than 95% of physicians in my community.”

That’s what Sheila Horine discovered after returning from the 2006 International Celiac Disease Symposium. She had gone there with two of her three daughters – all of whom have celiac disease.  It was the first time she met other people with celiac disease; the first time she tasted gluten-free pizza; and the first time she realized how little her local doctors knew.

“That was a real eye opener for me,” Sheila recalled. “There were choices that weren’t in Asheville yet. And the dietitians, researchers and doctors there – they were so knowledgeable.”

Now, Sheila is spreading the word about the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ programs to encourage healthcare and foodservice professionals to get educated.  Most recently, she offered to include information about NFCA’s Celiac CME (www.CeliacCMECentral.com) in her monthly newsletter for the Asheville branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group, which she leads.

Sheila is aware of how the medical community works. While her background is in teaching, her husband is a doctor. Even he admits that he “shut his ears the 3 minutes they talked about celiac disease in medical school,” Sheila noted.

Because of that, she’s determined to make physician education a priority – with help from NFCA’s Celiac CME.

“I want to do a CME conference and something concurrent with dietitians,” Sheila said. The goal would be to give healthcare professionals the knowledge and tools to do more than hand patients a few sheets about the gluten-free diet, she explained.

It wouldn’t be the first time Sheila took the helm. She also organizes the Asheville Gluten-Free Food Fair along with 3 other advocates, including Ingles Dietitian Leah McGrath. The last fair gathered more than 1,000 attendees, and it gave the committee a chance to promote the local restaurants that had just completed NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program.  

More than 20 members of Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR) participated in the special gluten-free training session. For Sheila, it was a welcome change.

“Asheville is a tourist destination, so I receive emails every day asking where to eat,” Sheila said. “Now I have a way to be that much surer these are gluten-free restaurants.” [Learn more about the Asheville restaurants trained through GREAT.]

While she’s happy that awareness of celiac disease is increasing, Sheila is also concerned that people know just enough to be dangerous. Restaurants add gluten-free options to their menus, but fail to realize the risks of gluten cross-contamination. Doctors tell patients to “just try a gluten-free diet” instead of ordering the proper tests. Individuals opt to go it alone and overlook the hidden gluten that keeps them sick.

With three celiac daughters, Sheila has seen a lot of this firsthand – from the shop that served a “gluten-free” gelato with Oreo cookies in it, to the dining hall that didn’t change gloves or knives when making a gluten-free sandwich. But Sheila remains hopeful. “I’ll just take on my little piece of the world,” she said.

For NFCA, that “little piece” makes a big difference, and that’s why Sheila is an Awareness All-Star!

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