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CNHP Alumna Recognized at Alumni Weekend

May 10, 2016

In an increasingly complex health care environment, there’s never been more of a need for an interprofessional team approach to science, research and practice. Charlene Compher, PhD, RD, CNSC, LDN, FADA, FASPEN, embodies interprofessionalism, and was accordingly bestowed the 2016 Service to Profession Award during Drexel’s Alumni Weekend 2016.

Compher, professor of nutrition science at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and director of Nutrition Programs, holds a clinical appointment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with Clinical Nutrition Support Services, where she leads the multi-professional home parenteral (intravenous) nutrition program. Compher’s clinical appointment, coupled with robust clinical research projects, has enabled her to develop clinically-relevant findings that foster high-quality patient care. 

“I’m honored to receive this award,” said Compher, “and thankful to Drexel for allowing me a great deal of autonomy during my graduate studies. The openness of Drexel mentors to research opportunities in my workplace was a remarkable gift that enabled me to build academic credentials and research skills while concurrently honing clinical skills and interprofessional collaborations that have been a signature of my research and practice since that time.” 

“My graduate education at Drexel – Master’s in Nutrition Science in 1982 and PhD in Bioscience/Nutrition in 1999 – has been vitally important to my ability to contribute to the profession of dietetics. The Master’s was my entry into the field, and the PhD gave me the skillset to conduct the clinical research that is so essential to moving evidence-based practice forward,” said Compher. “My doctoral education coincided with the opening of the paradigm shift that molecular biology has given to our understanding of nutrition science. Those early courses in molecular biology and genetics were a part of the armamentarium that I bring to teaching nutrition science and to research of diseases associated with nutrition.” 

As a member of a large multi-professional team, Compher’s current research focuses on interactions between the diet, bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract and the metabolic products that are released into the blood in patients with gastrointestinal disease.  Another project she’s working on clarifies how nutrition provided to patients in the ICU leads to improved clinical outcomes. In this project, Compher collaborates with Canadian colleagues to analyze large data sets. By her active participation in both research and clinical practice teams with other skilled health care professionals, Compher embodies the future of inter-professional health care.

In addition to making significant contributions to the field of research and building an impressive resume, Compher carves out time to mentor doctoral and postdoctoral students at Penn Nursing. Rose Ann DiMaria-Ghalili, PhD, associate professor in the Doctoral Nursing Department at Drexel, was one of Compher’s mentees during her 2007-09 postdoctoral fellowship at Penn; she also nominated Compher for the Service to Profession Award. DiMaria-Ghalili, whose research focuses on the role of nutrition on health outcomes in older adults, chose Compher as her mentor based on her focus on interprofessional research and practice. 

“Charlene is most befitting of the Service to Profession Award as her work aligns closely with the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ mission and focus on interdisciplinary practice and research,” said DiMaria-Ghalili. “As a mentor, she helped me hone my research skills while recognizing and advocating for health care professionals to work collaboratively.”

The two initially met in the 1990s through their work with the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), an interdisciplinary organization focused on the advancement of clinical nutrition and metabolism. Through their mutual work with ASPEN, DiMaria-Ghalili knew that she could find a well-respected mentor in Compher. 

In fact, Compher will begin tenure as president of ASPEN, effective June 1. As president, Compher hopes to continue promoting the work of ASPEN, the critical role nutrition plays in the life of patients and the importance of interprofessional collaboration. 

“Nutrition has only become more important over time, and mentorship is an effective strategy for building the best quality nutrition care for the future” said Compher. She hopes to use her professional platforms to continue promoting this critical field of health care.

 By Thomas Grabiak, MS ‘15