Say hello to Rob McCandlish, a veteran blogger for the Food Allergy Living team! He has worked for Nutricia for more than 5 years. Rob is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and, at Nutricia, is a Medical Advisor. His past roles at Nutricia have included Nutrition Specialist and Medical Affairs Associate.
Rob serves as a resource to parents/caregivers, dietitians, physicians, nurses and other individuals who have questions about Neocate products and medical conditions for which Neocate is used.
He loves answering questions from the Neocate community, so we decided to ask some questions of our own! We sat down with Rob to find out what his day to day looks like working at Nutricia, and learned about what drew him to medical nutrition.
Why did you choose to work in this field? What do you find most interesting about medical nutrition?
I think what drew me to this field, and what I find most interesting about it, is the fact that our products are special. What I mean by that is that they are specific to uncommon conditions and they touch a different aspect of health, because they fall somewhere in between food and prescription drugs. I really love playing a positive role for families who manage unusual conditions and who need specialized nutrition.
How have severe food allergies and related conditions impacted your family?
My nephew, who is 2 years old, developed symptoms of a cow milk allergy at around 3 months of age. I got to see first-hand what it was like for my sister and her husband to have an infant who was inconsolable. He was so uncomfortable, he cried constantly, and I don't think his parents were getting much sleep at all. It was everything that I'd heard from parents that I spoke to every day at work, but live and in person.
After my nephew was diagnosed we started him on Neocate Infant. If I hadn't been involved, I think it would have taken him much longer (and more doctor visits!) before he found Neocate. He was on Neocate Infant for close to a year, and luckily he grew out of his milk allergy. Now he's unstoppable, and he eats everything in sight! Seeing his experience first-hand really brought home for me the difficulties parents face when their infant has a cow milk allergy, and the difference Neocate can make.
I've also had several family members with celiac disease. From a young age, that gave me an appreciation for how hard it is to do anything social when your diet is restricted. I gotten to witness my grandmother taking her own food to restaurants and my cousins carefully explaining their needs to kitchen staff. Even those steps haven't always been enough. And cooking for them in my home has given me a new appreciation for being careful in the kitchen!
What is your favorite part of working at Nutricia?
I'd have to say I really love connecting with families and patients and getting to hear their stories. I learn more here every day than I ever did sitting in classrooms. It's really special to meet families who use Neocate products in person. Getting to meet them and hear about how much of a difference our products have made in their lives really adds value to my work. It is very rewarding to personally hear about their transformation and success stories on Neocate.
What was your favorite nutrition course in college and why?
Ooh, tough question! Hmm... My favorite course in college was ”Experimental Foods.” I got to spend a whole semester changing a recipe – I think it was green curry chicken - to develop a healthier version. Each time we made the recipe we could only change one thing to see the effect it had. The challenge at the end of the semester was a blind tasting panel, and results were measured on whether or not tasters could tell the difference between the original recipe and the healthier recipe.
I'm a scientist (and a nerd!) at heart. I’d say that course is really where I found my love for food science, and the experience in testing recipes has helped me in developing recipes that use Neocate products. It can be so challenging when the ingredients you can use are limited by severe food allergies. You want a recipe that's safe, but you also want it to taste good. Getting to put those skills that I learned in school to the test at work is really one of my favorite aspects of the job.
For some of Rob’s favorite Neocate recipes, download our Neocate recipe guides and cookbooks.
If you had one piece of advice for parents with children who have a cow milk allergy, what would it be?
Time and time again I hear frustration from parents who have gone through multiple doctor visits with few answers. It's not the doctor's fault. Some doctors rarely see patients with conditions like EoE, FPIES or even a cow milk allergy, which can make it difficult to recognize what’s contributing to the child’s symptoms. We're doing what we can to help spread the word on these conditions in the medical community, but it will take time.
Therefore, I suggest that parents go to their medical appointments armed with a logbook or diary of what they’ve been experiencing. Foods eaten and symptoms, along with the times of day, can help the medical team to link possible allergy symptoms to what's in the diet. If a pattern is evident, it can help to make a diagnosis. And never be afraid to ask questions! Asking your doctor the right questions can make a big difference in finding answers.
Now it's your turn! What questions do you have for Rob?