Patients at a free College of Medicine clinic for Orlando’s disadvantaged are getting nutritional counseling, thanks to the expertise of registered dietician/nutritionist Steven Burroughs, a faculty member in UCF’s College of Health Professions and Sciences.

Burroughs leads nutritional patient education consultations at the student-run KNIGHTS Clinic at Orlando’s Grace Medical Home. The clinic is staffed by UCF medical and social work students, UF pharmacy students, UCF faculty and volunteer community physicians and is funded by a grant from the Diebel Legacy Fund at the Central Florida Foundation.

His message to patients and medical learners is simple: small lifestyle changes can improve lives.

“Good nutrition is really important for disease prevention,” Burroughs says. “We all eat and all make decisions, some of them good and some bad.”

He and the students ask patients in their care questions about diet, exercise and stressors as part of their appointments.

“We give them the education and tools that they need in terms of diet modification or changes in their lifestyle so that hopefully they don’t need a lot of medication or expensive procedures,” Burroughs says. “I remember motivating a patient, I asked if she had grandchildren and if she could make small changes she’d be able to live a longer healthier life.  As I said those words, she started to cry and said that’s all she needed to hear to make changes to reduce her risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Burroughs’ friendly, straight-forward approach is why patients respond to his advice, whether for managing diabetes, weight loss or other chronic conditions that require dietary monitoring.

Second-year medical student Chelsea Wu says working with Burroughs has been eye-opening.

“He is so knowledgeable. He is respectful and treats patients with dignity, which is very inspiring,” she says.

“It’s the small things that add up,” says second-year medical student Christopher Schilson, who has been working with Burroughs for nearly a year. “Patients don’t know that just walking 30 minutes a day can meet a weekly exercise goal, or just cutting out sugar from coffee can help.”

After patients leave the clinic, students keep in touch with them between visits to help them stay motivated and track their progress.

KNIGHTS Clinic sees about 70 patients on an ongoing basis for their primary care under the supervision of medical school faculty and local physicians. With its night hours, the clinic helps Grace Medical ease its backload of patients while helping healthcare students learn interdisciplinary clinical care and teamwork.

Burroughs says his service to the clinic has been personally and professionally inspiring.

“I love coming to KNIGHTS clinic,” he says. “It gives me pleasure working with students, building relationships in clinic, giving back to community and having meaningful interactions with patients and seeing them motivated to improve their health though nutrition.”